Building Blocks

Why the ICF Core Competencies are Essential Building Blocks to Enable True Collaboration

Note: The following article was co-authored by Liz Barron and Anne Tannam. It first appeared as a blog on the ICF’s Coaching World.

Since 2009 we’ve been collaborating regularly; running coaching and training programmes, presenting webinars and of course, co-writing blogs – though we sometimes fight over who gets to hold the pen. We’ve experienced first-hand that coaching skills and competencies are fundamental to any successful collaboration requiring teamwork, partnership and cohesion.

Why Collaboration?

What is it that makes collaboration more than simply co-operation? According to Andrea Britt, PhD, in her book ‘Wired To Connect’, collaboration is ‘the mutual engagement of a group of two or more in a co-creative effort that achieves a shared goal or vision, …and the result is changed by the input of all the contributors’. From personal experience we also believe that all involved are transformed by the act of collaboration, just like both coach and client are through the coaching process.

Why are the Core Competencies Important?

As we become familiar with the evolved ICF Core Competencies we can see how they are more relevant than ever as increasingly we work in the virtual space, and against a backdrop of rising global challenges. Intentionally partnering with others to collaboratively create solutions is in all our best interests.

Let’s take a simple business example that many of you who work with partnerships and teams will recognise.

 Are all their Ducks in a Row?

Meet siblings and founding partners Sarah and Brian whose new business is ready to launch. They’ve crunched the figures, developed a business plan, invested in market research, and are planning to bring together a small team to work with them. Everything is in place. Or is it?

So caught up in the business itself, Sarah and Brian have given no thought as to how they’ll manage their business relationship and ensure that everyone on their future team can work together collaboratively, both online and offline. What would it look like if Brian and Sarah took the time to build a solid framework for their working collaboration, based on the core coaching competencies?

The New Core Competencies in Action

 If their business collaboration is to succeed, Sarah and Brain will need to act with integrity, guided by the principles of ethical and professional business practice. Joining membership organisations relevant to their sector will provide them with trustworthy credentials that will demonstrate this. Demonstrating an Ethical Practice

Being able to recognise the boundaries and expectations of their distinct relationship as siblings and business partners may avoid unnecessary misunderstandings later on, and allow them the freedom of knowing ‘what goes on in work, stays in work’ and vice versa. As the partnership expands into a wider team, this agreement establishes the foundation on which the team will collaborate, forming the basis of the partnership culture – or ‘how we do things around here’. Establishes and Maintains Agreement

True collaboration requires us to really ‘see’ each other, to move beyond the designated roles or tasks allocated, and focus on each member of the partnership or team as an autonomous person. For Sarah and Brian this means learning to consciously lead their team not just by their actions, but how present they are to each other and their team. This can be achieved in simple ways – for example, by carving out time in the work week for reflection and feedback on how the team is doing and their experience of working together; the siblings actively listening, and acting with integrity on what’s being communicated. Embodies a Coaching Mindset, Maintains Presence, Listens Actively, Cultivates Trust and Safety

A key to good collaboration is curiosity and questioning, with the intent to understand more about other’s different points of view. It is the exploration of a different mindset that allows us to synergise our thoughts and ideas, and build on other’s contributions. By asking open questions, noticing and reflecting back their own and the other’s responses to work situations, Sarah and Brian can raise their awareness of what’s really going on for them as leaders and as a team. Maintains Presence, Evokes Awareness, Cultivates Trust and Safety

If Brian and Sarah’s collaborative business venture is to succeed, and their personal and professional relationship to thrive, they will also need to cultivate a growth mindset. Imagine what kind of working environment and bottom-line results could be achieved if mistakes were learned from, everyone’s unique contribution was valued, and successes were celebrated. Embodies a Coaching Mindset, Evokes Awareness, Facilitates Client Growth

 Better Together

For all those of us engaged in coaching and collaborative practice, it’s very exciting to realise just how relevant and powerful the core competencies are; enabling partnerships and teams, both professional and personal, to move beyond basic co-operation and co-ordination into generative work that creates something that is more than the sum of its parts; allowing us all to innovate and problem solve in a transformative way.

About Anne & Liz

Liz Barron ( and Anne Tannam ( run their own successful coaching practices but since training together in 2009, have pooled their collective strengths to work on many projects. They’ve run coaching programmes, coach training, and have co-authored articles on the theme of creative collaboration. Working as a team and with clients, they’ve developed practical experience of the conditions required for collaboration, and how it contributes not just to innovation, creative thinking and problem solving, but to happier, more productive teams who are focused on a shared purpose and vision. They love working together and their collaboration gives them both the support and challenge needed to move beyond what they are capable of separately. And there’s a lot more laughing too! To connect with Anne and Liz, visit








Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.