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ICF Heartland

What’s so Important about Three Little Letters?
By Lyne Tumlinson
Posted on 8/17/2017 7:51 PM

By Lyne Tumlinson, Past President

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin noted, “
If you're seeking to create positive change in your community, it's almost certain you'll be creating discomfort as well.”

When I worked at the University of Kansas, the “MA” (two letters) after my name felt meaningless. Surrounded by a sea of three letter colleagues (PhDs), I realized my expertise and ideas were simply not enough for the scholars I reported to. Pretty uncomfortable.

Did I know in my heart of hearts that I had what it took to do my job? Absolutely. But I didn’t have the demonstrable credibility of those three little letters from those who made decisions about me.

Now as a professional ICF coach, I find the way to that level of credibility is through certification. Yes, the process is a little complicated, it requires valuable resources (time, money, energy), AND I have noticed several ways being certified distinguishes us from other coaches.  

Which of the following pros and cons of certification reflect your perspective?


  • …demonstrates our commitment to the coaching profession AND elevates the overall image of ICF coaching

  • …ensures and validates that our coaching skills stay up to date

  • …activates the value we place in ongoing professional development

  • …raises our confidence as coaches, knowing we’re providing the best possible value to our clients

Of course, we also have a fair share of ICF certification nay-sayers who present objectives such as:

  • No one has ever asked me if I’m a certified coach and no one knows about the ICF.

  • As coaches, we don’t have to. It’s not required. We’re not licensed or regulated.

  • Coach training is expensive and I’m trying to build a profitable business, not keep spending money.

  • I’m a business coach and the ICF training is too “woo-woo” for my practice.

What is your level of (dis)comfort when you read these? What questions or thoughts came up for you? I’d love to continue this conversation throughout our chapter.

For me, I’m working now to advance from ACC to PCC and need to complete it by December, as my original credential is up for renewal. I’ve been taking an intensive coach training class since January that is kicking my butt… and helping me become a much better coach!

I hope I’ve challenged you enough to make you uncomfortable enough to think about the benefits (or not) of certification for you in your coaching profession.