How RESPECT Coaching Styles Process Model compares to the ICF Core Competencies

RESPECT Coaching Styles™ are gaining a lot of traction by leaders and coaches alike. RESPECT has been called “brilliant” and “fascinating” by those at the highest levels of the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

Chris, a leader and an ICF certified coach, said after learning about RESPECT debrief:

“This has been AMAZING and so helpful to me! I feel like I have permission to be who I really am now. At the risk of sounding dramatic – its life changing.”

RESPECT even won the Most Innovative award at an ICF conference when we launched in late 2022.

I didn’t start out trying to gain recognition in the coaching community. In fact, I thought I’d get the opposite response.

For context, I wanted to study coaching in the wild through a research lens. A lot of research showed “that” coaching works – generating increase leader effectiveness, employee engagement, performance, satisfaction, and more.

But I wanted to study exactly “how” coaching works to create these results. On top of that, for decades researchers were asking for someone to create an empirically supported process model to describe the “how” it all works!

When I undertook my doctoral research (which ultimately led to RESPECT), I set aside my 20 years of coaching experience, and I focused on using the only research method and data to generate the model.

To do it, I interviewed some of the world’s best coaches. I asked them to describe in detail what they do, how they do it, and why. From the seemingly endless hours of interviews, I pulled 2235 quotes out of the transcripts. I coded them according to topics or themes and I let the data speak. Out of the data emerged the first cohesive process model to describe how coaching is done by the best coaches in the world.

Confession: I ignored the ICF and the Core Competencies

Yes, I confess that I intentionally ignored the way the ICF described coaching. Why? Because I wanted a clear view of how the world’s top coaches approached their interactions. I didn’t want my findings to be unintentionally tainted by industry practices that may or may not match with what generates maximum results at the highest levels.

This deliberate approach was a real risk! I felt nervous that I’d find evidence that ran contrary to the International Coaching Federation. I feared being branded a heretic by the establishment of coaching at large. I imagined having to fight to justify my point of view. But I chose to let the results speak, even if established coaching pundits threw stones at me and my findings.

What emerged from my research was seven coaching styles, with the acronym RESPECT. I found that the world’s best coaches moved in and out of these, then unnamed styles, to dynamically address what the coachee’s needed.

Part one of my dissertation research focused on the process, and part two focused on the crystallization of what are now the RESPECT Coaching Styles™. In codifying them, for the first time ever, I had words for how coaching works through stylistic approaches.

But as I sat at my computer, staring at my initial research findings, I questioned, “Would it actually make an impact? Or would people laugh at it? Or worse, would they ignore it because it didn’t fit their worldview?

Not familiar with RESPECT yet? Check out the article I wrote for the world’s top coaching magazine, Choice.

With my RESPECT discoveries in hand, I shared this newly found styles framework amidst my enthusiasm and fear. People instantly resonated with RESPECT. Person after person, coach after coach, and leader after leader shared that this is exactly how they coach and interact with others.

While I’d created a whole process model in dissertation part one to show how RESPECT fit into a larger interaction framework, RESPECT was my focus – almost exclusively – because of its power.

I created assessment tools to help the coach to assess their own styles and for the coachee to assess their style preferences from the coach (for leaders, it’s the same assessment for how the manager coaches and how the direct report wants to be coached.) Leaders, coaches, and others have loved the assessments and debriefs.

Introducing RESPECT to the ICF Core Competencies

After starting to debrief coaches on their RESPECT Coaching Styles results – showing in detail their use of each style including strengths and areas of opportunity – coaches started asking: “How does this relate to the ICF’s philosophy?” My research showed that most ICF certified coaches emphasized 3 of 7 styles, but I knew that wasn’t the whole picture!

So, one night I pulled up the ICF Core Competencies. I combed the 71 lines of the competencies and sub-competencies describing them. As I did, I found evidence of all seven RESPECT Coaching Styles within multiple ICF core competencies. “Amazing,” I thought, “my core findings are supported, even if most coaches don’t strongly exhibit all seven.”

So, in my subsequent presentations, I promptly added a slide with each style and an example core competency that matched to it. I’d say, “The great news is that each RESPECT Coaching Style is supported by at least one ICF Core Competency. Coaches expressed their gratitude and excitement in knowing that RESPECT aligns to the ICF.

I thought, “Oh good, I won’t get kicked out and branded a heretic…that’s nice.” I felt satisfied, and I thought that was the end of the story.

ICF Core Competencies…Meet the Full OwlHub Coaching Process Model!

Almost a year passed after discovering the overlap of styles and competencies. But one night, I took another look at the core competencies. I was trying to finalize our application for the ICF Continuing Education (CCEs). That application was to get CCEs for our 20-hour RESPECT Coaching Styles Train-the-Trainer program that enables coaches, consultants and leadership development trainers to give assessments, debriefs, and training on RESPECT for individuals and groups.

The application requires you to map each part of your curriculum to a core competency or categorize it as ancillary resource development. So, I combed through the descriptions of the 71 competencies and sub-competencies line-by-line to see what matched up.

An hour later, I was in disbelief. My breath halted. I stared at my screen.

I discovered that 100% of the 71 lines describing the competencies and sub-competencies were found in the full process model I’d derived from qualitative research in my doctoral work.

I flashed to my initial fears, “They’re going to call me a heretic! I’m ignoring the ICF and just studying coaches in the wild, rather than conforming to convention! I’ll be cast out!” A wave of tingles washed through me with this realization: I hadn’t positioned myself against the ICF through my research – I’d fully aligned with it!

Then a question rolled through my mind, “But if 100% of the Core Competencies are found in my full model, why are so many ICF credentialed coaches telling me how mind-blowing and transformational RESPECT and the Process Model are for them?”

An aha struck – the ICF Core Competencies describe the “what” of coaching. “It looks like this, and that, and this other thing.” The ICF Core Competencies focus on the output.

The OwlHub Coaching Process Model (which includes RESPECT) gives essential insight into exactly “how” to get there effectively. The “how” of the model creates the “what” of the competencies! The implications are huge, so let me say it a different way…

If Coaching were Baking

If coaching were like baking, the ICF put up pictures and descriptions of pies and breads. They said, “The crust should be flaky. There should be a golden-brown glow. The filling should be sweet and moist.” Then they judge the baker’s abilities, and they sort people by baking level – giving them badges to wear so others can categorize their experience and quality of baking.

The OwlHub Coaching Process Model (including RESPECT) shows you, the baker, how to bake! This includes which ingredients to use, how to mix them, and how long you should bake it. This gives you everything you need to get the perfect pie that meets all the criteria the judges are looking for. You can now win the pie contest because you discovered how it all works and you can delight all those for whom you bake!

Can you see how huge this is? I hope it’s becoming clearer. To take you inside the OwlHub Coaching Process Model that shows you how this all works, I made this 8-minute video to put all the pieces together.

A Breakdown of OwlHub’s Coaching Process Model and ICF Core Competencies

A brief synopsis

  • Coach Attributes: E.g. Coach’s personality, experience, demographics, etc.
  • Coachee Attributes: E.g. Their personality, experience, demographics, etc.
  • Interaction Process with sub-elements: Presence with Context, Intuition, (RESPECT) Coaching Styles, Directness level, Technique, Coachee Response/Reaction, and the (feedback) Listening Loop.
  • Relationship: E.g. Trust, mutual respect, etc.
  • Outcomes: E.g. Increased performance, engagement, leadership effectiveness, satisfaction, etc.

Below is a sample of the 71 lines that describe the ICF Core Competencies and their sub-competencies, and how they map to the OwlHub Coaching Process Model. (Note: All the process model elements listed above are represented in the ICF’s Core Competency descriptions below.)

Again, all 71 lines of the ICF Core Competencies and sub competencies map to the OwlHub Coaching Process Model, and all elements of the process model are represented in the competencies. The ICF Core Competencies describe the what, the OwlHub Coaching Process Model empowers coaches with invaluable insights into exactly how to do it – and based 100% on examining how the world’s best coaches create incredible results!


In sum, I set out to discover how great coaching works, fearing I’d find something unpopular to the coaching establishment. Through an arduous research process, I discovered the RESPECT Coaching Styles, as part of a larger process to describe the exact mechanisms of great coaching.

I was relieved to discover all RESPECT styles map to the ICF Core Competencies. I was amazed to find that 100% of the 71 lines describing the competencies and sub competencies mapped to the OwlHub Coaching Process Model – a model completely derived from research!

The ICF Core Competencies describe the “what” of coaching, whereas the OwlHub Coaching Process Model describes the exact “how” of coaching!

This discovery deepens the work of the ICF and gives coaches, leaders, and others who wish to be more coach-like, a clear process to follow to bring coaching alive! It also helps us expand our collective and individual capacity to coach in masterful ways.

Finally, coaches and leaders have a system that accurately describes the “how to” of great coaching based on how the world’s best coaches interact with others! Understanding this is just the beginning though. True transformation of one’s coaching ability requires taking the best knowledge and activating its true power through practice, support, and integration. Let us know if we can help in any way!

Oh, and one more thing…

Think about this for a sec…imagine a world where everyone knows how to coach others and how to support their growth, development, and fulfillment. It’s a world where the power of coaching is the norm – at work, at home, in schools, in groups – everywhere. It’s a place where RESPECT is an interpersonal foundation for every human being.

That’s the world we’re dedicated to creating, and we’d love your help creating it in the ways that calls you! Spread the word, take training, make introductions, or anything else you believe would help…and thank you in advance for supporting the news of these latest discoveries!

David Morelli, PhD

David Morelli, PhD

David is the CEO and co-founder of OwlHub and the creator of the RESPECT Coaching Styles™. He has 25 years of executive coaching and leadership development experience. When he's not inspiring people to grow, you can find him making a fool of himself onstage as an improviser.