Coaching is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yeah, that’s billion with a “b”. And it seems everyone wants to be a coach these days. Yes, it’s lucrative, and yes, it’s fulfilling - but can anyone be a coach?
The answer is yes and no.
It’s a yes if you’re willing to learn how to be a good coach and apply what you learn through hundreds of hours of sessions with clients. It’s a no if you happen to think that coaching is just about asking a bunch of questions and hoping your client comes up with the solution himself.
It’s also a no if you think that coaching is about telling your client what to do.
The truth is, becoming a great coach requires a range of skills and coaching attributes.
Here are the top 20 qualities of a good coach you need to know about.
Great coaches are compassionate. They truly feel for their clients and the struggles and challenges they face.
They are, first and foremost, kind and uplifting. They can put themselves in their client's shoes and hold a safe space for them to fully express without judgement.
A great coach never resorts to shaming, threats or scare tactics to motivate a client.
Great coaches take their clients’ struggles seriously, no matter how small or insignificant these may seem. It doesn’t matter if a client is trying to complete a small project or trying to win a battle against cancer; a great coach is supportive of any and all of these challenges.
Great coaches have an incredible ability to walk a mile in their client’s shoes yet retain enough distance to see the big picture and offer guidance and direction.
3. Learning Machine
Great coaches have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and improvement. They’re learning machines. If there’s a book, course, program or training that can help them develop themselves, their business or their skills as a coach, they’re on it like white on rice.
A great coach never gets tired of learning from different sources and methodologies, and never ever says “I know enough. I can stop learning now.”
Great coaches are always looking for ways to level-up their coaching skills and their methodologies. They never get tired of experimenting, switching, upgrading, or changing their coaching styles and format.
In a sea of coaching experts, innovation sets the great coach apart from everyone else. They strive to learn from different methodologies and coaching models, testing different techniques to create results for their clients, and creating their own unique coaching methodology.
Great coaches are more than happy to learn from their clients. In fact, they’re thrilled to learn from them. They’re never “know-it- alls” who talk down to clients from the “high horse” of knowledge and power. They’re willing to admit mistakes and make things right with a client and they’re always willing to learn from other coaches. No matter how good they become, they’re the first to tell you that there’s someone better they can learn from.
6. Awesome Listener
Great coaches listen more than they talk. They’re not about trying to come across as “clever” or “fascinating” to their clients. They know that client sessions are about the client and not about them. They don’t love to hear themselves speak.
Often, a truly great coach gets completely lost in what the client has to say and holds no thought about themselves. They are present in the moment, judgement-free, at all times.
Possibly one of the most important characteristics of a good coach is being curious.
They want to know why the client feels a certain way. They want to know what inspires a client, what makes them tick, what puts them off and what keeps them going. They want to know everything there is to know about their clients so they can find the perfect way to help a client.
Great coaches are grateful. They’re grateful for their clients, their profession and the fact that they’re able to help others. This deep gratitude helps them lean into their work and give their best no matter what else is going on in their personal lives. Great coaches do not taking their work or their clients for granted. Ever.
9. Excellent Communicator
Great coaches are able to communicate their message, advice and feedback in a way that really gets through to their clients. They know exactly how to use the right words, language and tone of voice to connect deeply with clients. They also have an incredible ability to adapt to each client individually and say just the right thing in the right way so it leaves a lasting impression.
Great coaches are able to rise above and capture lateral as well as future vision. Lateral vision is about accurately seeing the immediate circumstances around a client’s challenge or problem and identifying what needs to be changed.
It's not enough to identify where your clients is at the present moment, but to help them envision their future self. Future vision is about seeing the outcome clients want to achieve and the steps that are needed to get them there.
Great coaches are positive... to a point. They don’t hide the truth just because it’s unpleasant. While they’re more than happy to inspire a client with a positive, uplifting viewpoint, they’re also not afraid to tell it like it is.
If a client isn’t pulling their weight or are constantly making excuses, they’ll call them out. Great coaches know there’s a thin line between encouragement and misleading feedback about what’s really going on.
Great coaches are brave. They’re not afraid to try new ways to connect with a client. They’re not afraid to set healthy boundaries with clients (like no calling, emailing or messaging nights or weekends), they’re not afraid to pull the plug on coaching sessions if they’re dealing with an unresponsive or disinterested client.
Being courageous is also about asking the hard questions even though it might make a client uncomfortable, because they know that's what is needed to create shifts and make progress towards their goals.
Great coaches are highly observant and have an incredible ability to read between the lines. They’re able to pick up and interpret the tiniest change in a client. A shift in the tone of voice, a raised eyebrow, a clearing of the throat and long pauses between sentences.
One of the best coaching attributes is understanding how to read body language. Great coaches notice body language cues and can interpret what they see, hear and feel from a client, accurately.
Great coaches are focused on their clients throughout a session. They aren’t easily distracted and are able to shift into laser focus mode no matter what else is going on. Whether it’s a barking dog in the background or a client’s child looking for attention from mom or dad, a really great coach can always bring the conversation back to where it needs to be.
A great coach understands that it takes time to make changes and to see the results of internal and mindset shifts. So, they settle in and make a decision to ride alongside the client through the ups and downs. Even if it takes longer than expected for clients’ to reach their goals, they will stick around as long as the client is willing to do the work.
A great coach is honest. They don’t lie to their clients just to make them feel better about themselves. If a client needs to know she’s not trying hard enough, they’ll tell her the truth. If a client needs to know that her goals are too big, they’ll tell her that too. Great coaches are always kind but they don’t shy away from the truth.
A great coach is never unprofessional. You won’t catch them having lunch during a session, turning up looking disheveled or unkempt, or texting in the middle of a coaching session. They’re always punctual and neatly dressed.
They’re ready with notes from previous sessions and prepare before entering a coaching session to be fully present, and they’re instantly able to guide a client into the day’s discussion.
Great coaches can be trusted. Period. Clients can be sure that they won’t inadvertently comes across any of their personal information or challenges revealed, no matter what. Some coaches discuss their clients’ challenges and issues using pseudonyms on social media. A great coach will never do this. Everything that’s discussed during a session stays between the coach and the client.
A great coach believes in modeling. They model others who are more successful or have achieved the goals they want to achieve and they understand that they need to be a model for their clients too. They follow their own rules and walk their talk. This serves as a wonderful inspiration and reassurance for clients who get to see a coach’s principles, beliefs and teachings play out in real life.
Great coaches are heart-centered. They’re sincere and they truly care about their clients. They want to help and be of service. They are happy to go above and beyond a client’s expectations. Great coaches don’t think of coaching as a job. It’s a calling.
These 20 characteristics of a good coach will tell you if coaching is something that will come naturally to you (we can all learn to play the piano but Mozart was more than a piano player; he was a freakin’ musical genius) but even if it doesn’t, it’s nothing to worry about. You can always enhance the attributes you already have and cultivate the ones you don’t.
Remember, great coaches are made - not born.