On the blog we’ve previously talked about whether or not someone should go through traditional coach training in order to open up their own coaching practice.

In that article we discussed the importance of realizing that traditional coach training was all about learning the skills required to be a good coach.

While you don’t necessarily need traditional training to learn these skills, it is important to note what these skills actually are so you can educate yourself accordingly.

In this piece you’re going to learn some of the most important skills necessary in order to be the best coach to your clients. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a good starting point for anyone considering opening a practice or any current coaches wanting to improve.

Active Listeningcoach skills

When many coaches go through traditional training the active listening training module tends to stand out.

Active listening refers to being present and paying attention to your clients. Additionally, it’s also kind of like reading between the lines and noticing any patterns, body language or behaviors that help a coach decipher what they need to ask next.

First, you need to actually be present for your clients and pay attention. This is part of what creates a safe space for your clients to open up and actually talk. If they aren’t comfortable then they won’t open up very much.

Second, coaches sometimes need to play detective.

Even when creating a safe place coaches know that sometimes their clients aren’t being completely upfront with what they are thinking. Perhaps it’s nerves, denial or even a bit of both. That’s why paying attention to what’s not being said is just as important as paying attention to what is.

Be Objectivecoaching skills

Coaching and consulting are two different things. Coaching allows the client to find their own answer via the coach asking a series of questions. Consulting refers to giving someone advice.

Of course, at some point coaches may end up doing a bit of both. If you’re a business coach with experience in your client’s industry and you know something probably won’t work, it wouldn’t make sense not to tell them.

After all, why have your client learn something the hard way and suffer for no reason? Your client will probably appreciate it much more if you tell them the truth. They also appreciate it when you don’t waste their time.

However, for the most part, coaches need to learn when to keep their opinions to themselves and be as objective as possible.

This is why traditional coach training emphasizes the “no consulting” rule during practice sessions. While they know sometimes it makes sense to do so, the point of the training is to learn the valuable skill of being objective and letting the clients make their own choices.

Acknowledgementcoach skills

Another important skill coaches need to learn is how to acknowledge their clients. Actually, this is a skill everyone should learn whether they are a coach or not.

People like to be acknowledged for their hard work. Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons why employees quit their jobs to further expound upon this point.

Study after study shows that the main reason employees quit is because they have a bad relationship with their boss. One of the aspects of being a bad boss is not giving credit where credit is due.

Other reasons employees quit their jobs include the lack of fun and lack of engagement. Again, a way of fostering both of these and boosting morale is to acknowledge them for their hard work.

The same concept applies to coaching. Often times, your clients are probably hiring you because they think something is wrong with them for not being able to reach their desired goals.

Think about it, how many times have you had clients who second guess their every move and can’t stop talking about what went wrong?

We all deal with this sometimes, and that’s why it’s important to acknowledge them when they are doing a good job. The following list shows some examples of when you can acknowledge your coaching clients:

  • When they had a major moment of self-awareness.
  • When they succeed in overcoming an obstacle they were previously experiencing.
  • When they open up and share something intimate (this is usually hard for people).
  • When they reach their desired goal.

Granted, there’s a difference between acknowledging your clients for good work and coddling them.

 Coddling is what you don’t want to do.

The point is to make sure your clients can stand on their own two feet as they go for their goals, if you coddle them they will become to dependent on you.

While some (bad) coaches may think that’s great for making money, it’s not ethical and you wouldn’t be doing your client justice.

There are some ways to respectfully give your client some tough love, which brings us to the next important skill for coaches.

Give Tough Lovecandles-168011_1280

 There will be a time (okay, lots of times) as a coach when you need to give your clients some much-needed tough love.

 There will be moments when you need to tell your clients to snap out of it, stop playing the victim and teach them to take responsibility for their own choices.

In fact, if you’ve been coaching for a while there’s a good chance you’ve already experienced this.

It’s not that your clients are bad people, it’s that the deal with the same struggles as the rest of us.

Sometimes we all need a swift kick in the behind to get us going, and as a coach sometimes the swift kick needs to come from you.

After all, people are paying you to call them out on their garbage.

The problem is some coaches are uncomfortable with this aspect of coaching.

Coaching sometimes gets a rap of being airy-fairy and unrealistic, and sometimes coaches feel like they always need to be nice. If they find themselves in a situation where they need to be assertive, then they freeze because they don’t want to come off as mean.

What coaches need to learn is there’s a difference between being rude and giving tough love.

Remember, these people have hired you to help them. If you see them playing the victim role and you don’t call them out on it then you aren’t doing your job.

Besides, as a coach you know very well that if something doesn’t seem to be going right in your client’s life no matter what they try, that there’s something internal going on with your client.

For example, if you’re a business coach and your coaching client is complaining about not making any money, and you find out they aren’t actually asking for money, you need to call them out.

If you are a health coach and your client keeps complaining about not being able to lose weight, and you find out they’re eating chocolate cake and skipping exercise, then you need to call them out.

Sometimes calling them out requires being firm with your clients, especially if you find that they are having difficulty taking responsibilities for their own actions.

While it may be uncomfortable at first, consider the alternative.

If you know your client is in need of a swift kick in the behind and you don’t give it to them, then they are going to continue in the same vicious cycle and won’t be able to overcome the obstacle they hired you to help them with.

That is not why they are paying you and it is certainly not why you became a coach.

Reflect Back What You HearVgu1RUfKT3WN1ZYxSWaR_14672519443_13d8873062_k

Another important skill that is required for coaches is to reflect back what they hear. This is essentially what you need to do as a part of active listening, but can stand on it’s own enough where it merits its own section for further exploration. It’s also a great way to acknowledge people.

Reflecting back what you hear serves two purposes.

The first is to let clients know that you are listening and engaged. Remember, this is an important part of creating a safe space and acknowledging your clients.

The second is so you make sure you understood what your clients are telling you. There’s nothing worse than making assumptions about what your clients are saying.

As a side note, this can also give you some great clues about what’s really going on in your client’s head and in their lives.

In other words, you should never check out and you should never assume anything. Reflecting on what your clients have just said helps you do both.

Here are just a few of the ways you can ensure you’re reflecting back what your clients are saying:

  • Paraphrase: Paraphrase what your clients have said and let them correct you if you are wrong.
  • Ask for clarification: Another great way to reflect back what your clients have said is to simply ask for clarification. For example, you can say something like “Let me make sure I understood correctly…” and then ask your question.
  • Asking questions for further exploration: Sometimes coaches hear something a client said, realize there’s an important piece and then begin to dive deeper on that one piece for further clarification and exploration.
  • Repeat meaningful words: You can learn a lot from people (and acknowledge them) by paying attention to the words they say often.
  • Summarize: Sometimes your clients are on a roll and give you a lot of information all at once. At this point a summary would be appropriate.
  • Know how to give feedback: Coaches know how to give feedback appropriately depending on the situation. For example, do they need to be treated a bit more gently or do you need to show some tough love? Remember, your clients would much rather have you be honest with them than waste their time.


One of the main reasons hire coaches is so they have someone to hold them accountable as they work through their goals.

Of course, this means it’s up to you as the coach to do your job and actually hold your clients accountable. There’s no point in coaching otherwise.

For example, make sure to check in at the beginning of each session to see how your clients have progressed since the last session.

Again, you don’t want to coddle people, but you do want to make sure they are progressing.

If they didn’t make any progress then it may require you to give some tough love or at least explore what’s going on.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that although these skills usually pertain to coaches, the reality is everyone should foster these skills whether they are coaches or not. While they will certainly help your practice, don’t be surprised if they help with your entire life.

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Ajit Nawalkha

Ajit Nawalkha is the Co-founder of Evercoach. He is passionate about disrupting industries and creating positive change. Ajit is a business coach himself.

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