Coaching is a multi-billion dollar industry.
And it seems everyone wants to be a coach these days. It’s lucrative. It’s fulfilling. But can anyone have the right coaching attributes to make an impact in this business?
The answer is yes and no.
It’s a “yes” if you’re willing to learn how to become a great 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 clients come up with the solution themselves. (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 developing a range of coaching skills and qualities. Combined with a proven methodology, these abilities can create powerful results and a lasting impact on your coaching clients.
Can Anyone Become a Great Coach?
Some may think individuals who are “born to coach” are literally born with these qualities. But that’s not the case. These qualities can be developed, honed, and nurtured, whether you believe you were “born with them” or not.
Any aspiring coach can be a great coach if they are willing to do the work on themselves first, so they can then help their clients grow. What will ultimately differentiate a good coach from a great one is the consistent and never-ending development of these qualities and skills. Perpetual growth will keep making you better and better on your journey to mastering the art of coaching.
Some of these coaching attributes include:
- Active listening
Let’s look into what the 20 top attributes of a good coach and mentor are and how you can develop them in yourself.
20 Coaching Attributes to Develop for Your Professional Growth
To narrow down the list to the 20 most essential qualities, we’ve asked Ajit Nawalkha, the co-founder of Mindvalley Coach, to name the top attributes outstanding coaches possess.
As coaches, we like to make learning actionable. While you read through this list, rate yourself between 1 and 10 on each quality, (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest). This will help you set specific goals for advancing your coaching career and highlight the coaching attributes you should focus on first.
Your coaching clients can only grow if they feel that you’re compassionate towards their issues. They need to feel that they’re in a space free of judgment and full of empathy where their challenges are respected and their failures are safe to express.
Studies show that compassion from others can contribute to greater resilience, lower stress levels, and a sense of meaning in life.
As a coach, you often have to put yourself in your client’s shoes to truly understand their struggles. You can do this by taking a moment to empathize with their situation and expressing your compassion before jumping into problem-solving.
Once your client feels safe, held, and accepted, they will be more likely to have agency to resolve their issues.
2. Supportive nature
Great coaches take their clients’ struggles seriously, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. It doesn’t matter if a client is trying to complete a small project or trying to win a battle against cancer; they need a coach who can be supportive in the process.
Besides expressing compassion in a difficult situation, coaches ultimately focus on guiding their clients out of it. They offer actionable insights and help them see the big picture so they can break their patterns and ace their goals.
3. Growth-oriented mindset
To help your clients grow, you need to have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and improving yourself. In other words, coaching yourself first. If there’s a book, course, or program that can help you develop yourself and your coaching practice, you’re on it like white on rice.
When you have a growth-oriented mindset, you never get tired of learning new tools and methodologies. Instead of sticking to old ways, you continuously seek out new ways you can step up to the next level.
Just like everything in life, things will eventually start to fatigue over time and slowly get old. You should have the latest coaching tools in your toolbelt to help clients face the emerging issues of today. In other words, what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow.
Bringing innovation into your coaching practice takes experimenting, switching, upgrading, or changing your coaching styles and format. In the day and age of TikTok coaches, the only way to stand out in this industry is to keep testing different coaching techniques and eventually develop your own coaching methodology.
Sometimes, our coaching clients are our biggest teachers. Successful coaches love to learn from the people they work with and never assume they have all the answers. They’re willing to admit their mistakes and, likewise, give second chances to their clients.
Master coaches are at the top of this industry, and yet, they’re the first ones to tell their clients when there’s someone better they could learn from. They remain students forever.
6. Active listening skills
The best coaches listen more than they talk. They’re not about trying to impress their clients, and they definitely know the difference between coaching and consulting. They know that client sessions are about the client and not about the coach. They don’t love to hear themselves speak.
A truly remarkable coach often gets completely lost in what the client has to say and holds no thought about themselves. They are present in the moment, judgment-free, at all times.
Possibly, one of the most important qualities of a great coach is staying curious. Being genuinely interested in why the client feels a certain way.
They want to know what inspires their 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 them get to know themselves better.
Gratitude is probably one of the best human qualities, but it’s especially important for coaches. High-level coaches are grateful for their clients, their careers, and the fact that they’re able to help others.
They tap into this deep feeling of gratitude when helping clients. They reconnect with it when they have challenges to face themselves and give their best to their clients, no matter what else is going on in their personal lives.
Extraordinary coaches do not take their work or their clients for granted. Ever.
9. Assertive communication
The best coaches are able to communicate their message, advice, and feedback in a way that gets through to their clients. They know how to use the right words at the right moment, adjust their language and tone to connect deeply, and when to remain silent.
They also have an incredible ability to adapt to each client individually and say the right words that leave a lasting impression.
10. Visionary qualities
Another important coaching attribute is rising above the situation and seeing a lateral as well as a 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. A future vision helps your client see their future self and the goals they want to strive for.
As a coach, you have to make sure you’re not imposing your own vision on your client, even if you’re convinced it’s what’s best for them. Instead, you must help them create their own version of the future and uncover their intrinsic motivation to get there.
11. Positive attitude
Having a positive attitude is not about hiding the ugly truth or always smiling. It’s about showing your client a more positive, uplifting viewpoint that they might not be able to see for themselves.
If a client isn’t pulling their weight or if they’re constantly making excuses, you should call them out. There’s a thin line between encouragement and coddling, and as a coach, you have to know the difference.
There are many situations in a coaching session that require you to be brave. Coaches who are at the top of their game have the courage to…
- Try new ways of connecting with a client,
- Set healthy boundaries with them (like no calls at night and on weekends), and
- Pull the plug on coaching contracts with an unresponsive or disengaged client.
Being courageous is also about asking 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.
13. Being observant
Noticing the subtle details is a coach’s superpower. You need to be highly observant to read between the lines and hear what’s not being said.
You should pick up and interpret the tiniest change in a client’s body language and energy. A shift in the tone of voice, a raised eyebrow, a clearing of the throat, and long pauses between sentences can all tell a lot.
14. Focused (on the right things)
Great coaches are focused on their clients throughout a session. They aren’t easily distracted, and they can stay present no matter what else is going on in the background.
Whether it’s a barking dog next door or a client’s child looking for attention from mom or dad, you need to always bring the conversation back to where it needs to be.
15. Dedication to your coaching practice
It takes time (and patience) to experience transformation and to see the work reflected in internal changes and mindset shifts. You have to commit to riding alongside your clients through the ups and downs and not leaving them hanging when they hit a rough patch.
Even if it takes longer than expected for clients to reach their goals, you should stick around as long as the client is willing to do the work.
16. Radical candor
Honesty is one thing. Radical candor is a whole other thing.
If you’re hesitant about being fully honest with your client about the hard truth, consider this. A study showed that radical candor can reduce the influence of psychological attachment, harsh emotions, and low self-esteem.
Masterful coaches don’t lie to their clients just to make them feel better about themselves.
If a client needs to know they’re not trying hard enough, a professional coach will tell them the truth—even when no one else does. If a client needs to know that their goals are too big, their coach will tell them that too.
A great coach is always kind, but they don’t shy away from the truth.
Probably one of the most underestimated attributes of a coach is professionalism. You can be the most charismatic speaker or the most attentive listener, but if you lack this quality, you’re going to hinder the growth of your clients.
Professionalism in coaching might mean…
- Being on time (or rather early) for sessions
- Keeping your promises, such as sending coaching materials to your client
- Arriving fully present for a session and leaving your personal problems at the door
- Keeping yourself to your own contract terms at all times
- Respecting your client’s boundaries
- Keeping your phone and every other distraction away during sessions
It also means going the extra mile for your clients. By the time they arrive to your session, you’ve looked through their notes from the previous sessions and prepared any research necessary to make your time together count.
Clients need to know that their secrets are safe with you. They need to trust that you’ll never share their personal information and history, no matter what. Everything that’s discussed during the session stays between you and the client.
According to the Code of Ethics shared by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), confidentiality is:
“Protection of any information obtained around the coaching engagement unless consent to release is given.”
The key here is consent. If you want to share case studies of your clients in your promotional materials with pseudonyms, you should still ask for their permission, especially if they’re a highly recognizable public figure.
Part of your growth journey as a coach is emulating others who are ahead of you in their careers.
In the same way, you need to show up as a role model for your clients so they can look up to you and emulate your journey. Your clients might not pursue the same goals that you do, but seeing your dedication to your growth and career will give them the boost to go after their own.
The best coaches are heart-centered. They’re sincere, and they truly care about their clients.
They have a genuine desire to be of service, and they’re willing to go above and beyond a client’s expectations. For them, coaching isn’t just a job; it’s a calling.
4 Top Skills of Impactful Coaches
Successful coaches don’t just share the same attributes but also the same coaching skills. Let’s explore some of the skills you can master to have a greater impact on your coaching clients.
According to Ajit Nawalkha, the co-founder of Mindvalley Coach (formerly known as Evercoach by Mindvalley), these are the skills you have to hone to be outstanding in the coaching field.
1. Deep listening
Deep listening is about giving your clients your undivided attention and listening to what’s being (or not being) said. Listening actively also means asking follow-up questions to understand your client better.
2. Reading body language
Pay attention to the smallest shifts in your client’s body language.
Are they comfortable in the conversation? Do they “wiggle” when they try to commit to their goals?
Before you rush into asking the next question, stop and observe how your client is really feeling.
3. Eliciting new ideas
When your client is facing a problem, they might be stuck in the same problems and convinced there’s no way out. If you can help your clients see the bigger picture from a new perspective, you can lead them to a new story.
Intuition is your innate intelligence connecting all the dots, and yes, it can be trained. The more you lean into your intuitive abilities, the more you can leverage them to open up new doors for your clients.
You need to start trusting that force is coming through you wanting you to ask that question or lean into that topic.— Ajit Nawalkha
Watch this 12-minute video and learn about the top coaching skills from Ajit himself:
How Can I Become a Better Coach?
These coaching attributes are a great place to start to see what qualities come naturally to you and which ones you need to enhance and cultivate in yourself.
If you want to dive deeper into the art of masterful coaching, join us in the Become a Mindvalley Certified Life Coach free masterclass to learn how to transform your passion into a purposeful profession.
Remember, great coaches are made, not born.
Images generated on Midjourney.