8 Must-Have Coaching Skills, According to Mindvalley Coach Co-Founder Ajit Nawalkha

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Ajit Nawalkha, founder of Evercoach by Mindvalley, on stage speaking about coaching skills at Mindvalley University 2018
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Highlights: What coaching skills make a great and effective coach? Explore these essential eight with insights from Mindvalley Coach co-founder, Ajit Nawalkha.

A coach equipped with essential coaching skills is like a cake with the perfect icing. While the cake is delicious on its own, with icing, it’s just even better. Case in point: what’s a red velvet cake without the smooth, sweet, lick-it-off-the-spoon cream cheese icing, right? 

This may have piqued your curiosity about which skills coaches can use to make themselves even better.

Now, if you’re already a coach, have a gander to see which skills you’ve mastered or have yet to. 

Why Are Coaching Skills Important?

Skills—specifically soft skills—are the attributes that enable you to interact with other people and enhance your ability to get the job done. And when it comes to coaching, it takes a particular set of these skills to perform the ultimate task: effectively helping your clients get the results they seek.

Here are a few ways coaching soft skills can benefit you:

  • Self-awareness. As you continue to use your skills, you’ll realize it not only promotes introspection for your clients but for yourself as well. It’s self-coaching, so to speak, and with it, you’re able to build the determination to help more people.
  • Confidence. With self-awareness comes confidence. You’ll learn as you go and evolve your coaching techniques to better serve both you and your clients.
  • Presence. With your newly adapted poise and tenacity, you’ll be seen more positively by current, potential, and ideal clients. Kind of like a beautifully decorated cake.

To go deeper into creating a successful coaching business, you might enjoy this article: 7 Steps on How to Start a Thriving Coaching Business in 2022 by Mindvalley Coach Co-Founder

What Are the Skills of a Great Coach?

There’s no step-by-step formula to being a great coach, but continuously honing your coaching skills will get you there. Some skills are innate, like empathy. However, others need a little practice.

What are these skills? Here are the essential eight to be a great coach:

1. Rapport

Rapport is the emotional connection between you and your client. It plants the seeds of trust and creates a safe space.

Even in research, a 2021 study looked into rapport-building on customer attitude and loyalty in the medical service. The results suggest that it has positive effects on the customer’s perception and feelings.

This bond allows you to be able to expand this relationship and to be able to go as deep in this relationship. It allows for your coachee to feel comfortable and really be open with you. — @ajitna Share on X

2. Empathy

When it comes to empathy, it’s a skill that’s both inherent and external. For some, it’s something they naturally possess. But it’s also something all of us can cultivate, nurture, and develop.

Empathy is the ability to understand the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of your client.

According to Ajit Nawalkha, the co-founder of Mindvalley Coach (formerly known as Evercoach by Mindvalley), it’s you sitting right by your client’s side as they’re going through this big emotion. It’s you imagining if you were the one feeling it. And it’s you relating to it.

And because you’re able to understand how your client is feeling, you can respond appropriately to the situation.

3. Awareness

Being aware means being conscious of something, such as environmental, cultural, or even self-awareness. Awareness is the ability to recognize your perspective—not just in your experience but in how others see you as well.

Awareness allows you to explore emotions or situations unbiasedly because you’re not associating judgment with preconceived notions. You’re simply approaching it for what it is.

And there are a number of benefits to being in a psychological state of awareness. This includes staying focused, boosting emotional intelligence, and reducing levels of stress.

4. Presence and deep listening

You being here—that is the essence of presence. Definition-wise, presence is the ability to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with your client. 

It’s a powerful skill to hone in on because you’re present; it allows them, according to Ajit, to be present themselves. That, then, gives them the capacity to expand.

And being here in the moment enables you to truly focus on what your client is saying. This is called deep listening—the ability to hear behind the meaning of the words.

We never slow down enough to get truly present to listen to somebody, which means, in this day and age, most people never feel truly heard,” says Rich Litvin, master high-performance coach. “At the heart of really powerful coaching is a sense of ‘somebody hears me.’

Also referred to as active listening, this skill requires you to temporarily suspend any judgment. It calls for you to open your awareness to receive new information, no matter if it’s pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

5. Creating trust

Did you know that nearly six in ten say their default tendency is to distrust something, according to the 2022 Edelman ‘Trust Barometer’? That is, until they see evidence that it is trustworthy.

So one of the characteristics of a coach is to provide a safe space for the client. This is where trust comes in.

Trust is the ability to believe that the other person is reliable, is truthful, and can make you feel safe. And it’s such a crucial part of coaching. Both you and your client need to know you can trust each other so you can engage in meaningful and effective communication.

This is especially one of the most important coaching skills for leaders. The same Edelman ‘Trust Barometer’ shows CEOs are one of the top three societal leaders who are the least trusted.

When trust is intact, people often willingly contribute what is needed, according to Dennis Jaffe, Ph.D. in an article about the importance of trust. He adds that it’s not just by offering their presence but also by sharing their dedication, talent, energy, and honest thoughts.

As a coach, when you build that trust, it allows your coachee to get real honest with you. — @ajitna Share on X

That, in turn, allows them to open up and be real to themselves, enabling them to find honest answers to their challenges.

6. Congruence

Consistency is key, as the saying goes. And when it comes to coaching, consistency in what you say, think, and feel is what clients look for. This is known as congruence — having a consistent state of behavior.

“You have to find that congruence in yourself,” Ajit advises in a lesson on Mindvalley’s Certified Life Coach program. “And you have to invite your coachees to find that congruence in themselves.

When thoughts and feelings match the words spoken and the action is taken, communication is clearer and more understandable. That’s why your congruence is vital in creating change in your client’s life.

Without it, the chances of miscommunication are higher, which then leads to a lack of confidence in the relationship.

7. Neutrality

Neutrality is the ability to view and experience a situation with a clear, unbiased perspective.

So why is this an essential coaching skill? Staying neutral enables your client to self-reflect and be accountable for the outcome of the coaching sessions. This allows you, as the coach, to use your coaching techniques to help your client take in different perspectives.

You need to be able to check your beliefs and leave them at the door when you are in a coaching session,” says Ajit on Mindvalley’s Certified Life Coach program. He adds that more than likely, you’ll find it challenging to create changes in someone’s life if you’re continuously bringing in your ‘baggage’ to the table.

As the American poet, Walt Whitman says, “Be curious, not judgmental.” 

8. Powerful Questions

Your job as a coach is to help your client think rather than think for them. So it’s imperative to ask powerful questions in your sessions.

What’s a powerful question? Well, for one thing, they’re not states disguised as questions, like “Have you tried doing one-on-one activities with your children?” or “Do you make to-do lists for all the things you want to do?” These are known as yes-or-no questions and don’t encourage thinking.

Powerful questions create insights, inspire creative and clear thinking, and help your clients move past their limitations. They are open-ended questions that are asked with genuine curiosity.

So whether you’re a life coach, spiritual coach, health coach, or even a business coach, the right kind of questions will, in Ajit’s words, “turn the right wheels.” In turn, your clients will start looking at things from different angles and ultimately, change their reality.

How to Improve Coaching Skills

The million-dollar question is: What makes a great coach, great? 

The main thing is they achieve consistent results which allows them to build an incredible coaching business. The other thing is that, just like any other career, coaching requires constant learning and continuous honing of our coaching skills.

Here are a few tips on how to improve your coaching skills:

  • Read books by other coaches. Books are fantastic resources for you to level up your skills. You can learn from others who have got it right, who have achieved success, and understand how they did it.

    Our recommendation: The Book of Coaching for Extraordinary Coaches by Ajit Nawalkha.
  • Listen to coaching podcasts. The popularity of podcasts has skyrocketed. It’s a place where people congregate to share experiences, discuss techniques, strengthen knowledge, and build expertise.

    Our recommendation: coaching interviews on The Mindvalley Podcast.
  • Keep learning. Life is filled with one lesson after another. And as you learn, you grow. So it’s advisable to be thirsty for knowledge. Find ways to improve your game, like joining workshops that support your niche or taking Quests at Mindvalley that develop your skills.

    Our recommendation: Mindvalley’s Speak & Inspire Quest for communication, Silva Ultramind System for intuition, and Ultimate Leadership for active listening and empathy.

There are a number of ways to improve your coaching skills; these are only a handful. Find the ones that you’re drawn to so that you can be equipped with the tools to enhance the well-being of your clients.

Greatness Starts With You

Your coaching skills aren’t going to be excellent overnight. Like how baking a great cake takes practice, being a great coach takes practice, too.

So take it one client at a time. Get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Improve and evolve. And don’t worry—it’ll get easier to maneuver those coaching skills with experience.

Because coaching is about making the cake, not at all about eating it. And whether you’re currently undergoing a certification program or a seasoned coach, enjoy the process.

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Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Expertise by

Ajit Nawalkha is the co-founder of Mindvalley Coach (formerly known as Evercoach by Mindvalley) and a world-leading business coach. Ajit’s passion is to make the world a better place and empower entrepreneurs to be the change the world needs. With decades of experience distilled into bestselling books, Ajit now trains new coaches in both skills and entrepreneurship, unlocking the path from passion to profit.

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