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How to be a better coach: 21 strategies for delivering breakthroughs

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Summary: The right coaching techniques and questions can multiply the impact you have on your clients. Discover how to be a better coach with these 21 proven strategies.

All coaches are on a continuous learning curve, no matter where they are on their journey. If you, too, are wondering how to be a better coach, here are a few fundamental skills, techniques, and questions you can incorporate into your practice.

Essential skills every coach must have

Skilled coaches do not consider themselves experts who can solve every problem or answer every question a client asks. Instead, they play a supporting role to help the client reflect and learn.

Discover how to be a better coach at work and beyond with these essential coaching skills.

1. Show empathy

This skill helps you, as a coach, to connect better with your clients, build trust, and help them achieve their goals faster. Acknowledge and validate their emotions, and let them know that it’s okay to feel the way they do.

You can also share your own experiences or struggles if they’re relevant to your client’s situation. Just remember that the session is about the coachee; you’re simply there to guide them.

2. Stay curious

Curiosity allows you to step away from your current beliefs and engage with clients from an objective perspective. Being genuinely interested in your client’s life experiences and perspectives is key to understanding where they’re coming from.

It’s an attitude that helps you discover new possibilities and alternatives. It also turns you into a life-long learner. Whether it’s coaching certification, courses, books, or podcasts, you must never stop upgrading your coaching methods.

3. Identify strengths

As a coach, you should be able to help clients identify their strengths. Even if clients may not recognize their forte, it’s your job to help them understand it better. 

This way, you can help clients discover their hidden potential and capitalize on their strengths.

4. Ask open-ended questions

Although we usually approach problems with a desire to solve them, there may be more to the situation than meets the eye. 

Keeping an open mind when talking to your clients is essential, and asking open-ended questions can help do just that. On the other hand, closed-ended questions can be answered with either “yes” or “no”, which may not help your client see new possibilities.

What does that look like? Here’s an example:

Open-ended questionClosed-ended question
Example“What would you do now if there were no obstacles in your path, and anything was possible?”“Do you want to succeed or stagnate where you are?”

5. Practice detached engagement

As a coach, it’s your job to use your expertise to help your client progress and grow. However, you need to understand that your client may not get the desired results despite your best efforts due to circumstances or a lack of dedication on their part.

Do your best to get your client results, but don’t get too attached to the outcome. Practicing a sense of detached engagement allows you to invest the required energy and effort into your work without being affected by what’s outside of your control.

6. Master active listening

You should listen to both the text and the subtext of what the client is saying. Active listening includes body language cues, the changes in their breathing, and the tone of their voice.

Sometimes a client says something, but their body language hints at something entirely different. You need to be able to pick up on these cues and let them inform your coaching process.

4 coaching techniques that you need to know

Let’s look at some of the most widely used coaching techniques that can accelerate your work with clients.

1. The Wheel of Life

One of the most popular coaching tools is the Wheel of Life, a technique that helps you measure the level of satisfaction your client has with their life. 

It lets you focus your coaching process on the areas that are most off-track while reinforcing what’s already working well.

2. The Life ECG

The Life ECG helps you understand the ups and downs of your client’s life, as well as their values and strengths. All you need is a blank sheet and a pen. Here’s what you do next:

  1. Draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper and ask the client to describe their life in chronological order. 
  2. Instead of mapping their entire lives, ask them to pick the three most important ups and downs. 
  3. Then ask them to explain why these were significant moments. 

Listening to their reactions allows you to analyze their outlook on life.

3. The GROW model

The four alphabets in the GROW model stand for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will.

  • Goal is about knowing what the client wants to achieve. Make sure that the objectives they list here are realistic, achievable, and measurable.
  • Reality can be summed up in the question, “What is the client’s current situation?” To reach their goals, they need to know where they are now in relation to their goals. Your job is to guide their self-assessment to identify the obstacles that may prevent them from achieving them.
  • Options is about identifying the possibilities of the coachee in terms of moving forward. Help them evaluate their options and understand what each of them would require in terms of sacrifice or investment.
  • Will is about moving forward and taking action. Ask your client what they are willing to commit to until your next session so that they can start turning their dream into reality.

4. Journaling

One of the best coaching tools for gaining perspective and self-awareness is keeping a reflective journal. It also allows your client to take a closer look at their emotions.

You can suggest specific journaling prompts that aid the coaching process your client is currently in. For example, writing down 10 things they are grateful for every day or reflecting on their emotional triggers.

Man journaling at a cafe

7 questions to measure your client’s progress

It might seem tricky to measure your client’s progress from one session to another, but it’s essential for effective coaching. This evaluation tells you whether they are on the right track—and if you need to change course with them.

Here are seven questions that help you reflect on the progress you’re making with your client.

1. Has the client made any discoveries about themselves?

This question helps you understand your client’s attitude toward life before and after undergoing coaching. Look at whether they’ve gained any new perspectives, beliefs, or insights.

This could be as simple as discovering new ways to solve a problem. Teach them how to pay attention to the subtle changes unfolding so that they, too, can see their progress.

2. How useful were your specific skills or teachings to your client?

To help your client reach their goals, you may help them develop new skills and traits. However, these will only be helpful if they’re aligned with what they want.

Evaluate whether the tools and techniques you’ve introduced in the coaching process are serving your clients and accelerating their progress.

3. How drastically has the client changed as a result of the coaching?

This question helps you take a close look at who your clients were when they walked into your first session as opposed to who they are now.

Pay attention to even the subtlest changes in their habits, moods, work ethic, life satisfaction, emotional balance, decision-making, and communication.

4. Can they tell the difference?

As coaches, we create transformation. We are in the unique position of witnessing the client’s growth journey firsthand. However, it’s important they also notice how far they’ve come from time to time.

One way to help them do that is to introduce coaching questions at the end of your session that help them summarize what you’ve discussed or how they see themselves differently from a month ago.

5. Have the client’s friends, family, or colleagues noted any major differences?

Sometimes, people we spend the most time with notice changes in us sooner than we do ourselves—this is also true for your client. Ask them whether they’ve received any feedback from the people in their lives about their transformation.

Sometimes, they might notice some resistance in their environment to their changes. Help them navigate this so it doesn’t become an obstacle to further progress.

6. How will they reward themselves when they see progress?

This question establishes a reward system that recognizes your client’s achievements and celebrates their progress. Help them identify ways in which they can motivate themselves on their way to their dreams so they can keep up the momentum and increase their confidence in themselves.

7. What changes need to be made to the coaching plan?

This is a question most coaches don’t ask their clients but should during and after the coaching program. Every coach is different, and perfecting your skills will take time and constructive criticism.

Client feedback will help you make the right changes to serve people better in the future. Pay close attention to what they’re saying and find ways to make their feedback actionable to improve your services.

What to do if a client shows no progress?

If your coaching plan is not working as expected, it may need some adjusting. Here are some ways you can make changes during your session and tweak your process:

1. Set short-term goals

Short-term goals allow you to track the client’s progress better. They signal whether they are on track or if they need to course-correct.

A shorter time frame might also work better at times when the coachee is losing momentum. Hitting smaller targets first gives them the confidence to later tackle bigger issues.

2. Identify the problem

Identifying the root cause of why your client is struggling to make progress is essential for them to move to the next level in their growth journey.

Before they take any action, dig deeper and find out what the real problem is with proper analysis. It’s always better to spend more time identifying an obstacle than getting stuck with the coaching process.

3. Address areas for improvement

Analyze your client’s skills to define their most important areas for improvement. Make a list of changes that they can commit to in order to grow.

Provide some helpful analogies so that your client can grasp how those necessary skills and traits would help them in their life. Emphasizing your belief in their ability to improve and overcome these challenges.

4. Implementing changes

Once you know the problem and how to fix it, make changes and adjust your coaching plan accordingly. 

Coming up with ways to fit a new plan into a previously agreed-upon time frame can be challenging, but it’s essential for them to see real results in the end.

Coach anyone with confidence

The only thing standing between you and your dream coaching career is this free Become a Mindvalley Certified Life Coach masterclass with Ajit Nawalkha, the co-founder of Mindvalley Coach, and Vishen, the founder of Mindvalley, as your guides.

In this immersive training, you’ll discover the proven framework to confidently coach anyone, build a flourishing business, and finally step into the fulfilling career you deserve.

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Written by

Annamaria Nagy

Annamaria is a freelance writer for Health + Wellness and Transformational Education brands. Formerly, she was the writers lead and the head of SEO at Mindvalley. She works with coaches and mission-driven brands to amplify their impact with strategic, value-driven copywriting.
Picture of Annamaria Nagy

Annamaria Nagy

Annamaria is a freelance writer for Health + Wellness and Transformational Education brands. Formerly, she was the writers lead and the head of SEO at Mindvalley. She works with coaches and mission-driven brands to amplify their impact with strategic, value-driven copywriting.
Ajit, co-founder of Mindvalley Coach
Expertise by

Ajit is the co-founder of Mindvalley Coach (formerly known as Evercoach by Mindvalley) and a world-leading business coach. His passion is to make the world a better place and empower entrepreneurs to be the change the world needs.

With decades of experience, which he has turned into best-selling books, Ajit now trains new coaches in several of Mindvalley’s coaching certification programs, like Life Coaching and Business Coaching, to name a few. It’s here that they can learn the skills needed to run a successful coaching business.

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.