What makes a great coach?


15th January 2020

The fact that you are reading this article and asking yourself what makes a great coach suggests that you have perhaps the most important quality under your belt when starting your coaching journey: the desire to be a great coach!

What makes a great coach is when the act of coaching is not simply about one goal, and getting someone from A to B. It takes something more potent and insightful. It is about elevating the coaching experience from a simple goal-orientated approach to one which is transformative and opens up change so that future goals can be achieved more easily, but also identified more accurately and in line with an individual’s core beliefs, talents, and values. A great coach also helps the client see that the journey of change is just as profound as the goal or outcome itself. A coach who can do this over and over again with different clients, all of whom are unique and have different personalities and traits,  is what we believe makes a great coach.

Being a great coach is both an art and a skill. For many people it may appear to be effortless. But in reality there is nothing effortless about it. We feel a combination of consistent practice, high-quality life coach training, self-reflection and some important personal qualities are the main ingredients of a great coach.

The number of coaches globally continues to grow year on year. By 2017, the coaching industry was believed to be a $2 billion global industry. Impressive, but what does this mean?

Well on the one hand, that the industry continues to boom highlights the recognition of the profound impact that coaching can have on individuals, and in turn the world. On the other hand, for those of you that are considering becoming a coach, it can be a daunting prospect that your pool of potential competition continues to grow. Each of these coaches will be unique, and among them there will almost certainly be a number of ‘bad’ coaches and ‘good’ coaches. The great coach however, is much rarer.

In this article we will explore the elements that come together to make a great coach.

The Underlying Qualities of a Great Coach

There are certainly some qualities that all great coaches have. Skills can be learned but the underlying qualities are what bring you to coaching in the first place and that will support you in your journey. As a budding great coach, you will likely be:

Interested in people and care about making a difference

This is one of the fundamental traits at the heart of every great coach. Coaching is all about helping and empowering others to make profound changes in their lives. A great coach will have an innate interest in people, and the care, compassion and desire to make a difference to their clients’ lives.

Curious about the different ways people see the world

Are you naturally curious?

Curiosity is key to the coaching environment, and to being a great coach.
How do we ask the questions that allow our coachee to find the next step, or find their own answers without being innately curious?

As coaches we are curious creatures. Or at least we should be. Not for our own sense of wanting to know, but a curiosity about how we can help open up our coachees understanding of their own world and the possibilities that are out there for them. What is it they want? How might they get here? Where do they want to get to? And how might they do that?

Able to listen and really hear what someone is telling you

A big part of being a coach is listening well. Unfortunately, few in our culture truly understand the art of good listening or what it even means.

While silence, eye-contact, and open body language are all important elements of a good listener, good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. The best listeners are those that reflect back and ask questions with the express aim of encouraging self-discovery rather than to simply learn more about the client.  Asking a good question or reflecting something back lets the person know that you have not only heard what was said, but that you are able to take that information and process it in a way that is genuinely useful for this person.

Remember people don’t just want to be listened to, they want to be heard!

The Animas Coaching Course allows you to become proficient in the art of deep listening. But even before this, if you are someone that is really able to hear what someone is telling you, and are often turned to for your ability to listen, then you have another quality of a great coach.

Reflective on your own world-view, including your values, beliefs, assumptions, and emotional triggers

You can’t be a great coach without reflecting on your own world-view. A willingness to reflect in order to better understand your own beliefs, values and assumptions, as well as an understanding of what things might trigger you emotionally in a coaching dynamic are key to being the best coach that you can be.

Reflection will play a key part in your coaching journey, as it is through self-reflection that we are able to improve and grow, but even at this early stage, before you begin your search for coach training, an intrinsic quality of self-reflection is another indicator of a great coach.

Positive and believe that change in people is possible

One of the tasks of a life coach is to inspire clients with positive energy. Often, bringing an authentic positivity of your own to the space can be a catalyst for your client’s own positive inspiration. If you are happy, healthy and vibrant, you can help evoke this state in your coachee too.

A great coach will be naturally positive, with a belief that every individual has the potential to change.

Able to notice patterns and ways people behave that create their outcomes

Though at first glance this may seem very Conan Doyle, we aren’t talking about crime-solving powers of deduction. What we mean here is that if you have good observational skills, attention to detail and an ability to pick up on the patterns and behaviours that are influencing the outcomes of those around you, then you possess yet more qualities of a great coach!

Learned Skills and Aptitudes Through Professional Coach Training

So, we have explored the underlying personal qualities that form the lifeblood of a great coach, but these alone aren’t enough. You will need to learn coaching skills, techniques and philosophies to pair with these qualities in order to become the best coach that you can be. But what is the best way to acquire these skills?

Whilst it’s perfectly possible to set up as a Life Coach without any kind of certification, and pick up coaching techniques and philosophies through dedicated self-study, you may not be surprised to learn that we at Animas feel there are a number of reasons why professional coach training can give you a significant advantage when you get out there to coach, whether that’s on a full-time or part-time basis.

So what can the right training give you that helps you strive towards coaching greatness?

A solid and applicable understanding of coaching philosophies

A solid grounding in coaching skills and knowledge allows you to be more flexible, adaptable and versatile to whatever challenges and situations come up with a wide variety of clients. Many students say that training has provided them with a massive confidence boost, as they know that whatever arises they have the knowledge and tools to really help their clients. They feel ready, able, willing, and perhaps most importantly, adaptable! High-quality coach training also enables you to learn how best to use the skills and talents you already have. Some of us naturally possess the traits of an effective coach. The key, however, is understanding how best to apply these strengths and good quality life coach training can help you do that.

The Experience of Real-Life Client Work

Coaching is, first and foremost something you do, not just something you know. It’s a skill carried out between people and just as you wouldn’t expect to learn to drive merely by reading a book, nor would you expect to become a coach without practising it. Any coaching course that includes the need for you to practise coaching with real-life clients will put you one step closer to becoming a great coach.

Ensures That You Embed The Coaching Skills Over Time

Coaching is a skill that develops with time and, as a result, we believe that any coaching course that sets out to help you become a genuinely skilled coach should take place over an extended period of time, with various steps that develop your skills and facilitate reflective learning, much like our own life coaching course. We don’t believe you can develop coaching skills in a matter of a few days with no client work. So be sure that your chosen course takes you on a true journey of learning.

Sets You Apart Through Accreditation and Credentialing

We mentioned at the start of this article the way in which the coaching industry is growing. This means that there are many other coaches also searching for clients. Professional training is one thing, but in undertaking accredited coach training, you set yourself apart from the majority. For any course, you’ll want to look out for accreditation from at least one of the following bodies: International Coach Federation (ICF), Association for Coaching (AC), European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) or the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD).

With accreditation of coaching courses becoming ever more important as a sign of quality and standards, you should ensure for your own peace of mind and for your future clients’ that you are enrolling on an accredited course that can lead to gaining professional credentials as a coach.

Observation And Supervision That Allows You To Grow

Any professional coach training that offers ongoing supervision both during and post-qualification means that you’ll be in a great position to grow as a coach. Having a mentor and experienced coach to help you shine a spotlight on your key areas of development could be invaluable in helping you become a great coach. Our course includes mentoring, supervision and observed practice – all features we feel contribute enormously to the quality of coaching our students and graduates provide.

Ensures Competence And Confidence Through A Rigorous Qualification And Assessment

How do you know if you’re ready to move from training to becoming a professional coach? Well, one way, at least, is knowing that your coaching skills have been assessed to a good standard. If simply turning up to training is enough to pass, then that doesn’t say good things about the quality of the coaches being produced! A coaching course that has a rigorous qualification process will set you apart from coaches that haven’t completed such assessments, as well as giving you the confidence that you have what it takes to go out there and coach.

A Thriving Tribe Of Fellow Coaches

At Animas, we are immensely proud of the thriving community of coaches that we have created, and it is one of the things that we always hear when people talk about the school. Not only does this sense of belonging feel great, it presents you with opportunities to share in the coaching successes, questions, conversations, thoughts and collaborations of a community of like-minded coaches, which can be instrumental to your coaching development, and goal of becoming a great coach.

And After Qualification?

We have covered the underlying qualities, and training that make a great coach. But the coaching journey is one that never ends, you constantly grow and change as you build your experience and skill set. To be a great coach you must always be looking to develop yourself, especially once you have completed your training. So what are the post-training practices of a great coach?

Further Training And CPD Courses

The best coaches take a life-long learning approach, by embracing additional learning (which doesn’t just have to mean more courses), skills and opportunities to work with like-minded practitioners. These might include lectures, seminars, courses, mentoring, and peer support groups led by industry thought-leaders, authors, and teachers.
Putting some of your money and time into Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses can be instrumental to your progress as a coach. Remember being a great coach requires dedication and a desire to continually improve and develop.

Practice, Practice, Practice

This seems like common sense but it really is one of the driving forces behind an excellent coach. We spoke about coaching appearing effortless at the beginning of the piece, but often this effortlessness that people see in other coaches, comes from a continued practice.
So it’s like watching a painter, a sportsperson, or any other professional, it can seem effortless because the practice that’s gone into it that you don’t see. It’s not effortless from Day 1, it takes time to get there.
So practice is the key, practicing your art, allows it to become art.

Use A Supervisor/Get Yourself a Coach

Not enough words can be said for the benefits that come with actively seeking feedback on your coaching. No matter how experienced you are, or how long you have been coaching, to sit on the other side of the table and reflect on how you can improve, what isn’t working, what could be working better will mean that you are able to continue to grow as a coach. All of the best coaches will regularly attend supervision or mentoring sessions, and this is a big part of why they are the best.

So there you have it, the elements that we feel make a great coach! We hope that you find this article useful! If you are interested in finding out more about transformational coaching, what it is, and how you might work as a transformational coach, please feel free to have a look at our life coaching course or book a spot on one of our free introductory days here!

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