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Coaching Demystified – What does it take to be a good coach?

September 11, 2013

Of all my posts on coaching, this is probably the most critical. With many people aspiring to become coaches and many training companies offering coaching programs, this is a critical question to address.

Will attending a coaching training make you a good coach? No. Can everyone who aspires to be a coach become one? No.

What then is the key requirement? What does it take to be a good coach? I can sum it up in two words: Life experience.

Attending a certification program and acquiring a certificate do NOT necessarily make you an effective coach.

In my opinion, the primary characteristics an individual needs to possess (which outrank any skill, by the way) are:

  • Humility
  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Sensitivity
  • Intuition
  • Asssertiveness
  • Ego strength
  • Self assurance
  • Comfort with being vulnerable

The skills required are:

Effective listeninglistening to the unsaid, picking up nuances and listening beyond what is portrayed are key.

Advanced Questioning skillsProbing deeply, asking questions that will inspire and provoke, also questions that will lead to greater clarity.

Ability to challenge, be tough and push-backcoaches don’t just question or listen, they also challenge, provoke and push-back. Coaches need to be soft and supporting but also tough and demanding. If you feel you can’t play the range, you should reconsider your desire to become a coach. This also demands the coach to be extremely sensitive to what is required in THAT moment.

Maintaining silencetoo many coaches think they need to be be active to be doing something in order to have an impact. Maintaining silence is a powerful tool and once the silence passes beyond discomfort it generally results in the coachee opening up with something that is deep and powerful. 

According to @oMissJallmond One of the most imp things in coach training is learning to ask the right questions, listen,develop rapport.

In coaching the question can be more life altering says @tanvi_gautam

@nohrgyan Puts it very well when she says A good coach is in touch with own emotions & intuition. Knowing when to ask a q, when to confront and when to hold silence

Hopefully, you’ve read the previous 3 posts on this series of blogs on coaching. If you haven’t, here they are:

Post 1:

Post 2:

Post 3:

The final blogpost in the series will talk about :

5. What are the various types of coaching? And how are they different?

Hope you are enjoying the series!

You can follow me on twitter @joyandlife and find me on LinkedIn

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2013 9:20 pm

    Thanks again.
    It’s great to see the focus on life-experience, self-awareness and clarity rather than paper so-called ‘qualifications’ from organisations that are only self-appointed ‘experts’ … all of them!

  2. September 13, 2013 10:40 am

    very nice article. thx!

  3. Sandeep Kaul permalink
    September 12, 2013 10:34 pm

    Some more points from my personal experience. Have worked for me. Take them if you find them suitable for your style.

    Its all about the coachee – Get them in the’s of the coachee, for the coachee and by the coachee….I am a lazy coach so my coachees do the triple immersion in each session. They make personal notes after each session, before each session, they send me their notes and focus areas for the session. The third area is something I think most of the coaches won’t be doing….I get the coachees to write the action points and give it to me…This triple sundae is quite effective and enjoyed by all the coachees…for me it was born out of compulsion…for a client, i had to do 4 coaching sessions back to back on a weekly basis…so it was a efficiency tactic which turned out to be effective too !

    Briefing from the Manager – Normally, I like the CXO (manager of the coachees) to brief me outside the office, sometimes it can even be the tea shop outside the office. the best briefings come out of office cabins. Give it a try once.

    Coach should share his learning – I recently during a coaching engagement got a coachee to develop a very effective delegation cum developmental plan for his team. I told the CEO that he should rollout this delegation plan template for all team managers. He was concerned if I would charge for it. I said, please use it gratis and let all managers enjoy this gush of energy. So a coach should be open to sharing. The more you share, the more you generate abundance.

    Psychometric Tests – Lot of coaches use psychometric tests. MBTI seems to be preferred test by most of the HR folks. My personal opinion is FIRO-B is a better choice for two reasons 1. Its relatively simpler for the coachee to understand (remember its all about the coachee) 2. Most of the issues (in corporates atleast) stem from interpersonal effectiveness rather the self. This is purely my personal opinion.

    Coaching Session Timing – Atleast first two sessions should be 2 hours long. Helps build the trust and coaching connect. Lot of coaches are very obsessed with the 1 hour time limit of coaching session, which might not be appropriate for the initial sessions.

    Develop the Strong Areas – Normally, the coachee identifies areas which he need to develop in which he may be average. You can also get the coachee to pickup one strong area of his and ask him, how he can take it from good to exceptional. Lot of the coachees will have difficulty/confusion on working on this goal but the results will surprise both the coach and coachee. Also the coachees seem to love the challenge of working on making something better, which they already are good at !

    Summarise each session – Keep enough time for summarising each session. Dont hurry it up.

    Their are lots more. will share the next time around.


    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      September 13, 2013 11:30 am

      Excellent points. Thank you for taking the time to put all this down. I personally prefer the FIRO-B too.

  4. September 12, 2013 8:21 pm

    Very well written article.

    Couple of points I would like to add :
    Silence – giving the silence space to the coachee is so every important. Sometimes speaking too soon by the coaching can disrupt the coachees thought process. Its like waking somebody who is in deep sleep.

    Coaching Tools – These are good frameworks but some coaches depend more on using the tool than working on their coaching presence or connecting with the coachee. Its like operation successful but patient dead.

    I have also learnt if the coach can become “invisible”, then the coaching effectiveness really leapfrogs.

    Coach should be ready to get surprised…sometimes after a series of good coaching sessions, the coachee does things which you couldnt visualise…I recently had a client who had a fear of driving car in city and he started driving his car one fine day…that was not the primary goal of the coaching engagement but nonetheless a surprising byproduct.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      September 12, 2013 9:01 pm

      Excellent builds on to the article, Sandeep. Thank you for sharing. The anecdotes made your note powerful!


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