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what makes a coach great

What Makes A Coach Great? 6 Essential Qualities

Have you met someone who was a great coach? It does not necessarily have to be in the workplace. Take a moment to think and go back in time. It could be a sport or skill coach from school who changed things for you. If you have seen someone like that, what made them effective? A great coach can guide and support you through personal and professional transitions. Whether helping you navigate a career change, improve your leadership skills, or achieve health and wellness goals, a good coach can provide the necessary guidance and support to help you thrive.

In this blog, we will explore the essential qualities that make a coach great – so that you can make the best choice for yourself and your team next time.

Leadership coaching is a specialized form of coaching that focuses on developing your leadership skills and abilities. It involves a structured coaching process that helps you identify strengths and areas for improvement, set goals, and develop action plans to achieve them. Leadership coaches work with individuals to enhance their leadership capabilities, improve their decision-making skills, and build effective communication and relationship-building skills.

They can also help you navigate challenges and obstacles in leadership roles and support them in achieving their professional and organizational goals. Leadership coaching can be a valuable resource for you if you want to enhance your leadership abilities and positively impact your organization. But the question is, is your coach the right one for you?

What should a leadership coach do with you?

A leadership coach has several key responsibilities in guiding clients toward reaching their full potential and achieving peak performance in their leadership roles. Primarily, good coaching practices include:

  • Building a strong coaching relationship: A leadership coach establishes a supportive and trusting relationship with their clients, creating a safe space for open and honest communication. It is essential as you need to be vulnerable to tackle challenges effectively.
  • Setting specific goals: A leadership coach helps you identify your goals and develop action plans to get to them. They provide guidance and support throughout the goal-setting process.
  • Providing guidance and support: A leadership coach offers valuable insights, feedback, and advice to help you navigate challenges and make informed decisions.
  • Enhancing leadership skills: A leadership coach helps you develop and strengthen your leadership skills, such as effective communication, decision-making, and relationship-building at work, all of which contribute to your professional growth.
  • Offering accountability: A leadership coach holds you accountable for your actions and progress toward your goals. They provide support and encouragement to ensure that you stay focused and motivated.
What enables a leadership coach to do all of this? How does this look like in action? Let’s explore in the next section.

#1 Empathy and Understanding

Empathy and understanding are essential qualities that make a coach effective. A good coach can truly understand and connect with you emotionally. They can put themselves in your shoes and understand your struggles, fears, and aspirations.

This empathy helps the coach to create a safe and supportive environment for their clients, where they feel heard and understood. In Simon Sinek’s coaching style, we can see this in action, which enables coachees to open up and freely discuss challenges. Moreover, a good coach also possesses a positive attitude, which helps foster a sense of optimism and encouragement throughout the leadership coaching journey.

Emotional intelligence is closely linked to empathy and plays a vital role in coaching. Coaches who are emotionally intelligent have a heightened awareness of their client’s emotions and can effectively navigate and address them within the coaching relationship. This emotional intelligence helps to create a positive and productive coaching experience for both the coach and the client.

#2: Effective Communication Skills

Effective communication skills are another part of good coaching practices. A coach must be able to communicate clearly, listen actively, and understand their client’s needs and goals. Effective communication involves not only verbal communication but also nonverbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice. Just think of a coach’s impact by sitting next to you vs. in front of you in a high chair. Subtle communications matter a lot in coaching.

By being an effective communicator, a coach can establish rapport and trust, ensuring that the coaching process is productive and impactful. They can ask probing questions, provide you feedback, and offer guidance in a way that is easily understood and meaningful.

Primarily within communication, an effective coach would cover:

  • Active listening: A good coach actively listens to their clients, paying full attention to their words, tone, and body language. Active listening involves being fully present in the conversation and demonstrating genuine interest in what the client is saying. They will ask you questions for clarity and show signs of listening (like nodding and eye contact) when you are speaking.
  • Body language: Coaches must be aware of their body language and use it to convey understanding, empathy, and support. They must also observe their client’s body language to gain insights into their thoughts and emotions.
  • Feedback: Providing constructive feedback is an important aspect of good coaching practices worldwide. A coach should offer specific, actionable feedback and be focused on helping you achieve your goals.

#3 Goal Setting and Achievement

Goal setting and achievement are essential parts of what makes a coach great. A good coach helps you set specific and achievable goals, providing guidance and support throughout the goal-setting process. They assist in identifying strengths, areas for improvement, and the steps needed to reach your desired outcomes. Through ongoing coaching sessions, a coach helps you track progress, celebrate milestones, and make necessary adjustments to achieve success.

Good coaching practices to reach your goals can take many shapes. Broadly, they will include:

  • Time management: Coaches help you allocate time and resources effectively to work towards your goals. They assist in prioritizing tasks, creating schedules, and developing strategies to overcome time constraints.
  • SMART goals: You might be thinking, what’s the big deal in setting goals? What can a coach even do to make your goals more effective? Coaches guide their clients in setting SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART goals provide clarity and focus, making tracking progress and evaluating success easier.
  • Coaching process: The coaching process itself supports goal setting and achievement. Coaches provide structure, accountability, and feedback so that you stay on track and make meaningful progress toward your goals. They are also significant in marking milestones with celebration and recognition to keep you moving forward.

#4 Adaptability and Flexibility

Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Adaptability and flexibility are essential qualities that make a coach great. A good coach can adjust their coaching style and approach to meet your unique needs and goals. It requires a client-centric approach to understand that different clients require varied strategies and techniques to succeed.

Before starting, ensure that you align with the core values and approaches. Adaptive coaches can pivot their methods based on your specific challenges and circumstances. They are open to new ideas, willing to try different approaches, and can provide guidance and support tailored to each situation.

Flexibility is key in coaching, as every client is different and may require different strategies for success. A great coach can pivot their coaching methods and techniques to address your needs. This flexibility allows the coach to meet you where you are and guide you toward the desired outcomes. Great coaches are not afraid to step outside their comfort zone and adjust their strategies based on each unique context.

#5 Continuous Learning and Development

Continuous learning and development lays the groundwork for good coaching practices. As the coaching profession evolves, it is important for coaches to stay updated on the latest trends, research, and best practices. Lifelong learning ensures coaches have the knowledge and skills to effectively support you.

Coaches can engage in various forms of continuous learning, such as attending workshops, conferences, and webinars, reading books and articles, participating in coaching programs and certifications, and seeking mentorship from experienced coaches. Obtaining coaching credentials and certifications is another crucial aspect of ongoing education for coaches. These credentials demonstrate a coach’s commitment to their profession and validate their skills and knowledge. Certification programs often include rigorous training and assessments, ensuring that coaches meet certain standards of excellence.

#6 Building Trust and Confidentiality

Building trust and maintaining confidentiality are essential qualities of a great coach. Trust is the foundation of the coaching relationship and is crucial for effective coaching. You must feel comfortable opening up and sharing your thoughts, feelings, and challenges with the coach. It’s a non-negotiable.

Maintaining confidentiality is equally important in good coaching practices. Coaches must ensure that your information is confidential and not disclosed without your consent. It promotes a safe and supportive environment where you can explore their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment or breach of trust.

Coaches adhere to a code of ethics that includes guidelines on confidentiality, trust, and maintaining professional boundaries.

Within this, there are three key areas:

  • Rapport building: Great coaches take the time to build rapport with their clients. They create a safe and supportive environment where you feel comfortable expressing yourself and sharing your challenges.
  • Active listening: Great coaches demonstrate active listening skills, showing genuine interest in your concerns and perspectives. It ensures you feel heard and understood, fostering trust in the coaching relationship.
  • Honest communication: Great coaches are honest and transparent with their clients. They establish clear expectations, provide constructive feedback, and maintain open lines of communication. This honesty builds trust and credibility. Often, this honesty means that they will have hard talks with you, pointing out mistakes, loopholes, and gaps that make you stuck.
Merlin, Risely’s AI coach for leadership development, ensures that your growth remains the number one priority. But how does it cover all the bases of what makes a great coach?

First up, Merlin comes with a non-judgmental perspective. As you share your concerns, challenges and context, you can be vulnerable and open without fearing retribution or any impact on your career. This concern keeps many professionals away from seeking coaching when they need it. And we get it: your career is precious, and some gossip running it is not worth it. That’s why Merlin focuses on understanding you as you are and saves you from putting up with incompatible coaches.

Second, Merlin curates learning journeys to build the skills you need. It won’t offer you insights into conflict management when you are struggling with a team that fails to meet expectations. As the driver of the process, coaching with Merlin is designed for you and your goals. It makes the entire deal simple with regular nudges, assignments, and a leaderboard in the skill center, ensuring you are not falling behind.

And lastly, Merlin is always learning. A traditional coach may need to spend hours upskilling and learning about your industry to help you properly. There are many differences between the help an engineering manager needs and that of a sales manager. Merlin understands this. As a result, coaching experiences with Merlin are hyper-personalized to meet you where you are – it’s your preferred language in your preferred workspace, answering questions that matter to you.

So, what makes a coach great? Everything that allows them to focus on you! Merlin is prepared to do it. You can check it for free here. Just throw whatever is bugging you enough to search for a coach.

Great coaches possess essential qualities like empathy, effective communication, goal setting, adaptability, continuous learning, and building trust. These good coaching practices enable them to guide you toward personal and professional growth successfully. By understanding the role and responsibilities of a leadership coach and exemplifying these qualities through action, they create a significant impact. Continuous improvement, feedback mechanisms, and ongoing education are crucial in honing these skills further. Ultimately, the impact of great coaching is measured by the positive transformation and achievements of those under their guidance.

Are you truly listening to what your coach is saying?

Assess your active listening skills for free now with Risely’s self-assessment for managers.

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