Essential Skills For an Action-Based Coach

8 essential skillsAs a coach, you want to offer the greatest value to your clients and support them in their journey. For this reason, it’s important to not only master essential coaching skills, it’s also crucial that you keep building new ones.

We grow by trying out new things, learning by trial and error. Action-based coaching takes advantage of this, focusing on getting the client to take independent steps, probably failing at first, and then using this feedback to make improvements.

Coaching that is action-based, or based on inspiring the client to take actions, can deliver powerful change.

You want to be the best coach possible, so that you can fully support your clients during transformation and change. But what makes a good coach great? Answer: the learnable skills they develop.

The following skills are essential to truly transformative, action-based coaching.

Coaching Skills-Listening


Listening seems simple enough. We listen whenever we have a conversation or tune into a podcast. But as a coach, you’ll be held to a higher standard.  And an important aspect of communication, is knowing how to listen.

You need to practice active listening. This is listening with undivided attention and then, using different words, repeating back what the client has said.

This repeating back does two things:

  1. It helps you make sure that you’ve understood them by letting you summarize their main points.
  2. It helps the client, because, hearing their thoughts spoken back to them, can lead to insights and deeper thinking about the statement or topic.

Part of active listening also includes silence by giving clients space to speak, and letting their silences sit, so they can continue their thought process without interruption. Maintaining a proper balance between listening and speaking (the repeating process) is crucial in coaching.


Coaching Skills-Empathy


Effective coaches are highly empathetic. They can easily put themselves in the shoes of their clients and experience the world through their eyes. This is what allows coaches to offer full support and encouragement. I

Empathy is also essential when it comes to marketing your coaching business. If you don’t understand where your potential clients are in their life or career, if you don’t feel their pain points, it will be difficult to find them and capture their attention.

Empathy is also critical to good communication. It’s a quality that helps you build rapport with your clients, allowing them to feel comfortable opening up and sharing with you.

Empathy is also that magic ingredient that allows you to share in your clients’ victories and progress.


Coaching Skills-Asking questions

3-Asking Questions

Asking questions is something people do every day, but coaches do it differently. As a coach, you need to ask key questions at the right time. You don’t ask questions to get an easy ‘yes/no answer’. Instead, you ask questions to invite the client to think more deeply about the issue at hand.

Asking questions as a coach is similar to a treasure hunt. You’re questioning with an open mind, trying to find hidden motives or reasons for a client’s behavior, habits, or thoughts.

Often, the client won’t know the answer to the question right away, even if it’s about their own feelings or experiences. The goal is to uncover insights that lead to an “aha” moment.

You may also ask “what if” questions that lead the client to visualize some possible future. Such as…”What if you were to reach your income goal this year?” or “What if you could lose those unwanted pounds?”


Coaching Skills-Coal-setting

4-Goal Setting

Since you’re working with clients to set and achieve goals, you need to be good at setting and managing them yourself. If you don’t already, you should learn the skill of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting.

SMART goal setting helps you set goals that are:

Specific – If a goal isn’t clear and specific, it’s impossible to focus on it and feel motivated.

Measurable – A good goal has a certain milestone or metric (use numbers or percentages when possible) that will tell you when it’s been achieved.

Achievable – A goal must be realistic. If the goal is too hard to reach, the experience will be frustrating and counterproductive.

Relevant – A goal must be clearly connected to and aligned with the person’s overall life goals and values.

Timely – A goal must have a timeline for when it will be achieved. Having some urgency built into the goal can eliminate procrastination and indecision.

Another key part of goal-setting is persistence. You need to help you client stay patiently and consistently working toward a goal, so that both you and your client stay motivated, even when things get tough.


Coaching Skills-Supportive


Individual clients struggle with issues specific to their own business or personal life. But nearly all clients, no matter where they are in life, have some confidence issues. So, you have to be not just their coach, you have to be a trusted friend who provides support, inspiration, and motivation.

Athletic coaches spend a great deal of time watching their clients work out and shouting encouragement to them. Athletes need to be pushed in order to keep going. And, likewise, you need to do this in virtually any coaching context.

To be a coach, you need to foster a “growth mindset” for your client. This a mindset that’s sure people can change, and sure that they can achieve incredible things. You can foster a growth mindset by focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, and reframing negatives as positives. You look at a problem or challenge not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity for transformation.

Being supportive also builds rapport, which is key to getting your coaching relationship off on the right foot.


Coaching Skills-Giving Feedback

6-Giving Feedback

There are several situations where you will need to provide valuable, useful feedback. A coach acts as a sounding board for a client’s ideas. They run their plans by you, and then you work together, using your expertise and experience to advise and revise.

You’ll also give feedback on the actions they take. The way action-based coaching works, the client comes up with ideas and tests them out in action; then, together with the coach, they assess the results against their goals.

Giving some negative feedback is essential for client growth, but it can be one of the most challenging skills for new coaches. You’ve watched your client’s confidence grow, and you don’t want to risk discouraging them or setting them back. But here again, the key is to reframe positively so that the client doesn’t lose motivation or feel attacked.


Coaching Skills-Intuition


A great coach has a kind of ESP (honed over time), where they can understand the real meaning or motivations behind the surface words.

People often don’t say what’s on their mind directly, and they may not even have an awareness of their true feelings and emotions. By piecing together their words, their body language, and the things they don’t say, you can help your client uncover the issues that are holding them back.

In addition, as a coach, you need to develop your understanding, assessing a person’s strengths and weaknesses and identifying areas for improvement.

A good way to do this is by thoroughly researching your clients before starting to coach them, or having them fill out a pre-coaching assessment. In this way you can get to know their challenges, their pain points, and their core values.


Coaching Skills-Working on your coaching skills

8-Working on Your Coaching Skills

These are the essential coaching skills you need to get started, but you’ll never fully ‘graduate’. Even the most successful, seasoned coaches are always learning new things. By constantly expanding your skills, you can offer the best value possible for both you and your clients, helping them to achieve their goals and generating more business for yourself. 

Keep up with changes in the industry and, if you have the resources to do so, participate in some coaching yourself. You’ll learn a great deal about yourself, your clients, and as well as what it takes to run a successful coaching business.

No one is born a great coach. We all have to learn, and it can be tough when you first get started. But with a little training and conscious skill improvement, you can create a strong foundation on which to build.

A great place to begin is by downloading the free Action Based Coaching Worksheet. It will help you implement the steps of this article. Get it HERE:

Download the free "Action Based Coaching Worksheet