4 Habits of Successful Coaches in Every Industry

Habits aren’t built overnight.

They result from hard work, consistency, and a commitment to improving one’s skills over time. This can be said for virtually every industry, but it’s especially true among coaches.

To become a successful coach, you must be willing to cultivate healthy, transformational habits that influence how you coach others. 

In this article, we will uncover the four habits every successful coach needs and why they’re so important.

4 habits you need to become a successful coach

4 habits of successful coaches in every industry

James Clear, a leading researcher on habit building, found that habits are simply “the compound interest of self-improvement.”

In his book Atomic Habits, he talks about the difference between those who reach their goals and those who never do. He noticed that the research points to both types of people sharing the same goals, but the main difference is one’s ability to create action-oriented systems and contribute to their daily progress.

To achieve success as a coach—no matter how you define it—you must build daily habits. This means every coaching session is an opportunity to develop your skillset while propelling your clients forward in their journey.

Let’s start with the first habit: leading with empathy and understanding. 

Lead with empathy 

Empathy isn’t a task you can outsource to your team or a data point to pull from a spreadsheet. It’s a skill that allows you to understand the thoughts and feelings of those around you.

Leading with empathy is a necessary habit for any successful coach. An empathetic approach to coaching will allow you to sit with clients in their current situation, safely explore their past, and envision a greater future.

Ashley Beaudin, a self-sabotage coach who works with entrepreneurs trying to escape the hustle culture, affirms that “when we lead with empathy, we reach into the stories of our clients and identify where they might feel most isolated.”

Through this work, coaches like Ashley take empathetic action to show clients they aren’t alone.  When this happens, Ashley says, “Shame softens and healing happens.”

As you create your own empathy model, consider how you can share and reflect your clients’ emotions. How might this change the way you market your services, connect with leads on discovery calls, and become a trusted guide in the coaching process?

Our co-founder, Josh, sees empathy as a skill that can be “built through practice, like a muscle you work out to get stronger.” Think about how empathy-driven leadership could affect your coaching practice.

Engage in active listening 

Another habit of successful coaches is their ability to actively listen to their clients. This commonly results from conversations where both the listener and the speaker are active and involved.

Active listening requires you to listen attentively to your client while focusing on understanding and reflecting on what they’re saying. You can keep this information safe and wait for an opportunity to respond gently.

“As coaches, it’s deeply satisfying to be a witness of big ‘a-ha’ moments and deep transformation,” says Marissa Burdett, a coach for solopreneurs. “However, if we’re not careful, we can start to put pressure on ourselves to facilitate those experiences, getting in our own heads and creating more work for ourselves than is necessary or helpful for our clients.”

Successful coaches like Marissa understand the importance of allowing clients to lead the way. “The beauty of coaching is that our clients already have all the answers,” she says. Your primary job, then, is to guide clients forward in their path of self-discovery.

As you sharpen your skill, here are six techniques you can practice while actively listening: 

  • Paying attention
  • Withholding judgment
  • Reflecting
  • Clarifying
  • Summarizing
  • Sharing

You may also want to take notes as your client is speaking so you can circle back to any questions or thoughts you had while listening. This can help reduce interruptions and give your client more space to explore their mindsets.

Ask thought-provoking questions

In addition to active listening, coaches must thoughtfully ask insightful questions that reveal the layers of depth behind each client’s answers. Thought-provoking questions are often the catalyst of powerful client transformations.

Your role as a coach is to help clients gain an awareness of their reality and clarify their ideas, mindsets, and beliefs. Without this knowledge, it may be difficult to recommend an action plan to help clients make more progress.

“One of my favorite coaching questions that allows the client to tune in to their own inner guidance is: ‘Where would you like to go from here?’ It’s a simple yet profound question that takes the pressure off you as a coach and engages the client to unveil important information,” Marissa says. It also establishes a clear direction for moving forward as a roadmap crystalizes.

If you want to better engage your clients, here are other questions you can ask:

  • What would you like to walk away with at the end of our session?
  • What’s contributing to how you are feeling right now?
  • What’s missing in your life right now?
  • What do you want to make more room for?
  • How can you celebrate where you currently are?
questions to ask in order to engage with coaching clients better

Unlike an interview or survey, a truly transformational coaching session won’t follow an agenda. You don’t need to prepare a list of questions for your coaching sessions to be a success. 

Remember the importance of actively listening to your clients first. Concentrate on being present as your client is speaking and take a few moments to pause before asking another question.

You’ll find a natural rhythm as you continue coaching. Through this constant practice, you’ll be able to build active listening and questioning skills that will set you apart from other coaches.

Create a judgment-free space

Many people look to coaches to cultivate a supportive environment for sharing their vulnerable thoughts and feelings. This is true in any coaching industry—from business coaching to health coaching to life coaching.

“The posture of a coach is to lovingly hold space and centralize the client in front of us,” Ashley says. “To do that, we must place them above our own opinions, thoughts, and ideas.”

This means withholding judgment or removing unnecessary feedback while coaching a client, affirming their “inherent wholeness and wisdom,” as Ashley defines it.

Sharing unfair judgments can break the bond of trust you’ve built with a client, which could lead them to pause their coaching work or seek help elsewhere. 

Psychology experts agree that to create a healthy, judgment-free space, you need to be aware of your own emotions, conditioning, and triggers. Without this self-knowledge, you may hold coaching sessions from a place of judgment.

It’s best to seek your own coaching and therapy before becoming a coach, giving you time to process your own experiences and mindsets. 

“I really believe that coaches need coaches,” Ashley says. Not only does investing in coaching help in your own journey of healing and growth, but it also teaches you different ways of creating judgment-free spaces.

How to apply these habits to your coaching practice

To grow your coaching business, you’ll need a number of habits that influence the way you work. 

From leading with empathy to engaging in active listening, asking questions, and creating a judgment-free zone, you’ll be able to develop stronger, long-lasting relationships with your customers.

Before you begin working with clients, you may want to instill these values through your marketing channels.

Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish this:

These four habits can be helpful when creating a personalized online quiz for your coaching audience. It will help you establish a safe, supportive space for teaching and guiding your audience on their path forward.

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