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What makes an outstanding coach?  What qualities separate them from a good coach?  Is it their knowledge or its application?  Are coaches born with natural talents and skills to be a coach or are they cultivated. 

Dr. Jon Warner estimates that “by 2020 it is likely that there will be 200-250,000 so-called business coaches in the world.” That number doesn’t include life coaches and relationship coaches and all of the other labels that have manifested in the coaching profession.

Clarity coaching & facilitation was founded 17 years ago and we have partnered with coaches from around the world, we have coached other coaches and recently a couple of our coaches became some of the first certified Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) coaches worldwide. 

Here are some of the characteristics of excellent coaches:

  1. Awareness that arises from high emotional and conversational intelligence.  This means we are self aware, exceptional listeners and ask questions for which we have no answers.  It means that we understand that when we are trusted and the client feels safe, their brain is hardwired to allow their best judgment and best self to come to the fore.  Excellent coaches engage in highly trusting conversations that create results.

  2. Compassion is key.  Outstanding coaches sincerely care and are naturally interested in helping their clients.  They realize that compassion often means having enough trust in the relationship to ask tough questions or raise difficult issues for the growth of the client or to ensure they truly understand the client’s life.

  3. Patient professionals allow their clients time to put the pieces together and to process thoughts and feelings.  They don’t get itchy in the silence. They allow you time to process and develop awareness.  To make a lasting difference they create a safe and trusting learning space for their client.

  4. Curiosity; outstanding coaches want to understand, to learn, to ask questions for which they have no answers.  These coaches will learn side by side with you.  They have inquiring minds and are humble enough to know that they don’t have all the answers nor is that important.  They intuit what is most important for you and put you first in all conversations. This requires humility and strength.  Humility to allow you to find your own answers understanding the value.  And the strength to keep their own egos at bay. Their intelligence and perception are focused on asking good questions.

  5. Competent; the coach needs to understand what they bring to the table and the desire to continue to learn.  They need to be open to new ideas.  It is important they use best practices such as keeping confidentiality.  That they find or apply appropriate tools and approaches for each client.  To do that they need to research, study and learn constantly. 

  6. Co-Creating goals with the client that focus the conversations on key areas will get results.  Often as I work with clients, their original stated goal becomes less relevant or they become clear on what really matters most and goals change.  The results are more spectacular when the client gains clarity. The choices are more obvious, the approach can be created and life can be simplified, when clients gain clear direction during a coaching conversation.

  7. Responsibility for our words, actions and following through are important for the coach and the client.  For example, if we discuss your financial situation and mine is solid, I can ask better questions and focus on methodologies, tools and techniques to help you gain control of your finances.  If we are building trust and I am not following through on my promise to send you a document or to show up on time and focused, my actions are not consistent with being responsible or reliable.  None of us is perfect however we need to be as good a role model for our clients as we can.

  8. The best coaches view coaching as a calling rather than a job.  They want to be the best version of themselves so they can offer more to you. These are the coaches who will have the highest regard and respect for you because they feel this way about themselves. 


As the number of people who call themselves coaches proliferates, it will become increasingly important for those looking for excellent coaches to keep these points in mind when they interview a potential coach for fit.  It will be equally important for those in the coaching profession to continue to learn, grow and have conversations with potential clients who are becoming wiser and more informed on what to expect in an outstanding coach.


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