The Essential Skills You Need to Be an Action-Based Coach

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In recent years, coaching has increased in popularity. No longer limited to top-performing executives or athletes, coaching has become a go-to resource for anybody who wants to improve or change their life. If you want to grow your professional skills, work on personal development, or overcome health and wellness challenges, it’s now only natural to enlist the help of a coach. It is well known that coaching can have a direct impact on performance in both your personal and professional life.

As 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 skills, it’s also crucial that you keep building new ones.

Coaching that is action based can deliver powerful change. Action-based coaching not only helps your clients shift their mindset and learn about themselves, it helps them test out new skills and put what they’ve learned to use.

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

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?

Here are the skills that are essential to truly transformative, action-based coaching.

Why is listening important when being an action-based coach?

Listening sounds like a simple enough skill. We all listen whenever we have a conversation or tune into a podcast. But as a coach, you’ll be held to a higher standard. You need to practice active listening. This is listening with undivided attention and then repeating back what the speaker has said, using different words. This helps to clarify that you’ve understood them and allows you to summarize their main points. It also helps the speaker because they can hear their thoughts spoken back to them. This can lead to insights and deeper thinking about the statement or topic.

Give clients space to speak without interruption, letting the silences sit so they can continue their thought process. Maintaining the proper balance between listening and speaking is crucial in coaching.

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.

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

Empathy is also critical to good communication. It’s one of the qualities 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.

Asking Questions

Asking questions is another thing we do every day that coaches do 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 and with curiosity, 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.

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 SMART 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 impossible to reach, the experience will be frustrating and counterproductive.

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

Timely – A goal must have a timeline for when it will be achieved.

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

Supportive

Clients struggle with a number of issues specific to their business or personal life, but nearly all clients, no matter where they are in life, have some confidence issues. You’re not just their coach, you’re 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. They need to be pushed in order to keep going. You need to do this in a business context.

A growth mindset says that people can change and achieve incredible things. To be a coach, you need to foster a growth mindset. You do this 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 will also build rapport, which is key to getting your coaching relationship off on the right foot.

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 can run their plans by you, and you can use your expertise and experience to advise and revise together.

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; then, together with the coach, they assess the results against their goals.

Giving 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.

Intuition

As a coach, you need to have a keen understanding of others, assessing a person’s strengths and weaknesses and identifying areas for improvement.

A good way to do this is by thoroughly researching and understanding your clients before getting started, getting to know their challenges, pain points, and their core values.

A great coach has a kind of ESP that they’ve 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.

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 upgrading and 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 even participate in some coaching yourself, if you have the resources to do so. You’ll learn a great deal about yourself, your clients, and 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 bit of training and conscious skill improvement, you can create a strong foundation on which to build.

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