Coaching as a Career Choice
As the title suggests, this article is written for people who are considering moving into coaching as a career. Many others have already made that transition – some successfully and some not. It will likely involve training, time, and costs, so how can you tell whether it’s the right move for you?
You may already have done some coaching in the workplace or been coached by someone. I don’t know your situation, so all I can offer is some general guidelines. So, I will suggest 5 qualities you need to have as a coach, and 5 attitudes you’re better off not having. These will give you a yardstick with which to measure yourself. If you have the 5 good qualities and not the 5 bad attitudes, then coaching might be right for you.
There is one caveat before we start. I am not dealing with marketing and sales – you might be a great coach but lousy at marketing and sales. In this article, we are only considering whether you have the personal qualities to make a good coach
5 Qualities of a Good Coach
It’s great if you have these 5 qualities of a good coach. Not sure? Ask some trusted friends who will be honest with you.
- Wanting the good of the other. To be a good coach, you must care about people and want what’s good for them. You’re not the judge of what’s good for them, they are. You must take people on their own terms and help them achieve the things that mean something to them. The client’s agenda is more important than yours.
- Being trustworthy. You can’t be a good coach if clients don’t trust you. You must be open and honest, able to maintain confidence, and showing the client you really care about them. You should know who you are and be genuine. You can’t fake it – not for long anyway.
- A good listener. Some people listen mainly to have something to talk about. As a coach, you must be able to listen for understanding. You need to be able to listen with concentration, not with a mind that wanders off or wants to respond to everything the client says. You must be able to listen, so you get to understand what the client thinks and how the client thinks.
- Able to get people to open up. This comes out of deep listening for understanding and asking questions or making comments that help the client explore themselves more deeply. As a coach, you’re not primarily trying to teach the client something; you’re trying to create a space where the client can learn what they’re ready to learn at this time and place. You need to be able to lead people to that place of learning without cutting them off before they get there.
- Being insightful. You need to be able to ‘read between the lines’; to ‘get’ what clients are saying with their words, how they present in the coaching space, and understand the importance of what they don’t say. It’s good to ask questions to clarify meaning, but you must be able to get the gist of their communication.
How are you going so far? Hopefully, you’re good at the ones listed above. Coach training will help you get better at them.
5 Qualities of a Bad Coach
Good coaches possess the 5 qualities listed above, and not the 5 negative attitudes describes below.
- Being critical or judgmental. It won’t work if you think you know what’s right or best and you judge others who don’t hold your values. Good coaches may not agree with the client, they may not hold the same values, but they act professionally and aren’t critical towards the client. If you can’t keep your opinions and attitudes to yourself, coaching is not right for you.
- Having a superior attitude. Good coaches don’t think they are better than the client. They don’t look down their noses at the client and talk in condescending ways to them. If you think you’re better than others, coaching is not your game.
- Being the fount of all wisdom. Good coaches aren’t ‘know-it-all’s and they don’t assume to know what’s right or best for the client. If you like telling people what they should think or how they should act, coaching is not right for you.
- Wanting to be in control. Coaching isn’t about controlling the client relationship or what happens during coaching sessions. You might have some ideas about what you want to cover and it doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader, but you shouldn’t try to control what happens. If you know beforehand what is going to happen in the coaching space, you’re not coaching.
- Being unethical. Coaches work hard to build trust, because nothing good happens without it. But if the coach acts unethically (talks inappropriately about other clients, lies, manipulates the client, etc), trust will be undermined and whatever happens isn’t coaching. If you habitually tell lies or gossip about other people, coaching is not for you.
If you decide to undertake coach training that is accredited by the International Coach Federation or the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, you will learn to get better at the 5 ‘good’ qualities outlined in this article.
So, how do you measure up? Coaching is a great profession for the right person. I hope these ideas help you decide if that’s you.
Written by Dr Steve Barlow