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The 5 soft skills you need to succeed as a coach


Posted: 456 days ago

One of the first things that people ask when they first hear about The Coaching Academy is who can become a coach? The simple answer is - anyone. In this article we're sharing the most important skills TCA students need to demonstrate to succeed as a coach.


The longer answer – anyone who is committed to learning and practising the soft skills needed to succeed in this growing industry. 

Like all professions, those who study to become qualified coaches have to showcase that they have a firm grasp on the basic skills of their chosen profession. 

Unlike most professions though, a wannabe coach has to master a particular set of soft skills to succeed and can’t rely on just hard skills to get their qualification.  

Below you can find five of the skills TCA students are required to showcase to qualify for their Coaching Diplomas. 

1. Rapport

Building a relationship is a fundamental skill for a coach to have. You’re entering an agreement with a client where they let you in on their deepest desires and fears and it’s difficult to do this without developing trust and rapport. 
From the coach’s point of view, this is important if you want to work with someone constructively.  
Rapport is built on features of ‘sameness’, perhaps because instinctively we feel less threatened by someone we can relate to and more easily relax and open up. It includes many different aspects from physical appearance and body gestures, to your voice, the language you use and to beliefs and values. 

2. Active Listening

In a coaching session, your requirement to listen goes beyond simply hearing the information. Active listening is a conscious effort to give the other person your full attention. 
You might know someone you’d describe as a great listener. When you’re talking to this person, you feel that you have all of their attention, it’s easy to open up and they make you feel valued through the simple act of listening. 
So what does it take to become good at active listening? 
Developing the intention, having a clear focus and concentrating on the other person. A good coach not only listens to what’s being said but also listens and looks for non-verbal cues and what’s not being said within the coaching session.   

3. Effective Questioning

Questions are the tools of a great life coach. Remember, a coach is not here to give the answers, their job is to help someone find the answers within themselves. A well-timed question can unlock hidden answers, remove barriers and help potentially life-changing information come to light. 
An effective question is simple to understand, it influences without being controlling and they always have a purpose. 
Furthermore, always remember that you’re coaching the person, not the problem. Many things are out of our control, except the way we think about them. A great question focuses on the coachee, not the problem they’re dealing with. 

4. Use of Silence

Using silence as part of the coaching conversation can be a powerful tool to help the client reflect on what they’re thinking or feeling. A significant part of the job description is to hold the space for people to share their thoughts and deal with them. 
Many times, the best way to accomplish this is to use silence. Let the other person speak, don’t interrupt their thought process, let them dig deep and speak their mind. This can require you to be silent for a seemingly uncomfortable length of time so they can share or that they can look inside and reflect. 
Great coaches will pick up on the body language of their coachee to jump back into the conversation. 

5. Empathy

Many coaches start their journey because they are passionate about helping people in some form or another. A great coach knows the difference between empathy and sympathy, how to separate the two and most importantly, how to not allow other’s emotions to affect them. 
In a coaching session, coaches show empathy through their body language as well as verbal communication, in combination with other competencies. 
For example, an empathetic and non-judgmental way of offering feedback would be working with evidence-based feedback. We look for a coach to offer empathy to assist the client in feeling that they are being understood and not alone in their situation.

If you have not attended our free two-day foundation event yet, this all might seem a bit daunting to you. You might think that it’s difficult to develop these skills and in many ways, we’d agree with you. 

However, it is less difficult than you might think when you have the right training and a great teacher

We don’t underestimate the importance of acquiring these skills and that’s why the recommended time for our students to finish their diploma is 9-12 months. 

But here’s how we support you every step of the way in developing these skills:

  • You get to train live every month with trainers who have been coaching for decades
  • You get to practice with a group of like-minded individuals
    Even before you practice with clients, you get to practice with other beginner coaches who are going through the same challenges that you are. And we have to tell you, the TCA community is one of the most supportive groups we have the delight of working with every day. 
  • You get constructive feedback on several coaching sessions from professional assessors.
    How amazing is that?! Did you ever want someone with decades of experience reviewing your work and tell you exactly what needs more attention? That’s what our assessment team is here for! As part of the qualification journey, our assessment team listens into coaching sessions (previously agreed upon of course) and then gives you feedback on the skills you need to improve and challenges they notice.

It feels like having your personal coaching team behind you all through your study journey! 

If you’re still wondering if you need to be a particular kind of person or be a certain age to learn these skills, we can assure you that we have wonderful qualified coaches from all walks of life, all ages and stages of development. 

Sue Bassett qualified at 60 years of age and now travels through Uganda as a volunteer coach and Rebecca Tucker finished her coaching qualification while studying for her Master’s degree.    

A few amazing coaches are using their skills to help people battling life-changing diseases like Fiona Stimson and Aga Kehinde

Students like Graham Little ditched a lifelong corporate career only to discover the fulfilment coaching can bring.    

You can read more about our inspiring coaches in our Coach in the Spotlight column, but we can tell you that the one thing they had in common was to take their passion for helping people and making a commitment to improving their skills to empower the life of others. 

If you want to discover more about developing any coaching skills, start where inspiring coaches start,start by joining us in our interactive live webinar. Choose from available dates here.

Join us for our free Introduction to Life Coaching Webinar - Click Here