Even coaches need guidance.
We spend our days offering advice to others and asking our clients to do the hard work necessary for self-growth — so we must do the same. This sets a good example and ensures our sessions are as effective as possible.
We also start out as beginners, and the coaching industry is always changing. It’s best to welcome advice with open arms and prepare to learn something new every day. Today, it’s coaching best practices, and tomorrow it might be coach-client relationship skills. Either way, we need to maintain some guiding principles to stay successful.
This article discusses the five most important rules of coaching and includes common mistakes to avoid. Follow these rules and you’ll enjoy an improved practice that’s more fulfilling for you and your clients.
Why coaches need guidance
Unsurprisingly, we’re not immune from needing help. Here are a few reasons coaches — the masters of guiding others — also require guidance to deliver successful programs:
- Everyone starts as a beginner: It’s often easier to treat others with patience and kindness than it is ourselves. We know our clients are embarking on a new journey, but so are we. All coaches must learn the dos and don'ts of this industry.
- There’s always more to learn: No matter your experience level, each session presents a unique challenge, and coaching tactics are constantly evolving. Effective coaching requires a constant desire for personal growth and continued learning.
- Fresh perspectives are crucial: We provide a new take on client challenges and offer outsider insights. We can also benefit from a fresh perspective when learning from others.
5 coaching guidelines worth mastering
Whether you’re just starting your practice or are a seasoned pro, following best practices is sure to improve your sessions. Here are the five most important coaching rules:
1. Be aware of your skills and limitations
It can be tempting for young coaches to oversell themselves as jacks-of-all-trades. But the secret to gaining and maintaining a loyal and engaged client base is knowing what we can and can’t deliver effectively.
Articulating our strengths, weaknesses, and the benefits of our coaching practice will help us align better with clients. When we’re transparent and honest about our know-how, people can buy in feeling confident our coaching program is the right fit.
2. The client is the most important person in the room
You can only help your clients if you understand what they need. Practice active listening in your sessions and retain important details you can use to enhance their action plans. Showing you’re listening through your body language also helps clients feel comfortable enough to open up. Lean in when they’re speaking, make direct eye contact, and don’t close your body off (e.g., crossing your arms).
Another great way to learn more about your client’s unique needs is by asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions. This gives the client enough flexibility to respond honestly and in detail.
3. Communication is key
Your client will only gain the tools and knowledge necessary to achieve their goals if you communicate this information effectively. Be direct, honest, and transparent about the work ahead, clearly outlining action items and milestones. Provide feedback throughout the coaching program so the client can adjust tactics, and welcome feedback from them to improve your practice.
4. Be practical
Coaching is a goal-oriented process — our clients want to see results. We can make this happen from day one by setting detailed, achievable, and measurable goals with a structured plan and timeline.
Being practical also means:
- Voicing our concerns when goals appear unattainable
- Turning down clients when we’re overworked or don’t think we’re a good fit
- Starting a communication cadence from the beginning that we know we can maintain
Approaching your practice with a reasonable head on your shoulders means expectations are met and you’re not burning out trying to help clients meet impossible goals.
5. Remember your goal
The main objective of coaching is to have a positive impact on our clients’ lives. Each coaching session is a learning opportunity for the coach and the client. When we teach our clients about what’s holding them back and how they can motivate themselves successfully, their lives improve — and we’ve met our goal.
This chain of events looks different for every client, so stay humble, open-minded, and prepared to learn something new daily. You have to think on your feet and genuinely care about your work to see results and achieve your main objective.
Examples of coaching mistakes
We’ve outlined the golden rules for professional coaching — here are some examples of behavior to avoid throughout your practice:
- Using the same method for every client: Every client is a fresh start and requires different learning and communication techniques. During the first session, ask your clients how they communicate and take feedback best, what motivational strategies they’ve tried before, and what’s worked well in the past. Then, pay attention during sessions, taking notes and making adjustments to their coaching program as you learn more about them.
- Micro-managing clients: The most fruitful way of igniting change in a client is by putting the ball in their court. We must give them the tools necessary to reach the next level — but the work comes from them. If you constantly provide feedback and follow up too often, they’ll feel suffocated and discouraged. Decide on a check-in cadence that works best for them so you can hold them accountable without breathing over their shoulder.
- Avoiding constant learning: Coaching tools and tactics are constantly evolving, especially now that many offer coaching programs online via conferencing and social media apps. If you remain stagnant, simply perfecting one approach and using it on everyone for years, you’ll likely notice clients disappearing or progress diminishing. Keep your techniques fresh and your practice constructive by attending coaching conferences, getting recertified every so often, and networking with other coaches to learn from their experiences.
A final coaching tip
While there’s money to be made in the coaching industry, the most important thing is that you find your work fulfilling. Life coaching will be especially satisfying if you’ve struggled with a significant life change in the past, and career coaching is most effective when you care about helping others excel professionally.
No matter your coaching specialty or experience, using a customer relationship management (CRM) system will help. Practice allows you to store important documents like client intake forms and coaching proposal templates, communicate directly with clients, and authorize payment — all in one place. Try it today.