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What Makes a Great Coach? 8 Qualities Top Coaches Share

What makes a great coach?

You’re in the right place. Today, you’ll learn how to go from good to great and offer even more value to your clients. 

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

What is a coach? 

Who is a coach?

A coach is a trained professional who supports and guides individuals on their journey to achieve their goals. 

You’ve most likely heard of popular coaching niches, such as life coaches, career coaches, relationship coaches, and business coaches. 

However, there’s a coach for everyone, including those looking for help with their relationship, health and wellness, mindset, or spirituality, just to name a few. 

Each type of coach has its own niche, or specialty, that speaks to a certain type of client. If you don’t have a niche, you can’t build a successful coaching business – your niche is what attracts your ideal type of client.

There’s a niche for everything – confidence coaching, weight loss coaching, money mindset coaching, you name it. 

In fact, here’s a list of 100 highly profitable niches.

And here’s more on my definition of coaching:

Next, let’s look at what coaches do.

What does a coach do? 

You might be wondering how a coach actually helps their clients reach their goals.

Well, they use their own methodologies. A few things coaches might support their clients with are:

  • Personal growth
  • Improve self-awareness
  • Improve mindset
  • Identify challenges
  • Overcome obstacles

Traditionally, coaches use a very hands-off approach that involves using probing questions to guide clients to reach their own conclusions rather than outlining a solution or just providing them with a full answer.

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I’ve been in the coaching business for a long time, and here’s what I’ve learned: That what we imagine coaching to be has changed.

These days, the best coaches act more like “coach-sultants” – or a mix between a coach and a consultant. 

What do I mean by that?

Coaches have the experience and ability necessary to help guide someone to the result they want. Why not help them achieve their goals faster by giving them a few of the answers the way a consultant would, instead of having them spend weeks, months, or years trying to find the solution on their own?

When you decided to become a coach, it was because you knew you could help someone overcome the same challenge you did. Use that to your advantage!

Share your own experience with your clients to help further their progress. 

For instance, if you’re an executive coach, you could say, “I’ve been at this type of professional crossroads, too. If you’re not sure which job to take, I recommend that you…”

Sure, the traditional method of coaching – probing questions but providing no answers – works. But acting as a “coach-sultant” will streamline the coaching process and help the clients to get the results they’ve wanted for years far more quickly. 

And that, as a coach, is the value you provide: An ability to help clients see results. 

Studies have found that after working with coaches, the average client sees an 80% increase in confidence. Furthermore, 70% see improved patterns in their work, relationships, and communication.

Now, there are two types of coaches.

I’m referring to those who work directly with individuals, such as a health or relationship coach, and those who work in the workplace, such as leadership or career coaches. (However, these “corporate” coaches can also work directly with individuals.)

Both help their clients get results. 

For example, clients who take part in executive and career coaching (in an office) see a 6x average return on investment on the cost of coaching. 

People who work with a weight loss coach (one-on-one) lose three times as much weight compared to other methods. 

Now you know how top coaches work. 

But do they also mentor? Let’s take a look.

Coaching versus mentoring

At this point, you might be wondering what the difference between coaching and mentoring is – or if there’s a difference at all.

There is a difference: While it’s true that a coach also acts as a mentor, a mentor is not a coach.

Let me explain.

An effective coach does mentor their client, but also works to support and guide them through their journey to reaching specific goals. They work with their clients every step of the way to encourage them, help them problem-solve, and keep them accountable throughout the journey. 

Another key difference: They get paid for their time and expertise, which makes them available to almost anyone who might be interested in their services.

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On the other hand, a mentor (who isn’t a coach) offers free support. That means that there’s no guarantee when it comes to availability, how helpful they’ll be, or what kind of results a mentee can see. 

More importantly, even if someone is available to be a mentor, it doesn’t mean they will be.

Building up the kind of relationship needed to cross that bridge can take years and once you’ve built it, there’s no guarantee how long it will last – some last 3-6 months, others last years.

On the other hand, the coaching relationship is reliable and consistent. 

With that, you know what a coach is. So, what makes a great coach? That’s what we’ll look at next. 

8 characteristics of a good coach and mentor 

How can you become a better coach?

A good coach and mentor is someone who can provide value to their clients because they have experience in their niche. 

But it’s also someone who knows how to help their clients actually succeed. 

Though there are other qualities that I believe are important as well, let’s start with the most important. It’s what I call the ABCs of coaching: Actionable advice, belief, and candor.

Give actionable advice

When I say actionable advice, I mean creating a roadmap that clients can truly use. It gives them a clear picture of not only how they’ll get to their end goal, but how they can get even better results when they get there.

I recommend creating a step-by-step plan for the first three months of working with a new client. Each month should focus on an attainable goal that will flow naturally into the next month’s goal.

For instance, a life coach working with a client who wants to find a better work-life balance might suggest the following actionable advice:

Month 1: Help the client identify a few healthy boundaries to keep thoughts about work from infringing on time spent outside of the office. 

Month 2: Find ways to communicate those boundaries to others in order to maintain them. 

Month 3: Add an extra strategy that helps the client find an even stronger sense of balance.

Creating an actionable plan in this way is great for new and seasoned coaches alike.

Believe in your clients

In the ABCs of coaching, the “B” stands for belief.

Think about something that you’ve worked hard to achieve in the past few years. Chances are, you had at least one person who believed in you – and how much better did that make your journey?

As a coach, your job is to be that person for your clients. Even when you can’t guarantee results, it’s up to you to instill a sense of belief – that they can reach their goals – in them. 

After all, clients hire coaches because they have the experience to help them build their confidence. 

Being truthful 

Finally, the C: Candor.

A good coach doesn’t just tell their client what they want to hear. They tell them what they need to hear, even when it’s hard.

Why? Because that truth is what’s going to help your clients reorientate themselves and focus on getting the results they’re working toward.

Let’s say you’re a weight loss coach whose client can’t seem to lose the first five pounds.

Instead of saying something like, “You’re trying your best – be patient,” you have to give them some tough love. 

That might look something like this: 

“You hired me because you want to lose weight and get healthy for your children. We worked together to create an actionable plan, and the first step of that is to work on choosing healthy food at the store. Right now, you’re choosing the same food you’ve always chosen – and you’re choosing not to feel like you’re worthy of getting healthy.”

(Note: This can work in any industry!)

It’s not easy to say, but being truthful enough to have the hard conversations is a core part of a good coach’s job.

Now that we’ve covered the ABCs of coaching, let’s talk about some of the other qualities that a good coach has.

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A good coach has the ability to create a plan tailored to each client’s unique situation right from the start. Without a good plan, they won’t find results. 

Providing a vision

Clients have an idea of what’s possible, but I find that in most cases, they underestimate themselves. 

That’s why I always challenge them to try for more – just like my own coach did for me when they suggested I am for a $1 million launch instead of a $300,000 launch in the first year of business. Without that extra push, I never would have achieved my $800,000 launch.


Part of that actionable advice I mentioned earlier involves laying out a plan. But you can’t just give a client a few steps and call it done! 

If you want your client to find success, you have to clearly show them how to get there. Take the time to plan out the exact steps you need them to take during your time together in order to reach their goals. 


Even if you provide the most detailed steps, clients might still run into obstacles that they can’t work around. When that happens, all you can do is find a solution.

This is when you need to think back on not only your own experience in your niche but your coaching experience. What worked for you? What worked for other clients? How can it be used in this instance?

Holding clients accountable 

Finally, you have to hold your clients accountable, even in the face of adversity. If they ever feel discouraged or like they’re not seeing as much progress as they feel they should, remind them of what they’re working toward – and the work it takes to get there.

Then – and only then – can you help your clients reach their goals and get the best results. 

What would make you a great coach? 

Now that you know the qualities of a good coach, the question becomes how to become a great coach.

The truth is, being a great coach doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t even involve being the most experienced in your field (though you will need at least some experience).

Instead, it’s something you learn along the way as you help your clients get results by offering them an A-Z journey.

What do I mean when I say A-Z journey?

I mean offering a comprehensive coaching experience that helps those at point A – the starting point – to point Z – their ultimate goal. 

For a finance coach, that might look like creating a roadmap for someone who’s looking to get better with their money, learn to budget, and build their savings.

Or a parenting coach that helps step-parents foster a relationship with their partner’s children.

It could even be a coach who works with businesses to increase their sustainability practices.

Whatever it is, that’s what makes great coaches: The value of the services you’re providing and the transformation your clients see in themselves.

And for more on how to become a coach, take a look at my video here:

Over to you!

There you have it – the qualities of good coaches as well as what makes a great coach.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

Remember, you won’t become a successful coach instantly. It’s something you’ll work on and, over time, see happen as you provide value to your clients.

Now, I’d love to hear from you: 

When it comes to being a good coach, what qualities do you think are most important? And what do you believe makes a great coach? 

Let me know in the comments below. 

Learn more: 

What is Coaching? 

Coaching vs Consulting 

Hold Great Coaching Calls 

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

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