Choosing to be a coach means saying “yes” to so much more than a just line of work: being a coach doesn’t begin or end with your sessions (or coaching business in general), it extends into your entire existence.
Declaring yourself a coach automatically places you into the spotlight: you will be looked at (and sometimes judged) as a potential role model. Who you are, how you show up, and how you hold yourself – on and off the job – will to a great extent determine the credibility, success, and impact of your coaching practice. Especially these days, when the “real deal” coaches have trouble standing out in the sea of shallows that this industry is in danger of becoming.
And the thing is: being a great coach is NOT synonymous with being big online, a household name, a bestselling author, and such. Being a great coach is, however, synonymous with being an outstanding human – the one who has chosen to be in business of changing lives and is committed to walking the talk.
I have had the honor of being mentored by a number of remarkable coaches, some of them on the ICF MCC (master certified coach) level. And the interesting thing is, the most successful, inspiring and talented coaches I’ve ever met didn’t even have an online presence, and their names won’t be known to many (because to them, fame is beside the point). All of them built their practices through word of mouth, and attribute their success to a number of factors that I will now share with you.
Great coaches don’t become great through copying someone else’s style, or following some “proven” success formula – they are willing to take risks, lay down new tracks, and be pioneers. They rely on their own truth, intuition, and intelligence to be discerning and make decisions that are right for them. They don’t expect easy solutions to be handed down to them, they create their own – through experimenting, making mistakes, learning, and transforming.
First and foremost, great coaches listen – deeply, to the very core of each word. They listen to the undertones in voices and to the lingering shadows in moments of silence. They hear what their clients are afraid to admit to themselves, and dare to ask questions that push the edge, questions that make their clients go “wow” in every session. Eventually, such questions lead to profound revelations. And these mind-blowing questions aren’t derived from a pre-compiled “best questions list” – they arise in the moment, stemming from the coaches’ willingness to be humble and forego the temptation of jumping to conclusions. This level of active listening and transformational art of asking questions highlights the ability to become intensely present and receptive to everything that the client is saying (and not saying).
In their client sessions, great coaches dance with the unknown freely and joyfully – they don’t come from any preconceived notion of how a session should unfold. They don’t use their clients to show off their fancy tools; they use their tools to help their clients. They are willing to not plan and not know, instead, they are ready to surrender and let the magic happen.
In business, great coaches lead with their essence instead of copying whatever everyone else is doing. They are in it for the long haul, therefore, they focus on building a legacy through sharing the truth of their hearts, not on chasing trends or easy popularity that will fade. They know that quality and depth are the real deal, worth more than numbers. They stay connected to their “why” on a daily basis, and this sense purpose pulls them through the tough times.
Their confidence comes from trust: trusting the perfection of divine timing; trusting the client to have all the answers; trusting themselves to do what is best.
This trust, in turn, comes from connection with one’s higher self. Great coaches know who they are, honor it, and share it generously. They recognize their authentic essence, connect with their heart, and let it lead the way. They know that greatness is nourished and born from within – it simply cannot come from an outside source, second-hand knowledge, or someone else’s template.
Great coaches are committed to keeping this connection alive, and invest in deepening it. They know that greatness is the result of never-ending growth. Their education doesn’t stop on the last day of their coach training, and their development doesn’t end with hitting an income goal or getting a coveted “master coach” title.
Great coaches see that their clients can only go as deep as they have gone themselves. So they “go there” – to the uncomfortable places, to the light and the shadow, the grief and the trauma, all of it, not pretending to be perfect or “done” with self-realization. They are willing to eat humble pie, slice by slice, on a regular basis. They explore their blind spots, have breakdowns, and are willing to be real and vulnerable about it – but not in a calculated way, or as a brand-building strategy, but as an open celebration of our shared humanness.
Ultimately, great coaches know that coaching is an invitation for two unique beings to see each other truly, through the eyes of the heart. No model, method or master title can do that for us. Only the heart can.
So, if you’re going to be a great coach, start right there: in your own heart. What is it calling you to do? What pain is it willing to heal? What wisdom is it ready to reveal? What truth does it want to share with the world?
Honor its essence. Explore it. Express it. Your own self, your clients, and the world will be grateful that you did.