Jul 03, 2022

What makes a good coach versus a bad coach? 

Great coaches change lives. They take you into new territories where you can discover your path. In the process, you transform yourself and reach higher levels of potential. What makes a great coach is a blend of skills and traits to enable that process, along with a special mix of ingredients unique to each. 

What are the traits of a good coach?

Like all the best gurus and teachers, great coaches fuel the desire for personal growth. They enable people to believe in themselves and discover ways to live more fulfilled lives. What makes a great coach is the ability to equip people with tools and most importantly, to enable self-reflection. 

As this article on the power of self-reflection shows, we learn and improve by reflecting. It’s critical to evaluate wrong assumptions and mistakes intentionally if you want to avoid them next time. Furthermore, self-reflection helps us see our behaviors more accurately. That way we become more aware of the gap in how others see us. 

All this work becomes easier with an effective coach. They have the skill set to make reflection less daunting and more productive. What makes a good coach is someone who can take you out of your comfort zone safely. They provide the compassion and support to awaken different viewpoints about how you approach life. 

One of the key traits of what makes a good coach is emotional intelligence. Adaptability, optimism and empathy are all important traits of emotional intelligence. So is inspirational leadership and the development of others. If a business coach doesn’t have an innate desire to help transform others, while letting go of their own ego, they cannot take people to the next level. 

What makes a good coach is more than just soft skills: 

  • They are transformational. A great coach knows how to uncover entrenched behaviors to unblock people’s potential. They focus on values, needs, strengths and beliefs with empathy, attention, and patience. 
  • They integrate and are adaptable.  A good coach is the ability to see people as part of a system. We are more than just our behaviors and inner worlds but also part of communities with a wider social impact.  
  • They have emotional intelligence. Coaches who check in with themselves on a daily basis are more likely to be aware of how they impact their coachees. So, they can constantly fine-tune their approach. 

Sports coaches can be used to build teamwork

Sports coaches are very popular in the business world because they show tangible results. Having come from a team sports background, they understand teamwork and winning. Just like great business coaches, they inspire and motivate people to perform at their best. In this case, what makes a good coach is someone with strong communication skills, great charisma and experience. Similarly, great business coaches know how to build rapport and choose the right coaching KPIs to deliver results.

Comparable to executive coaches, sports coaches are sometimes teachers as well as guides or mentors. They seamlessly move through these roles along with self-awareness and emotional regulation. Only with such traits can they enable their coachees to open their own doors of perception. After all, a successful coach is someone who can show alternative realities and different ways of being

Great coaches continue learning for greater success 

  • Top qualifications: all business coaches need some qualifications, and the International Coaching Federation is the most widely recognized form of accreditation. 
  • Vertical development: every successful coach has found ways to deepen their understanding of how they make meaning of the world around them. Adult development works in stages and a more advanced worldview allows coaches to transform others more effectively.
  • Ongoing learning: top coaches never stand still and learning is part of their day-to-day. What makes a good coach is someone who can constantly challenge their assumptions and keep looking for the paradoxes in life. Nothing is ever set in stone. 

The difference between a good coach and a bad one

Bad coaches tell and don’t ask. They share their experiences to support someone with their choices which can lead to bias. On the other hand, a good coach is someone who asks and doesn’t tell. It’s far more powerful when people work out their own answers. 

As a wise philosopher once said, “tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.” What makes a good coach is the ability to put this into action. They ask insightful questions, and they might role-play different perspectives. Some even borrow from psychology and use tools from, for example, gestalt therapy such as the empty chair exercise. A great coach has this basic knowledge and can truly provide an experiential learning environment. 

Naturally, coaches aren’t therapists and there needs to be a clear divide. For example, a bad coach might try to fix people rather than accept their limitations. Coaches don’t fix people, instead, they help them accept every part of themselves to become whole and successful. A good coach is someone who is an ally in that process. 

3 things to look out for in bad coaches

  1. Unchecked biases: as coaches, we’re in a position of trust and biases mustn’t sway coachees in particular directions. 
  2. Lack of expertise: coaches are generally from different industries and bad coaches don’t have the experience to leverage an understanding of human behavior and adult development. 
  3. Misunderstanding the environment: poor coaches don’t have a good understanding of contact and cultural differences. 

There can also be a dark side to bringing sports coaches to the business world. A young athlete who has grown up through the ranks of professional team sport has a specific skill set. Contrast, for example, an executive coach with decades of corporate experience across multiple cultures and with a psychology background. 

Former athletes bring value to the workplace and can boost team performance and morale. However, their lack of rigorous psychological training can do more harm than good. They can ignore deep psychological problems because they don’t understand them and can make a bad situation worse. 

How Lingo Lives looks at coaching

Working with behaviors, feelings and emotions is complex. Sometimes people need more than just positive affirmations. Sometimes they even need a referral to a psychiatrist. Either way, they need help to understand how their belief systems impact their behaviors. A good coach is someone who can ask questions with empathy and insight. Furthermore, they leverage the subtleties of language and can even support their coachees with language coaching.  

People need to talk about emotions and feelings if they truly want to make a behavioral shift change. Simply learning tools and techniques doesn’t drive long-lasting change. That’s why our Lingo Live coaching program includes a specific set of sessions on self-awareness. A good coach is someone who understands all this and is familiar with adult development. There are no simple answers and there can be deep issues that need to be uncovered.  

Parting thoughts on what makes a great coach

All great coaches come with their unique set of soft skills and expertise. What makes a good coach stand out is one who is integrative in their approach. They support people in their environments while appreciating each person’s specific set of values and beliefs. It takes flexibility, patience and emotional intelligence to do this well. Naturally, the best coaches never stand still and are passionate about their own development and how they make sense of the world. What matters above anything is transforming both themselves and others for the greater good. 

To learn more about coaching with Lingo Live, reach out for an initial conversation. 


Coaching, Leadership

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