8 Qualities of a Good Coach – How to Be Truly Exceptional 

8 Qualities of a Good Coach – How to Be Truly Exceptional
September 26, 2022
Table of Contents

The coaching industry has exploded with new talent, focusing not only on personal growth but also on a holistic approach to development. Yet, it’s difficult to measure the number of exceptional coaches in the world today…coaches who make way for massive impact and transformation in their clients’ lives. This brings us to explore the essential coaching attributes, qualities of an effective coach, traits of a good coach, and what makes a great coach in business.

One thing is for certain though, almost every coach is always looking to be a better version of themselves and do a better job for their clients. Learning from more experienced peers, getting formal training, tracking self-improvement across engagements, and more. 

Different coaches have different approaches, methodologies, styles, and ideologies with which they craft their own unique manner of coaching. But there are some characteristics of a coach that (ideally) are essential. Every coach should possess – or at least aim to cultivate these coaching attributes and qualities of an effective coach – in order to show up for clients and deliver optimal coaching results.

We’ve curated a list of 8 qualities of a coach that we believe are a must-have, reflecting the traits of a good coach and underscoring what makes a great coach in business. Let’s dive deeper!

1. Driven 

This is perhaps one of the most important characteristics of a good coach. As a self-start kind of profession, unlike a salaried position in an organisation, coaching requires a coach to have a drive and appetite to succeed in the industry. 

Largely, people become coaches and start their own practice or business – something that comes with a lot of uncertainty and ups & downs. A salaried job provides a certain stability to an individual, and having one’s own practice can be rather unpredictable. Without the necessary drive and strong reason as to ‘why’ a coach chooses to be a coach, it can become rather apparent in the way they show up for their clients (half-heartedly, for instance), which is a lose-lose situation for both the coach and the client. 

2. Non-judgmental  

Imagine a coach being judgmental!  

The entire premise of coaching, and also how it differs significantly from other similar practises such as mentoring, consulting, and counselling, is that it believes that the client has the ability to come up with their own solutions to problems and assess what is right or wrong for them. So, if a coach were to bring in their judgement about what they believe the client should do or how they ought to think, then they would no longer be coaching.  

Keeping their judgments and beliefs aside and listening to the client from a neutral place is a much-needed quality for a coach. 

3. Compassionate 

An individual or a group of people can never truly open up to their coach if the coach can’t hold space for their clients and show empathy towards them as well as their unique situations and difficulties. Even if they have not gone through what the client has faced (or is facing), it is vital that the coach is able to step into the client’s shoes and look at things from their perspective. 

Without the coach being understanding, kind, and uplifting towards the client, a coaching engagement and journey can never be truly successful. 

4. Curious  

Even though the coach is supposed to serve as the ‘expert’ guide to their clients, a ‘been there, done that’ kind of attitude may not necessarily contribute positively to the coaching session and engagement. 

For the coach to be able to truly be present for their clients, each situation would need to be addressed and looked at from a clean slate. Which means that the path or manner taken to address one client’s situation may not work for another client and thus having a ‘curiosity’ mindset can prevent a coach from falling into the trap of copy-pasting a strategy or approach for someone else. 

Another aspect of being curious is for the coach to also always have a ‘learner’ mindset. That means understanding that learning is never fully complete and to regularly take the time to upgrade their skills and credentials with the help of trainings and workshops in order to show up better for the client.  

5. Observant  

One of the essential skills and qualities of a coach is to be extremely observant of the client in front of them. Without being observant of not just what is being said verbally, but also being aware of the non-verbal cues, is an important skill for a coach to cultivate. 

Not all clients are going to be expressive and communicative. By observing and silently making note of non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, eye movements, hand gestures, and even the smallest of twitches and flutters, a coach can know a lot more about the client in front of them than what they’d consciously tell them. 

6. Authentic 

One of the most underrated characteristics of a coach, authenticity is not only vital in any coach-client relationship but can be the difference between a good vs an exceptional experience for the client. In a coach-client relationship, there is this expectation for the coach to be the ‘expert’ and there is thus the added expectation that they must know it all and have solutions for every problem. But there are times when a coach doesn’t know or have an answer – and in those instances, to be able to let the client know the same with utmost honesty and humility is what sets a good coach apart.  

Another situation in which authenticity is paramount is when a coach feels, due to whatever reason, that they are not the right fit for the client – even after they have been coaching them for a while. In that case, the coach should be able to tell the client that they will not be able to continue with them and if possible, refer them to another professional who they feel might be a better fit. This serves in the best interest of the individual and that is, after all, what every coach wants for their clients! 

7. Professional 

There are times in a coach-client relationship when the client becomes immensely grateful for the way the coach has opened their mind about several things and enabled change for the better. The client may also feel a sense of comfort and relief being able to share many aspects of their personal and professional life with the coach – which they are not able to talk about with anyone else. No matter how comfortable and easy it gets with a coach, a professional front must always be maintained between a coach and a client.  

The coach can act as a sounding board, a guiding hand, but the boundaries should never get crossed by becoming over-familiar with the client or becoming a ‘friend’ to them, wherein the dynamics of the relationship change. The coach can be friendly, but not become an actual friend – at least within the duration of the coaching engagement. To maintain the professional dynamic is important for the sanctity of the work that needs to happen. 

8. Trustworthy 

A major component of coaching is to provide an environment of trust to the client to help them open up and feel safe in doing so. Asserting that everything that the client shares in the coaching session is absolutely confidential and taking care to stick to that promise is an absolutely necessary quality for a coach to possess. Being trustworthy is one of the most (maybe even the most) important characteristics of a good coach.

Building trust is continuous process in coaching and a coach can cultivate it in a multitude of ways including: demonstrating sincere curiosity & interest, reassuring confidentiality, building rapport through body language (mirroring, tonality, etc.), being 100 percent present, being non-judgmental, being reliable & accountable by being true to your words and following through on your actions, and more. 


1. What defines a driven coach, and why is this quality important?

A driven coach is defined by their unwavering commitment to their own professional growth and the success of their clients. This quality is important because it fuels the coach’s motivation to continually improve, seek out new knowledge, and adapt to each client’s unique needs. Their drive ensures they persist through the challenges of coaching, innovate in their methods, and strive for excellence in their practice. This relentless pursuit of growth not only enhances their own skills but also significantly impacts the lives of those they coach, fostering transformations that lead to fulfilling outcomes.

2. How does being non-judgmental contribute to a coach’s effectiveness?

Being non-judgmental contributes to a coach’s effectiveness by creating a safe and open environment where clients feel valued and understood. This quality encourages clients to express their thoughts, beliefs, and emotions without fear of criticism or dismissal. When coaches listen with an open mind, they can better understand the client’s perspective and tailor their guidance to suit the client’s individual journey. This fosters a strong coach-client partnership grounded in trust, which is essential for facilitating meaningful change and progress.

3. Why is compassion considered a crucial quality for good coaching?

Compassion is considered a crucial quality for good coaching because it enables coaches to connect with their clients on a deeper emotional level, demonstrating understanding and empathy for their situations. This emotional connection is vital for building trust and rapport, which are foundational elements of a productive coaching relationship. Compassionate coaches can provide the support and encouragement needed to navigate the challenges and setbacks that often accompany personal and professional growth, making the coaching journey a more supportive and enriching experience.

4. In what ways does curiosity enhance a coach’s ability to support their clients?

Curiosity enhances a coach’s ability to support their clients by fostering a mindset of exploration and discovery. A curious coach asks open-ended questions, actively listens to their client’s responses, and seeks to understand their perspective without making assumptions. This approach encourages clients to reflect deeply on their experiences and challenges, leading to self-discovery and personal insights. Curiosity also keeps the coach engaged and adaptable, ready to explore new strategies and solutions that align with the client’s evolving goals and needs.

5. How does an observant coach improve the coaching experience?

An observant coach improves the coaching experience by paying close attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, which can reveal underlying emotions, beliefs, and contradictions that the client may not be consciously aware of. By noticing subtle changes in body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions, a coach can gain deeper insights into the client’s internal state and tailor their approach to address the client’s true needs and concerns. This level of attentiveness leads to more meaningful and impactful coaching sessions, as the coach can facilitate discussions and interventions that resonate on a personal level.

6. What role does authenticity play in building a coach-client relationship?

Authenticity plays a pivotal role in building a coach-client relationship by establishing a foundation of trust and mutual respect. When coaches are genuine in their interactions, openly sharing their own experiences and acknowledging their limitations, clients are more likely to feel comfortable and secure in the relationship. This transparency fosters an environment where clients can be open and honest in return, enhancing the effectiveness of the coaching process. Authenticity ensures that the relationship is based on real understanding and connection, which are critical for achieving lasting change.

7. Why must a coach maintain professionalism in their practice?

Maintaining professionalism in coaching practice is essential because it sets boundaries that protect both the coach and the client. It ensures that the relationship stays focused on the client’s growth and development, without personal biases or emotional entanglements interfering with the coaching objectives. Professionalism includes respecting confidentiality, maintaining clear communication, and upholding ethical standards, all of which contribute to a safe and respectful coaching environment. It allows the coaching process to be effective and focused, ensuring that the client’s goals and well-being remain the top priority.

8. How does trustworthiness establish a safe coaching environment?

Trustworthiness establishes a safe coaching environment by ensuring that clients feel secure in sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without fear of judgment or breach of confidentiality. When a coach is seen as reliable and consistent in their actions and commitments, it builds a strong foundation of trust. This trust is crucial for creating a space where clients are willing to be vulnerable and engage in the deep, sometimes challenging work required for personal growth. A trustworthy coach fosters a sense of safety and support, making it possible for clients to explore their limits and achieve meaningful transformation.

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author
Content Marketing Manager @Simply.Coach

Ipsita Nayak is a full-time writer-editor-content strategist and a part-time NLP coach & yoga teacher. She believes conventions are overrated, has a disproportionate need for solo time over social time, and loves a good mix of sci-fi and trashy TV in her free time!

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