8 Things That Make A Great Life Coach

I have some good news and some bad news for you.

The good news is it’s dead easy to become a Life Coach. All you need to do is the following.

Repeat after me, ‘I am a Life Coach’.

And there you have it, you are now officially a Life Coach and nobody can say otherwise.

You cannot be debarred, struck off or have your license revoked any more than you could if you decided you wanted to start a business cleaning windows.

For many people it’s enticing that they can put all their life experience to immediate effect and start changing the world for the better.

If I had a dollar for every person who moved into Life Coaching because a friend or colleague encouraged them to do so because, ‘you’re a great listener’ or, ’you always offer great advice’ I’d need a pick-up truck to take it all to the bank.

The second part of that compliment isn’t even relevant because we’re not paid to offer advice unless we are hired more in a consultancy.

I most definitely do offer advice to new coaches because that is often why they have hired me, but rarely to clients who aren’t in the coaching industry.

If your desire to be a coach is largely influenced by a comment on your suitability from somebody who isn’t a coach, then it’s a risky move.

I’m pretty sure if I said to you, ‘Wow, you’re a demon with that mop and bucket, you really ought to take up floor cleaning for a living, you’d be great’’.

I’d be more likely to get a wet mop head shoved in my face than a beaming smile and gracious, ‘Thanks, I never thought of that, let me set up a website’.

So if being a good listener is not even close to being enough to be a great Life Coach, what other skills do you need to acquire?

8 Things That Make A Great Life Coach

1. Being A Great Listener

Well of course you do need to be able to actively listen, I wasn’t dismissing the importance of this aspect, it’s crucial.

However, if when a client is talking you’re so busy trying to come up with a solution to their problems or respond with a killer comment whilst they’re still talking, then you’re not really a good listener.

You may appear to be a great listener, but that’s not the same thing.

Active listening is hard and takes a lot of concentration.

It’s one of the reasons I only see three clients per day as it takes a lot of energy and focus.

2. Being A Great Rapport Builder

Can you strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger and put them at ease?

If yes, then cool, you’re probably good at building rapport.

If you cannot build rapport both verbally, visually (using mirroring and matching) or in your writing then guess what? You won’t have any clients and that isn’t good.

3. Being Skilled At Understanding The Levels of Rapport

I have told a story on the Coach the Life Coach Course a few times where I did an excellent job of building rapport with a prospective client on the phone.

Sadly I misjudged the strength of the rapport and managed to break it to such an extent that she hung up on me because I used the expression ‘woo-woo’.

In the grand scheme of things we both dodged a bullet and obviously weren’t a good fit, but nevertheless I still made a mistake.

What if we’d been half way through our time together and I had pissed off a paying client because I hadn’t judged how far I could push things?

This is way more important than many new coaches realize.

We have to be able to challenge our clients from time to time. If we don’t have rock solid rapport it can backfire on us and we end up with an ex-client.

4. Being A World-Class Question Asker

This can be much more difficult than many new Life Coaches realize.

Sure we all know how to ask questions as we do it hundreds of times per day even if it’s only to ourselves.

But few people know how to ask solution focussed questions or questions designed to shift the clients thinking.

Also, most new coaches tend to stick to a few tried and tested questions worried that if they ask something new it may not work.

Well guess what? Lot’s of questions don’t have the result you’re hoping for.

It’s trial and error and a question that provoked a massive A-ha! with one client may illicit nothing more than crickets and tumbleweed with the next one.

The more you coach and try out different Life Coaching questions the faster you will become a great coach.

To begin with most coaches are at the conscious competence level in which they have to consciously think about what they are going to ask which can make it sound stilted

In time however and presuming they stick with it, they hit the unconscious competence level where questions just appear to come from nowhere and without conscious thinking.

5. Having No Problem With Silence

As Human Beings and when we are in the presence of others we tend to feel uncomfortable with silence.

There are obvious exceptions to this such as being with people we know intimately or being in a situation where silence is the norm like a Los Angeles Rams football game.

One of the worst things a coach can do is to ask a question and then follow it up before the client has answered with either another question, or worse still, the answer they *think* the client was looking for.

Silence is, for the most part, a coaches friend because it usually means the client has gone deep inside and we should embrace it.

If you cannot shut up after asking a question and presuming you’re not warning your client that their hair has just burst into flames, then you suck.

6. Being Able To Reframe Any Event

I was only teaching this a couple of weeks ago and we spent almost two hours on a topic that most people think they are already good at.

And maybe you are a good reframer, but ‘good’ doesn’t cut the mustard, you need to be consistently outstanding.

This is a tool that you will probably use with almost every client.

When you are working with somebody who is stuck seeing negative events they way they have always seen them, then a killer reframe can shatter that paradigm for ever.

The principle of looking at things in a more empowering way is an easy one to grasp. But too many coaches think it’s the same as positive thinking. IT ISN’T!

With a reframe you’re not trying to pretend an event didn’t happen or hope that it will just go away, you’re allowing your client to see it in a way that allows them to feel better about it and move forward.

7. A Love Of Helping People

Four years ago before I started Coach the Life Coach I’d have said this was a no-brainer and that anybody who takes the time to set up a Life Coaching practice most be motivated primarily by the desire to help others.

Sadly, I have had way too many conversations in the meantime with people who are only interested in making as much money as possible from as few clients as possible.

The conversations have for the most part been at the consult stage to see if they were right for the course. Obviously they weren’t and I’m really not interested in training people who are only in it for the money.

Yes, you need to earn a certain amount of money to ensure your coaching is sustainable. You can’t live on fresh air and good intentions, but the money should be a byproduct of being a kick-ass coach.

8. To Not Take Things Personally

If you coach for longer than a day or two you’re going to make mistakes.

Your clients will sometimes act like all they have to do is hire you for everything to be good in their world.

But it doesn’t work like that.

iI it’s their fault (and for the most part you will know when that’s the case), let it go.

If it’s nobody’s fault and just one of those things, let it go.

If it’s your fault, apologize, maybe offer a refund, learn from it, and then let it go.

It’s called a ‘Practice’ for a good reason, it’s not an exact art, which is why somebody telling you you should be a Life Coach because you’re a good listener should merely be a starting point because coaching is a skill.

What’s Your Take?

I have deliberately stayed away from the practicalities of client acquisition and the business element of being a successful coach for brevity’s sake.

I also toyed with adding the need to occasionally say ‘no’ to a potential client if we think they are in need of therapeutic help, but left it out as it’s so murky and doesn’t really dictate a coaches ability.

However, I’m pretty sure I’ve missed some crucial traits, please feel free to add any you think are relevant in the comments.


  1. Awesome! Super helpful insight in this article. I’m 20 years old and an aspiring life coach. Thank you so much for the genuine emails and articles. Your support is greatly appreciated. 🙂

  2. Nice survey of what we need to be Professional Life Coach; thanks for posting. I would like to add: Keep up with the current literature on behavioral research as it pertains to effective coaching skills. (Keeping up with current methodology is important in making sure the very best methods are being used to help our clients fulfill their dreams and reach their goals.)

  3. Hi Tim,

    I agree with all your points and I’d like to add three more:

    1. Curiosity – Maybe one of the most important for me. Never assume you know what the client is going through. Approach calls with the genuine curiosity of a 5 year old child.
    2. Empathy – This could be included in rapport building. One of the most important traits to build trust.
    3. Controlled Ego – If a question lands poorly, have the ability to move on and not take it personally. Sometimes even the “bad” questions will take a client to a higher level of clarity.


    • Tim Brownson

      No doubt whatsoever you need curiosity and empathy.

      I think controlled ego fits under not taking things personally.

      Thanks Eric.

  4. Louise

    Yes, agree that Eric’s comments are true, but also believe they fit within your 8. Your #4 demonstrates your true understanding of the coaching process. I have had the joy of exchanging Q&A with a client through the solution focused questions and it made a powerful difference. This also speaks to not offering (directly) advise, but leading the client to find their own answers and simultaneously putting your own ego aside to let them have the experience and empowerment of finding their own answers (all-be-it) by you guiding them to that path. Now that’s great coaching! Great article, thanks for sharing your experience.- Louise

  5. hey Tim – i think this article naturally lends itself to part 2 and client acquisition. a great life coach has clients who can experience all these wonderful skills you’re describing 🙂

    As far as question asking above, using the beginner’s mind is a good way to pose powerful questions at your clients. Start at the beginning. Pretend you now nothing an be curious, as Eric mentions.

  6. Hey,
    Great article.
    Your personal coach should help you optimize your life step by step. He or she should be skilled, trained listener, and will notice what you don’t say just as much as what you do say and then the life coaching process will grow and develop, allowing you to get more and more from it over time.

  7. John Weiman

    Very scary. You mention nothing about training or certification. Your list is true but basic. I encourage people interested in becoming Certified Life Coaches to look into the International Coaching Federation Website. Our profession is growing and we desperately need more qualified and educated people.

    • Tim Brownson

      Very scary?

      Wow John, you scare easily. I’m glad you weren’t with me when i spotted a Coral Snake 2 feet away from me, you’d have probably passed out.

      We train coaches and I have talked many times about training and even the ICF. This was a list of the skills you need to acquire and as I said in the intro, just being told you’d be a good Life Coach isn’t enough.

      And no the industry isn’t *desperate* for more people at all, there are more coaching sessions available than there are clients to fill them currently. Is there always room for great coaches looking to learn and get better and better thus driving out the less able? Sure, but there’s no desperation.