People often ask me the difference between a good and a great coach. Of course, this question has a lot of nuances, but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about over the years.
So, I decided to compile all my thoughts in one place and share them with you.
Let’s dive in!
A good coach tries to fix your problems, but a great coach helps you see things differently to change how your problems look from the outside.
A great coach understands that while fixing your immediate problem might be helpful in some cases, it’s not always the most powerful result. Instead, helping clients understand what created their problem in the first place is more powerful. You can help them understand what’s at stake if they continue to follow their current patterns. In doing so, you can show them how they might change their relationship with themselves and the problems they encounter.
A good coach tries to make you feel good about the session, regardless of how it actually went. They look for the positives at all costs because they want you to feel like the coaching is working and creating good results in your life.
A great coach is okay with sessions that don’t wrap up well. They know coaching has its ups and downs and are willing to get into the messiness of coaching with humans. As a result, there is more tolerance for humanity and imperfection. They know that one nasty session doesn’t mean coaching isn’t working. They are more concerned about helping you over the long term than about your short-term satisfaction, happiness, or perception of their coaching.
A good coach has a list of favorite questions they love to ask clients because they know these questions get interesting, deep, and thoughtful responses.
A great coach trusts what arises during the coaching process and asks more random questions to fit their client’s unique situation. A great coach doesn’t focus on the ‘right question’; they go with the flow and follow whatever lines of questioning make the most sense at any given moment.
A good coach has a specific model they like to use during sessions.
A great coach uses multiple interchangeable models for different circumstances.
Some models a great coach uses may conflict with other models, and that’s okay. Great coaches are less concerned with consistency and more about being creative and offering clients the most powerful framework for their specific challenges.
A good coach loves processes, tools, tricks, or hacks that give them a leg-up or helps them better assess their clients.
A great coach trusts what arises at the moment; if they have a process, they only use it as a loose guide. It never dictates how they act with a client; there is always room for flexibility and deviation from the ‘plan.’
Helpful vs. Potential
A good coach is enthusiastic about being helpful at a given moment and aims to provide you with practical advice or feedback that you can implement immediately for quick results.
A great coach is more enthusiastic about your actual, long-term potential and is willing to walk alongside you as you realize that potential over time.
A good coach is interchangeable and follows a school, model, or specific coaching style. While effective, their teachings or processes might be somewhat homogenous or repetitive and suffer from inherent blind spots in their designs.
A great coach has a unique and indelible style unlike any other coach. They are irreplaceable and non-interchangeable, making clients feel like they are in the best possible hands, even if they can’t point the finger at why.
A good coach is either meh about the business side of coaching and more into the coaching itself, or vice-versa.
A great coach doesn’t see the difference between business and coaching. They see it all as one effort, as mastery, and they treat it as such in every aspect of their practice.
A good coach charges an amount that feels like a solid value for what you get, a rate they feel comfortable with, and a price they think they can get in the market.
A great coach creates a confrontational price and demands commitment from their clients because they know the value of their work and what it can do for people. They see the price as a tool for transformation rather than a barrier to it.
A good coach will try to get you into coaching quickly, with a plan to figure out your coaching needs as they go. They will focus more on getting you started than on understanding your needs.
A great coach will start a session by understanding what you want. Then they figure out what’s in the way, and what might be required to close the gap. Even if the best approach is only partially clear, great coaches will only push clients to start sessions when they have a solid idea of what life experience the client longs to have and how they can achieve that.
A body of work
A good coach creates content. But a great coach develops a body of work.
Great coaches focus on generating new models of thinking and looking at the world. They help their clients in ways other coaches either need help with or have yet to figure out how to do. They focus on the body of work they want to have in 10-20 years rather than on the next post they need to create.
A good coach invests heavily in being successful. They spend money on training, marketing themselves, and figuring out how to build a business. However, they tend to focus less on balancing business and personal growth.
A great coach invests in working on their edge. They look for where they need support, hire a great coach, and invest in great support for their business. Great coaches know each of these is vital for their mission.
Training and development
A good coach undertakes training because they’re interested and they want to be more qualified and confident. They like learning and want to be a step above other coaches.
A great coach loves to learn, but they aim to identify their cutting edge and focus on that one thing rather than being a tourist in many different courses.
They find the gaps in their understanding or action and hyperfocus on growing in those areas while also keeping a broad view that includes their well-being and daily living.
Becoming a great coach
So now that you have a better idea of some of the distinctions between good and great coaches, how do you actually achieve this and become a great coach?
Here are my best tips:
1. Surround yourself with great coaches.
Create relationships with other great coaches. Hire great coaches and befriend them. Look for people who are doing similar work as you and are good at it, or preferably those who are a few steps ahead. Surround yourself with other coaches who have conflicting opinions instead of ones that echo what you already believe.
2. Focus on building a body of work.
A powerful challenge arises when you attempt to invent something new. If you want to be a great coach, you can’t just repeat what others have said; you have to build a unique and complete body of work that clients can follow. Being original takes time (read about how I create originality in my coaching here).
3. Examine your complaints.
Anytime you hear yourself say, “I’m a great coach, BUT,” take a minute to properly examine your complaint or self-assessment. It could be that you can’t get enough clients, or you don’t want to have to sell your services. Maybe marketing yourself is hard. Whatever gets in the way of delivering your great coaching, examine it closely. Try to understand it. Then make it your priority to learn and transform it––because your limitations are incredible growth opportunities.
4. Stop looking for shortcuts, and focus on mastery.
Let go of any idea that there is a shortcut to greatness. Instead, focus on developing mastery. You’re in it for the long haul, so put your best effort in now. You’ll never regret putting in good, hard work to strengthen your business and offerings.
Are you ready to be a great coach? If so, then get to work on it immediately. Greatness isn’t an overnight adventure; it takes time and dedication. It happens at the edges of effort and commitment.
And if you want help getting started on any of the points listed above, feel free to send me a message and ask me how to get started. I’d love to help you figure out what’s next. Let’s turn you into the great coach you know you can be.