What Makes a Great Coach? What to Look For When Choosing a Coach? - Kim Marie Coaching

What Makes a Great Coach? What to Look For When Choosing a Coach?

What makes a great coach? 

What kind of coach should you be seeking to help you move from where you are now to where you want to be, and find a sense of empowerment within yourself?

There are a few things to consider when determining what makes a great coach. 


One of the first things is training. 

The coaching industry is not regulated. You don’t have to have a license to coach or call yourself a coach. I have mixed feelings about this because I value life experience deeply. Life experience is so much more powerful than any certification or degree. It’s like having a phd in life or a phd in your selfhood. Ultimately, that’s the greatest gift we can offer anyone, more than some kind of document.

However, the coaching industry has got a bad reputation because there are a lot of people out there calling themselves coaches just because they know a thing or two. They’re not really coaching from the standpoint of helping someone to fully realize their potential, especially not from within who they are, or to find the answers within themselves.

There are a lot of coaches out there who have their own agenda. I’ve been exposed to them as well. In growing my own business and coaching practice, I’ve run into people who call themselves coaches that say, “Maybe you need a mindset shift because you just don’t believe in yourself enough to do xyz to market your business.” As one of my beloved business mentors says, “It’s not that you have a bad mindset or you need to change your mindset. It’s that you have a conscience.” 

Perhaps we don’t want to market in these icky, sleazy, slimy ways, and a coach is trying to tell you that you need to do that if you want to shift and grow. There can be people calling themselves coaches who are pushing you toward their own agenda, to do certain things a certain way without really connecting to who you are and what you care about, or what you need and what your life path is.

It’s really important to consider who the coaches are, what their background is, and training is an important piece. 

Another thing around working with coaches in the area of training is that there’s a certain amount of ethical training involved, such as keeping confidentiality. 

A trained coach knows to honor ethical codes. 

A coach should never say who they’re coaching, even saying the name of the person. It’s okay to talk about case studies and examples, but in an anonymous way. However, some so-called coaches go ahead and spout off, “I’ve coached so and so,” or “In this session with so and so…” 

Sharing names and details of coaching clients is completely inappropriate without explicit permission. It’s not acceptable to be telling other people who you’ve coached with and to dishonor confidentiality. 

A very important thing to consider is, do they understand the nature of holding a sacred, safe space for you? 

Looking for training is important. Do they have to have certain specific certifications? I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I myself have coached out of my experience and my life and I do have training, but I haven’t chosen to pursue some of the international certifications. 

People will choose what they need. 

A lot of corporate coaches might require certain certifications, though I know plenty who don’t require it. It’s really more about asking, are they trained? Do they understand how to be a coach, and are they really honoring you? 


The other element to consider in a good coach is experience.

What makes a great coach is someone who’s lived the experience and worked it.

They’re not just walking the talk in that they’re understanding a bunch of concepts and are going to throw some things at you or share some experience with you, then try their best to work it.

It’s more like they’re talking the walk. In other words, they’ve come from direct experience. They’ve walked it and now they’re talking it. They’re able to come and ask you the questions that are going to be really powerful. They’re going to be able to share stories that resonate and bring forth something deep within you. 


Another aspect of a great coach is their listening capacity. 

A great coach knows how to listen and give you space to feel very safe. 

From listening, they’re able to ask powerful questions. Those questions then help you think more deeply about how you’re showing up, who you are, who you’re becoming, who you want to become, what’s blocking you or getting in your way, how you might be sabotaging yourself from within, or how certain relationships might be healthy or unhealthy for you. There are so many powerful questions that can be asked to give us these light bulb moments. 

My favorite thing as a coach is when someone says, “I never thought of it that way,” or “I never considered that perspective or idea.” You want to find someone who you feel is genuinely listening. I’ve interviewed people to coach me on certain topics in my own life and I really look for such moments in a coaching interview.

If someone is so busy talking at me rather than trying to get to know me and my situation or who I am, I know right away, they have an agenda. They’re trying to push something on to me. But if they’re listening, if they’re taking it in, if they’re opening up to what I have concerns around, then I know they’re probably going to be there for me and hold space for me to be able to work with them as a coachee. 


Another trait of a great coach is they inspire you.

Great coaches can be great role models. 

They’re talking the walk, and they’re living it day to day. 

You can learn something from them, and they have stories to share that inspire you. They have ways of seeing things that open you up and light you up. You feel something expanding within you when you’re around them. 

They may be great listeners, but they also know how to offer direct communication and ideas that inspire you and keep you from being complacent or staying stuck.


If you feel contracted or in any way closed off or afraid to fully say and express yourself, you need to speak up. It may or may not be the coach’s intention to be doing that. There may be some things that are not understood. 

Feeling safe is such an important element of coaching.

If you don’t feel safe in your coaching space, you’re not going to be able to get anywhere with it. There’s really no point.

We need to have a sense of safety to move toward a sense of self realization. The great coach provides a space of safety, and the client helps to maintain it by communicating their needs.

No Codependency

We’re dealing in this culture with a massive epidemic of codependency. We see it within us and within those around us.

We end up playing out this codependency triangle of the victim, the perpetrator and the savior. 

Instead, we want the victim to become a creator. We want the perpetrator to become an advocate or a challenger for us. We want the savior to become a guide or a coach.

A great coach is going to be moving beyond those characteristics of codependency. They’re not there to save you. They’re not there to push you and say, “You just need to change your mindset because you’re doing it wrong,” and push an agenda on you. That’s perpetrator behavior.

Instead, a great coach will help to advocate for you or challenge you to see things from a new perspective. They’re definitely not showing up as a victim. They’re going to show up as a creator who longs to see you create as well. 

You want to look for a coach that’s going to challenge you. A coach who’s also going to guide, encourage and inspire you, and come at you from a place of creative thinking that helps inspire the creator within you. 


Finally and most importantly, a great coach is someone you resonate with.

You want to resonate with whomever you choose to coach you. 

If you are more of a, “I need to have my quiet space. I need to meditate and focus on my mindset,” and you hire a coach that’s all about risky action, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and in too much of a hurry, you likely won’t resonate with the process. 

We want to be challenged. We still want to open ourselves up to new possibilities. We still want to be inspired. All of those things are important. You definitely do want to get out of your comfort zone, but there’s also something to be said for your comfort zone and why it is what it is.

Who are you? 

Where do you feel you do your best work? 

How do you feel you do your best work? 

What makes you feel safe?

You want to resonate with the coach to make sure things feel right to you.

I’d love to hear in the comments any questions you have about how to determine a good coach, or any questions you have about doing so. Have you had a bad experience with a coach? What’s a great coach to you? What’s an awful coach to you? 

For a video version of, What Makes a Great Coach? What to Look For When Choosing a Coach. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3emsCSupSE

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