The Alphabet of Good Coaches: Part 1

A trustworthy coach will always put your success first.

By Bruce D. Stasch, Marketing Manager, Work Effects

There are many different types of coaches out there, each claiming to be the best at what they do and promising to make you successful. What sets a good coach apart from an ineffective one? Educational background and experience are not enough. When looking for a coach, here are the first 12 of 26 characteristics every good one must possess to be effective (the remaining 14 characteristics will be revealed in Part 2 of this article posting January 16):

Attitude:Does your coach act like your biggest fan? Does the coach cheer you on and have a positive outlook and genuine belief in your success? The ideal coach truly believes in you and maintains a positive frame of mind in every situation. Great coaches are solution focused rather than problem centric and have faith in positive outcomes in even the most challenging situations.

Business Knowledge: Your coach should have a good understanding of the environment in which you operate and be able to relate to the challenges associated with your type of organization. The coach needs to possess a solid business acumen and must have a grasp on how the many variables in your organization are interconnected and where your role fits into the big picture.

Communication: Does the coach truly listen to you and try to understand? Does she ask clarifying questions to ensure she has an accurate picture of your situation? Do you, in turn, understand your coach? A good coach is able to convey meaning by tailoring her message to your unique communication style. An exceptional coach is an expert in active listening and knows how to ask good questions.

Determination: Your coach should be relentless in holding you accountable for your promises and making you meet your goals. The ideal coach makes a commitment to provide you with the tools for success and then insists you stay on track as you put them into practice. Your coach constantly should follow up on your progress and never lose sight of the end result.

Exemplary Behavior: Does the coach practices what she preaches? Is she punctual, organized, and productive? Does she seem to have healthy relationships with others, strong allies in the workplace, and solid networking skills? Is she happy with her role and does she have a clear sense of where her career is going? A good coach should follow her own advice and should have demonstrated success in achieving professional goals.

Flexibility: Your coach needs to be able to adapt to your unique personality, mindset, and communication style. While it is important to have an outline or model of coaching, successful coaches are the ones who can change their approach to best fit the needs of each individual coachee. The coach needs to be open to new ideas and not set on one “correct” way to do things.

Guides But Doesn’t Drive: An effective coach teaches you how to drive, instead of simply driving the car for you. An effective coach empowers you to succeed on your own and does not make you dependent. The coach should encourage you to develop the skills needed to succeed on your own and not act as a crutch without which you cannot move forward.

Honesty: Coaches must build credibility and trust by honestly expressing themselves and following a personal code of ethics. The coach should have the courage to tactfully give negative feedback while setting a positive example of an individual who has a high level of integrity. From the initial process of laying out the coaching agreement to goal setting and follow-up, the entire coaching relationship should be defined by openness and transparency.

Intelligence: The ideal coach has well-developed problem-solving and reasoning skills combined with emotional intelligence. Your coach should be able to distill a large amount of information and consider the repercussions of every decision and how it may affect the people involved. This involves being able to innately pick up on your sentiments and to respond to them appropriately. Emotional intelligence is essential to building trust, which is the core of any coaching relationship.

Judgment: Putting events into perspective and helping you to make solid decisions is what a good coach does. This involves analyzing the many factors involved in decision-making and logically weighing the pros and cons of potential outcomes. A good coach encourages you to exhibit strong judgment and to avoid making irrational choices based on emotion alone. This, in turn, helps you gain respect within your organization and helps you consider the long-term effects of your actions.

Keen Insight: A good coach relies on experience and an innate sense of understanding to provide fresh takes on situations and to help you to find out-of-the-box solutions to complex problems. They help to facilitate those “Aha!” moments. This involves imparting the right knowledge at the right time and giving you the benefit of the coach’s expertise.

Learning: A coach must always remain open to listening to new ideas and new knowledge. The coaching relationship is a two-way street, and the most effective coach aims to learn in addition to teach. It is important to approach coaching as an opportunity to discover something new and never to assume a know-it-all attitude. By continuously learning, a coach builds both credibility and his or her own body of knowledge.

A trustworthy coach will always put your success first, will help you to define goals, provide development insight, and give feedback. These characteristics enable a coach to provide you with the skills necessary to keep growing and fulfill your potential. A coach who possesses these competencies is a key way to develop your strengths and help to eliminate roadblocks to your success.

The remaining 14 characteristics will be revealed in Part 2 of this article posting January 16.

Bruce D. Stasch is the marketing manager at Work Effects. For more than 20 years, Work Effects has helped its clients build better leaders and more trustworthy organizations. Using tools such as its Trust & Capacity survey that focuses on organizational trust, its Revolution 360 that assesses leadership development, its PerformanceSUM, which measures and evaluates performance, and its Conflict Lens, which addresses conflict in the workplace, Work Effects helps organizations identify where they are having trust challenges and how best to alleviate them. For more information, visit

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