Anyone can become a life coach. But only some people can become successful life coaches with thriving clientele and a growing base of fans who regularly seek out your advice and guidance on key life issues. Indeed, most of the best life coaches share some major attributes and characteristics. Let’s take a look at those characteristics one by one.
Make no mistake, empathy is one of the most important characteristics of a life coach. You have to be able to empathize with your clients so you understand what they’re going through and how best to solve their unique problems.
Remember, empathy isn’t the same thing as sympathy. Anyone can feel sympathy, but to feel empathy, you need to be able to put yourself in the proverbial shoes of your clients. Then, you’ll see and experience things the same way they do.
In many ways, it’s only possible to cultivate empathy if you have a wide range of personal experiences to draw from. If you’re struggling to empathize with a specific client, draw from those earlier experiences in your own life when you felt sadness, desperation, or aimlessness – even if the circumstances between you and the client are different, the feelings are probably similar.
Say that you’re working with a client who’s struggling to determine a career path after college. You might have done something similar before you decided to take up life coaching! Think about how you felt and use it to empathize with that client and provide them with good advice, perhaps even based on how you discovered the right professional path for yourself.
Active listening is a vital skill for everyone, not just life coaches. In a nutshell, active listening means actively paying attention to what a person says and absorbing it properly before responding, not just waiting to respond yourself. You can prove that you aren’t listening actively by nodding along to what a person says, asking follow-up questions, and making sounds of affirmation.
Active listening is crucial because it instills trust in your services among your clients. When you listen actively, your clients will be more likely to open up to you and trust what you have to say, whether that’s giving them an exercise or advising them on their career trajectories.
Plus, active listening is important for overall communication and social bonds, too. Everyone likes to feel heard and understood, not like they are just speaking and filling time before their conversational partner then says everything on their mind.
Top-tier life coaches are adaptable just as much as they represent the other attributes on this list. “Adaptability” means that a life coach can work with many different clients and handle the proverbial curveballs that their clients may give them.
Imagine that you’re working with a new client who wants to start a second career. You know the basics of the client, but in the middle of your first meeting, you learn that the client is also a single mother. That’s a huge hurdle that you’ll have to help the client overcome!
But if you are suitably adaptable, you can take this on your feet and change your development plan to better suit their needs and limits.
The best life coaches are goal-oriented. That is, they:
- Know how to develop and identify practical, achievable goals
- Come up with plans to help themselves or others achieve those goals
- Know what each goal is intended to serve or produce
For example, when a client comes to you unsatisfied with their job, you need to be goal oriented so you can:
- Help them figure out what they want to do next
- Outline the steps they need to get to that professional point
- Develop an action plan for them to fulfill to reach their goals
Why is being goal-oriented so important for a life coach? Simply put, it’s because your own personal development will impact your success. You can’t be a successful life coach if you aren’t successful (generally speaking) in your own life.
If you’re finding it difficult to set goals and stick to them, you might consider trying a different profession or pivoting to a different focus until you have this down pat. You can practice becoming more goal-oriented by:
- Setting smaller goals – such as steps to complete your life coach education! – and achieving them on time
- Practicing sticking with longer goals as you build up tolerance and patience
Once you have these mastered, you’ll be able to showcase a proper, goal-oriented attitude to your clients to excellent results.
Last but not least is confidence. Clients don’t want to show up to a life coach’s office, only for the life coach to sound wishy-washy or hem and haw through the meeting. People work with life coaches for concrete answers and solutions. When you offer a client a development plan or advice, stick with your ideas.
Naturally, do your best not to appear overly confident. Overconfidence can make your clients feel less than, or even cause them to drop you as a life coach altogether. It’s important to balance humility and confidence as a life coach – after all, your clients want to see you as a confidant and guidance partner, not a lecturer.
The best way to ensure you don’t act overconfident? Don’t brag. You can use your own success as a hypothetical example if you are trying to illustrate a positive idea to a client, but don’t highlight your victories too much. Remember, the focus should be on your client above all else.
In the end, the above five characteristics – empathy, active listening, adaptability, goal-oriented, and confidence – combine to provide a powerful, charismatic force in any life coach. If you don’t yet have these attributes, you can cultivate them by seeking out specific life experiences, drawing from previous life experiences, and taking advantage of educational resources.