Chapter 2 Become a Life Coach - Part 1

Work and Responsibilities of a Life Coach

Your Role As Coach

Your role as a coach is to help foster change in your clients and to support them in their discovery of new behaviors, thoughts, and emotional patterns that will support living a better life. There are various ways that a coach can demonstrate this perspective when they’re coaching clients. These skills are focused on how you present yourself in sessions with your clients and in how you respect your own knowledge and expertise as a coach.

In sessions with clients, coaches need to be fully aware of themselves and their own perspectives. They need to be fully present with their clients. This means that coaches aren’t thinking about what happened earlier that day at home, they’re not making their grocery list in their head, and they’re not thinking about how their client reminds them of someone in their life. Instead, the coach is fully invested in being in that exact moment with a client so that the client feels fully and completely seen and heard by the coach. This is also a fundamental piece of active listening skills, which we will delve into deeper in the next section.

The next piece that’s fundamentally important in your sessions with clients is for coaches to remain flexible, open, and confident in interactions with clients. Clients need to feel that they can depend on their coach. And a coach’s confidence is what demonstrates to a client that they are knowledgeable and dependable in how they are assisting the client. However, it is equally important for coaches to stay flexible with clients as well. Confidence should not mean that a coach always believes that they know all the answers or that they’re always right. Instead, it means that a coach feels confident in the knowledge that they have to share with clients and in their ability to co-create solutions with clients to help them reach their goals. When a coach remains flexible with their client it means that they stay open and present to where the client needs the session to go. If a client doesn’t think a certain idea or solution will work, then the coach must stay open to coming up with new solutions with the help of the client. Staying flexible in the session with a client helps the client see how flexibility can help them be creative in the solutions and in pursuit to their goals. It also helps them understand that openness to different solutions can help them fundamentally meet their goals. Openness is an important skill for a coach to cultivate as openness to your clients means that you attempt to integrate flexibility and nonjudgmental attitudes toward your client’s life and goals. Being nonjudgmental will help your client see that your role as a coach isn’t to serve as the judge and jury of their life. But instead to help facilitate the creation of alternative pathways for them to meet their goals and live a better life.

Another important aspect of your role as coach is that the coach must keep each session focused on the client’s goals. The coach must never refocus the session on themselves or their own problems. If this becomes an issue than the coach should refer the client and seek out help for their own issues before resuming their role as a coach. But what’s also important in the coach’s responsibility to keep the session focused on the client’s goals is to help the client stay focused. The client ultimately has the choice on what goals to focus on in each session. The coach can help the client to balance focus on long term and big picture goals and shorter term goals brought up in each session. In this way, the coach continues to demonstrate their respect for the client’s perspective and beliefs about what’s important at the present moment.

Part of your role as a coach is to own your skills as a coach. First, you must follow your own intuition and inner knowing in working with clients to determine when to push a client and when to rely on empathy and understanding. It’s important for you to both push clients to go beyond their own limits, but also to respect their boundaries and where they’d like to focus each session. It’s also important for coaches to stay open and explore new opportunities for clients to experiment with new behaviors, beliefs, perspectives, and to take risks. When coaches stay open they allow their clients the room to explore these new ways of being. Lastly, it is a coach’s responsibility to confidently work with strong emotions. Coaches need to not become overpowered by their client’s emotions or feel intimidated by strong emotions. Strong emotions are an essential piece of growth and development. And so a client must feel safe in expressing their deepest emotions to their coach. A coach must also not become entwined with their client’s emotional experience. What this means is that coaches need to empathize with their client’s emotions, but not get wrapped up in this. This can be a skill that takes some time to master as many beginning coaches will feel themselves get overwhelmed with sadness when dealing with their client’s sadness, etc. This is one of the key reasons why practicing your skills as a coach is essential in becoming a masterful coach.

Things a Life Coach Does

A life coach does:

  • Helps a client to determine and build on their strengths
  • Assists them in understanding and growing from their weaknesses and learning to overcome them
  • Helps them set goals that are achievable
  • Assists them in determining what barriers stand in the way of their goals
  • Helps them to build on their strengths
  • Gives clients techniques and tools to aide in achieving their goals
  • Stimulates motivation for the client to stay focused on goals and take their life to higher heights. 




A life coach does this by:

  • Using questioning to help the client gain clarity about their lives and to discover what is underlying their issues
  • Getting clients to gain greater understanding of themselves so that they can make conscious decisions for change
  • Helping client reflect on values, passions, priorities, talents, and obstacles in an objective way
  • Developing goals with t he client and helps client stay focused on them
  • Assisting the client to find solutions and strategies to solve their problems and better their life
  • Holding the client accountable to their goals and to the actions that they’ve committed to to change their life 

A life coach doesn’t do:

Knowing what a coach does not do is as important as what a coach does do. A life coach must never do certain things otherwise they will be violating a client’s free will or will stifle the potential growth of the client. 

A life coach doesn’t:

  • Judge, evaluate, or a criticize the client
  • Someone who brings up the past except only when needed and only briefly
  • Give direct advice, teaching, or directions to the client about what they “should” do
  • Put their own agenda on the client or try to get the client to take specific actions to suit their interests
  • Make the client feel guilty

Training and Education to become a Life Coach

Coaching is generally an unregulated field which means you do not need to have any special education, training, or experience to become a coach. Clients will, however, expect that you have some successful background in what you’re coaching on and have a college degree. Establishing credibility with clients so that you can sell your services it is important to have some type of marketable and valid credentials. There are a handful of other options for life coach training beyond the certification that you are currently pursuing.

Working in the field of social work, health care, human resources, personal training, counseling, psychology, or teaching all have a career that leads easily into life coaching. All of these fields require interpersonal skills, communication skills, and excellent organizational skills. If you have one of these backgrounds, you can begin to practice as a life coach immediately.

If you have a college degree and you’d like to earn another one or want to pursue your first college degree to become a life coach it is advised that you pursue a degree in education, social work, psychology, counseling, education, or business. These will help you immensely to transition into working as a life coach and in marketing your services.

Regardless of how you become a life coach is it essential to keep growing, improving, and enhancing your ability, knowledge, and skills. Going to workshops, professional development seminars, and reading self-development books can help you keep on top of your game.

Traits and Personal Qualities needed to be Successful

Although education is an essential piece of becoming a life coach there are certain personal qualities and aspects of personality that are essential in becoming a life coach and will make the transition much easier and your work with clients much more successful. Although it is wonderful to have these skills before you start training as a life coach these skills can also be developed through focused attention, practice, and effort.

1. Self-awareness

It’s important to come to terms with any personal or professional issues you may have before you begin coaching clients. Otherwise these issues may rear their head in your coaching sessions and make our coaching less effective. As such, it’s important to do work exploring who you really are, what your values and morals are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and your own goals and areas for growth. Once you become more aware of your inner self you can focus on growth and will be able to set more effective boundaries with clients and with others in your life. Only those who have a deep level of self-awareness can help their clients develop their own self-awareness.

2. Integrity and personal standards

Life coaches must have the highest standards and personal integrity. This is how clients can feel comfortable depending on them and opening up to them about their deepest secrets. Ultimately, integrity and personal standards are what makes a coach trustworthy!

3. Curiousness

Life coaches must have a deep curiosity about other people and want to know them at a deeper level. This will translate into a deep desire to know their clients and understand them deeper than most anyone else in their life has understood them. This will also help your clients open up more in their sessions.

4. Desire to help

It’s important for a life coach to have a desire to help people. Without this there wouldn’t be any reason to pursue a career in life coaching! The entirety of a life coach’s work is about helping people. So they must have a deep and passionate desire to help people so that that their coaching comes from an authentic and genuine place. Otherwise they will likely not be successful and will not be able to help their clients effectively. Most successful life coaches are in the field not for money, but because they yearn to help people. 

5. Exceptional skills working with people

Excellent people skills is an essential piece of becoming a life coach since the entirety of the work will be done working with people. Coaching always provides a place where people feel comfortable and at ease and good people skills help with this. Coaches should be able to instill trust in their clients, be non-intimidating, friendly, and have professional body language. This will help build rapport and trust in the coaching relationship.

6. Exceptional listening skills

A part of having great communication skills is having exceptional listening skills. Communication isn’t all about talking. More than 50% of communication is about listening. So coaches must be comfortable with silence and with not speaking during sessions to give their clients the space they need to explore their own feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. The coach must encourage the clients to express themselves and their inner feelings and listening is one of the most key components of doing so.

7. Excellent communication skills

Coaches must have communication skills above all else in order to facilitate the coaching process effectively. Coaching can happen either face to face, over video chat, or over the phone. But regardless of the context communication skills are key. Communication skills do not involve using complex terms or jargon. Rather, communication skills means talking to your clients in ways that they can really understand and absorb so that you’re speaking at their level. Coaches must always meet their clients at their level and not talk over their heads, otherwise the coaching is useless. Coaches do not need to be extroverted. They just need to be comfortable communicating with other people.

8. Perceptiveness

Perceptiveness is what allows a coach to tune into things that the client is communicating that most other people may miss. They see the situation and their client communications with clarity and precision. Perceptiveness can help coaches understand their clients on a deeper level and connect easier with clients. When you use this skill you can better help clients connect to heir goals, problems, and areas for growth.

9 Respect and concern for clients

Life coaches must show their clients the highest respect and regard. They should always be focused on their clients and their issues and never on their own. They need to allow the client to be the center of attention at all times in their sessions together. If a coach does not feel respect and regard for their client they should consider referring the client to another coach as this is one of the most important pieces facilitating an open relationship filled with trust in coaching.

10. Desire for personal development and learning

The best life-coaches will be open to developing themselves and their skiils throughout their career. They are open to new ideas and keep learning new things about coaching, about themselves, and about how best to live with integrity. They never stop working on improving themselves and their craft.

11. Non-judgmental

Being non-judgmental is one of the most essential skills of a coach. When a coach is non-judgmental it means that they are there to cherish and appreciate their client and not condemn or criticize them for their behavior, choices, beliefs, or feelings. Although the urge to do these things are natural. It’s essential for a good and successful life coach to keep any of these feelings to themselves and to work on releasing all judgments of others and learn to accept other people at face value.

12. Objective

Objectivity is the skill of the coach keeping their personal biases and beliefs out of the coaching process. Coaches should be able to maintain an appropriate distance between what their client is saying and what they believe so that they don’t get wrapped up on their clients problems. Coaches also must never manipulate or control their clients and must respect their boundaries and desires. ‘

No list could contain all of the personal components of a successful life coach. And this list is not exhaustive. But it does contain the traits that, at the very least, make a good life coach. Other traits might include being straightforward, acknowledging and respecting differences, feeling inspired and motivated in their own lives, and believing at their core that change is possible for everyone. At their core, these traits make a coach successful, respected, and trusted in the field which means that they attract clients with greater ease than other coaches who do not have these traits. This discussion will be expanded in Chapter 4 where we will explore the practical side of what’s required to become a coach. 


Chapter Review Questions

Descriptive Questions

  • Make a list of the key personality traits of life coaches.
  • Describe what college degrees are great to lead into a career as a life coach.

Multiple Choice Questions

1. Which of the following statements is true?

  1. A life coach is someone who tells a client what to do.
  2. A life coach instructs a client on the appropriate ways to live their life.
  3. A life coach helps the client to determine and work strengths and weaknesses.
  4. A life coach is always right.  

2. Which of the following is essential to have as a life coach?

  1. Excellent people skills
  2. Excellent judgment skills
  3. Excellent talking skills
  4. Excellent justification skills

3. Being ______________ allows a life coach not criticize.

  1. perceptive
  2. curious
  3. non-judgemental

Answer Key:

1-c, 2-a, 3-c

Further Reading

  1. “Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life” by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl. Davies-Black Publishing, 2007.