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7 Essential Coach Qualities

Coach Training EDU™ identified 7 Essential Coach Qualities that professional coaches should embody and infuse into their work. These qualities form the foundation of CTEDU’s curriculum and align with standards set by respected coaching organizations such as the International Coach Federation (ICF)


A coach sets ethical coaching agreements with clarity and cultural awareness. The central aspects of this quality are establishing clear expectations with the client, maintaining confidentiality, designing an alliance, and addressing accountability.

Skill-check Questions:

  • “How well did the coach clarify expected outcomes or address accountability on a client’s recent action steps?”
  • “How well did the coach use the TIME Model when setting a strategic or session agenda?”


A coach actively listens empathetically, using imagination and intuition while staying curious and attuned with a client to pick up on even subtle shifts in a client’s emotion. An experienced life coach asks questions designed to provoke insight.

Skill-check Questions:

  • “How well did the questions provoke new insights for the client, as opposed to seeking information or implying solutions?”
  • “To what degree did the coach recognize subtle shifts in a client’s energy, tone, or perspectives?”


A coach sees the client as the expert in their life, inviting the client to be proactive and craft both the coaching session agenda and following action steps. A coach offers expert knowledge with curiosity to empower the client and adapts coaching tools to fit the client’s unique situation.

Skill-check Questions:

  • “How well did the coach focus on the client, not the problem?"
  • “How well did the coach balance expert knowledge and information with empowering the client?”
  • “How well did the coach adapt the client’s language and adjust standard coaching questions and tools to the client?”


Coaches continue to stay curious, even when clients experience strong emotions or realize epiphanies. The quality shows in a coach’s skill to dig for a deeper agenda in the TIME model, asking clients to give a name to an empowering perspective or new insight. A coach uses Powerful Questions which are short and open-ended (usually start with what, why, or how), and the coach invites the client to do most of the work of uncovering insights in a coaching session.

Skill-check Questions:

  • “How well did the coach ask short, open-ended questions using a balance of learn-be-do questions that address a client’s agency and pathways?”
  • “To what degree was the coach willing to lean into intuition while staying curious and holding space for the client to explore?”


A coach creates a safe space and demonstrates connection and vulnerability while also, at times, being fierce, even if that means sometimes asking uncomfortable but priceless questions.

Skill-check Questions:

  • “How well did the coach address prickly points, ideas, or observations, either directly or through sharp questions?”
  • “To what degree is the coach willing to take risks and share intuition and ideas without attachment to being right?”


A coach shows confidence in the client’s abilities by inviting the client to explore ideas and emotions in a coaching session. A coach trusts the coaching process and embraces silence while holding space for the client to arrive at useful action steps. Strong coaches are confident their clients can be accountable and self-aware.

Skill-check Questions:

  • “How well does the coach demonstrate trust in the coaching process and comfort with pausing and silence during a coaching session?”
  • “To what degree does the coach trust that the action step will come from the client if sufficient learning and insight happen?”


A coach inspires clients to take bold actions between coaching sessions and designs ways to help clients stay accountable and follow through on action steps.

Skill-check Questions:

  • “How effective was the coach at helping the client develop inspiring Well-Designed Actions?”
  • “To what degree does the action (pathways) also include aspects of learning and being (agency)?”

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