Coaches communicate effectively don't they?

Author: Carrie Wallis 17 Jan 2016, updated Nov 2021

coaching skills

What is coaching, really?


It's communicating in a way that inspires people to act, isn't it?

So then what is effective communication?

How many think that good communication is all talk talk talk?

I talk, you hear - isn't that what communication is?

Communication is more complex than that.

Listening is a prime component of effective communication

If a leader can not hear the message given by their staff/followers​ how can they hope to inspire those same people to action?

Consider how you feel if you do not feel heard? Are you more or less likely to put extra effort in?

Most people respond best when they feel that their view matters when they feel a part of something. Most people are likely to listen more when they feel they themselves are valued enough to be listened to.

I know I do.

For coaches, this is even more important. Listening effectively is more important than being able to speak eloquently. After all, we have two ears and only one mouth don't we? We should use them in that proportion.

Listen twice as much as talk.

From the very first moment leaders must pay attention to every communication and opportunity for sharing their passion and vision.

They must communicate effectively, so they can inspire others to come aboard.  

But to make sure that sharing is done in a way that resonates with their staff, or they will never "hear" the vision.

It is the same for coaches, whether in the workplace or life or health & wellness coaching.

They must speak honestly and in ways that reveal their personal character and genuine connection. Yet, this sort of communication style can be difficult and time-consuming – especially when demands are huge and time is scarce.

There is far more to being an effective and authentic communicator than most leaders or coaches believe -- at least when they are starting out. Even if you think you’re good at speaking to your team or clients and motivating them, there’s always more to learn. 

Communication is a discipline and a practice: The more time, effort, and heart you put in, the more effective you become.  There really are no shortcuts. 

Here are a few tips and ideas that can help you focus your attention and improve your communication.

1. Be authentic.
When you speak with anyone you must come across as real. This means sharing your beliefs and your struggles. Talking about moments of doubt but also explaining how you overcame them with more conviction and confidence than ever. Or perhaps share a story or two about a failure and disappointment in life.

2. Be vulnerable.
This does not mean to wear the 'i'm a victim badge', not at all. It means to show you know what it's like when things go wrong. We don't live in a rose-tinted world where everything always goes smoothly. We live in the real world:

We make mistakes.

We screw-up.

Things do not always go according to plan. (Just look at the last few years with Covid-19!)


My most convincing talks at Unilever were when I shared stories about my personal weaknesses and what I was doing to overcome them or my disappointments and failures and how I turned them around.

Sharing your story as a coach will help you to connect with potential clients. But there is a right and a wrong way to do this.

3. Employ active listening skills.
Listening is not something that happens automatically, we may hear the words but do we understand the meaning? When someone is talking make sure they have your full attention, avoid the pitfall of worrying more about what you will say in response, and as a result miss the true meaning of the message.

4. Know yourself. 
This one might sound counter-intuitive. Haven't I just said focus your attention totally on your client or prospect?

Here you need to dig deep.  Know your values and what motivates you.  If you don’t know yourself you cannot share or connect with others. People want to know what makes you tick as a human being not just as a coach. Share this to make yourself real and generate a true connection with your clients.

It is also vital to be constantly alert for personal bias. Unless you know yourself with a high level of self-awareness it can be difficult to spot in you are inadvertently imposing your values on a client. Supervision is a powerful tool to use to help increase your self-awareness.

5. Make values visible. 
Effective, empathic communication and a commitment to respecting culture can provide a solid foundation for your ideas and contribute to making them a reality. Many of today’s most successful coaches have gone through a period of transition in recent years due to Covid-19.  Their improvements often hinged upon genuine communication and the ability to form an authentic connection with their audience.

Your prospects want to know what you and your company stand for. What is the litmus test for everything you do? These are your values. Talk about them but you must always be sure to “walk the talk” and live by them.

6. Rely on a good coach or a trusted adviser. 
Developing good communication skills takes time -- and in the rush of business, that’s scarce.  Having someone who can push you to examine and reveal your interests and passions is enormously helpful and the value is immeasurable. 

The best coaches have their own coach supporting their growth.

 7. Avoid the "me" trap.
It's not all about you. Coaches who spend all their time talking about themselves and their experiences expecting others to blindly follow along are on a road to nowhere.

People are more likely to act and put that extra effort in if they feel they belong, are heard, and in a workplace, if they feel recognised as an important part of the whole and are recognised as such.

8. Stories sell
If you want to make a point and convince people, you can't rely on facts and figures alone.

It’s stories that people remember.

People make a decision to buy a product or service based on their emotions. Logical consideration comes second. So you must make sure you connect on an emotional level if you want to attract clients.

The personal experiences and stories you share with others create emotional engagement, decrease resistance and give meaning. It is meaning that captures people's hearts and fuels discretionary effort, thinking and desire to actively move forward.

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