8 Essential Skills You Need to be a Great Life Coach

Life is full of challenges, twists, and turns. Almost everyone reaches a point where they just don’t know what path to take or what to do to move their life forward. Every day, people face tough times in their careers, relationships, studies, and pretty much anything in their day-to-day lives. With so many variables dictating direction, success, and overall well-being, you can easily feel stuck, confused, and possibly worn out. This is where life coaching can come in.

And where there is a need for life coaching there is a need for people with life coaching skills. If helping people to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented at key moments in life is something that appeals to you, read on to learn more about what is involved in developing those essential life coaching skills. 

What is a life coach?

A life coach is a trained professional who helps people to move forward in their lives and achieve a greater sense of fulfillment. A life coach will help you to formulate clear goals, put in place the steps to take them forward and work with you to see them through. Those goals can relate to any aspect of your life, career or business. 

Why life coaching is important

As a life coach, you’ll basically be helping your clients to find a sense of direction, motivation, encouragement, and satisfaction in life. In other words, you’ll be helping them make a positive change or improvement in their lives.

This could come through how they relate with others, their perception of things in life, their level of self-confidence, how they react to or deal with difficult situations.

You’ll also be helping your clients to identify the hurdles holding them back in life and how they can overcome or move past them. This could include things like challenges in breaking addictive or bad habits, elevated stress levels, low creativity, a lack of social fulfillment, and so forth.

But as you might have deduced from this simplistic version of a description, a career as a life coach isn’t a bed of roses. It requires you to have a wide range of skills to be successful in helping your clients while staying competitive in the market.

Investing heavily in marketing will certainly help you get more clients, but you will need a certain set of skills to keep them and recruit more. Starting with the importance of professional training, below are eight essential skills you will need to be a great life coach.


Essential life coaching skills

While it’s simply a job to some people, a career as a life coach is a calling to many. Some take it as a part-time job, whereas others go all-in and make it a lifelong career. Whichever the case, you can’t just wake up one day and decide to become a life coach. It requires special professional life coach skills training for you to become a certified coach and a great deal of experience to start to become a great one.

During life coach training, you’ll learn a wide range of subjects to gain theoretical and practical knowledge on how to deal with clients. Remember, different clients will have different needs, and every case needs to be handled according to the client’s specific needs.

Trust in your professionalism and experience is vital, which makes it important to get training from an accredited institution. The International Coach Federation is the global body responsible for regulating certification of life coaching skills. With ICF accredited training, you will be assured that you’re backed by international standards and that you’ve been provided with a tested and approved skillset to help make a significant impact on people’s lives. It will also provide you with a credible life coach skills resumé.

It’s a challenging journey that will stretch you and teach you, and every case you handle will leave you a better person.

Let’s now look at the list of coaching skills you need to hone to become a great life coach.

1. Exceptional Listening Skills

With two ears and one mouth, you have to listen more than you talk. Active listening is a crucial life coach skill. You cannot have real empathy without it.

Listening gives you the room to grasp and examine your client’s emotions and help them to understand what is affecting their situation. This puts you in a better position to understand your client’s concerns, goals, expectations, and experiences. Listening and attention go hand in hand.

2. Curious

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in this case you’ll be a pretty lifeless life coach without it. You need to be utterly curious about your client to understand their life in its full context. What they sense, study, and need should trigger you as a coach to ask a lot of questions. Life coach skills will help you to ask the right kind of questions.

Primarily those questions should be open rather than closed. A closed question results in a one-word answer, it closes down the conversation. An open question literally opens up the conversation and expands it. For example, if a client is looking to start a business, a closed question might be ‘have you thought of….’, while an open question might be ‘what have you already done?’

Life coaches use what are known as powerful questions. Those are empowering and deep questions that enable the client to have a greater insight into their situation. Your life coach training will help you to master these questions and know when the right time to use them is.

Curiosity is a fundamental life coach skill that helps you to get your client’s feelings, understand the situation, and support them to review the options and take positive steps forward.

3. Positive attitude

Being a life coach, you will come across people with diverse characters, beliefs, attitudes, disorders, and personalities. Being non-judgemental is a basic foundation. As soon as judgement becomes apparent people close down and it will be impossible for you to help them to move forward in their life.

In your profession, you will need to help people stop feeling inferior and have a more positive view of themselves. That doesn’t mean that you need to approve of unethical views or behaviour, but start by noticing and highlighting the positives. Then when you have built up trust you can help clients to challenge their less palatable positions, that is if they haven’t already dropped them as their life improves.  

4. Perfect Communication Skills

Life coaches need to be able to communicate well on a range of levels. Great communication does not stop with conversation. It also applies to written communication as well as visual and non-verbal communication.

Clarity has to be your baseline on all levels for you and your client to be on the same page. Additionally, you should not only communicate when you have an appointment with your client. Making follow-ups on their progress builds a firm foundation for a long-term relationship full of positivity. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing there is someone on the other end, ready to listen and support you to sort yourself out!

5. Be Passionate

You will also need to have an infinite desire to come through for people and make a positive impact in their lives. Well, passion may not exactly be a skill, but it’s something that should develop in your life coaching career. You can’t fake passion but you can expect it to evolve with experience. As you see your clients succeed your own confidence and passion for the role will grow. 

Not only will an authentic sense of passion help to increase referrals, but it will also give you a sense of fulfillment in your job.

6. Maintain Confidentiality 

When it comes to life coaching, clients will be in real situations looking for practical solutions. Some cases need more than guts to open up. Some may seem shameful or just bizarre. But when they share their issues, the client chooses to confide in you.

Be the confidant they have been looking for all their life. Be real and bury their secrets inside you. You can picture yourself as a lawyer or a doctor, where client confidentiality is crucial. Professional confidentiality is a core life coach requirement and the ability to maintain your clients’ confidentiality is a critical life coach skill. 


7. Visual Attention to Detail 

Actions speak louder than words, so to say, and we do not always have to believe what we hear. An essential life coaching skill is the ability to go beyond the superficial or presenting issue to get to a deeper level with your client. What do they really want?

Often clients don’t initially know what they really want, but a skilled life coach can help them peel back the layers and get to the root issues. When what a client says and their body language doesn’t match up you need to dig deeper. The ability to pick up on those subtle visual clues is another essential life coaching skill.

8. Be Challenging

Life coaching is fundamentally about setting a long-term goal and then taking the steps to achieve it. If that sounds easy it rarely works out that way. Clients will come up with all sorts of excuses and varieties of self-sabotage to find ways of avoiding progress. Life is rarely straightforward and rational. Most of us have emotional and psychological blocks that stop us from achieving our potential. 

This is where a life coach comes into their own. The truth is that most of us do know what we really want. But we are scared. An essential life coach skill is to firmly but gently challenge us when we hit a roadblock and see us through to the next level. A good life coach will reflect your own nurturing inner voice. It wants the best for us. Get the balance wrong and the client will find an excuse to close down.

Wrap up

Life coaching is a valuable skill. A good life coach can help people to turn their lives around and fulfill their potential. It’s a challenging but highly rewarding profession.

 Emotional intelligence is an important foundation for effective life coaches, but it’s not enough. Life coaching is a process as well as a skill and with high-quality life coach training you can develop the skillset and the toolkit to succeed in this important profession.