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How To Master The 2 ESSENTIAL Coaching Skills


Generally speaking, an effective coach develops an acute understanding of human nature and psychology. Typically, this understanding allows a coach to be empathetic without being sympathetic. Coaches are constantly trying to understand themselves, in order to help clients gain new perspectives. In addition to being students of human nature, successful coaches also learn to apply two critical “people” skills during the coaching process. In fact, I would venture to say that without mastering these two skills, a coach would not be a “coach.”


We live in an extremely fast paced world, where we feel compelled to make very quick decisions. The fact that we have endless amounts of information available to us with a few clicks of a mouse, makes us very impatient when it comes to learning.

This impatience has created generations of poor listeners.

The proliferation of texting and sending emails has made listening largely unnecessary, and we are sadly out of practice. Actual conversations, which are becoming uncommon, generally consist of individuals taking turns talking. Very little active listening takes place.

“Active” listening??

Yep, to be effective, a coach must master the skill of active listening. Active listening is a two part process:

Part 1- Stay Present & Focused

When a client is speaking, don’t simply “hear” the words they are saying. Focus on the concepts and ideas they may be trying to convey. It is important not to let your mind wander or get “ahead” of the discussion. Most importantly, don’t be thinking of what you are going to say next while a client is speaking. Let them complete a thought before you speak.

Part 2- Show Signs That You Are Listening

Clients feel empowered when they feel they are being listened to. An effective coach can provide signs that they are listening that will give a client the confidence to express themselves fully. The signs include nodding of the head, leaning forward in a seat, changing facial expressions, and making comfortable eye contact(avoid staring).

Asking Questions

The second essential coaching skill is asking questions. Listening and asking questions are fundamentally linked together. When a coach asks an effective question, a client instantly feels like they are being heard and understood.

Generally, there are two forms of questions….

Open Questions

Open questions are so named because they facilitate a client “opening up” and expressing themselves. Open questions are the cornerstone of the coaching process because they increase the depth of a client’s thinking process. As a client answers an open question, they are consciously sorting out their thoughts.

Open questions typically are formed by using words such as “how,” “why,” or “tell me.” The following are three examples of open questions….

“How did you feel about losing your job?”

Open questions that inquire about a client’s feelings can help a client come to terms with their feelings.

“Why is it important to you to take your time in finding another job?”

“Why” questions can help a client sort out their reasons and motivations.

“Tell me a little about the kind of job you are looking for.”

Notice that “tell me” is not a question at all. However, it is an effective means of helping a client reflect on an experience, or their feelings.

Closed Questions

Closed questions generally can be answered with a very short response. Questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” are classic examples of closed questions. Closed questions should be avoided during the coaching process because they often fail to help a client think through situations, feelings and problems.

The following are three examples of closed questions….

“How many jobs have you applied for?”

“Are you looking for work online?”

“Are you looking for the same kind of job you had before?”

In Conclusion….

Listening and asking effective questions takes time to learn. Find a coaching practice partner and schedule regular practice sessions. They are skills that are FUNDAMENTAL to your success. To the extent that you master them, will determine the success of your clients as well.

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Go ahead and leave a comment and share with our community your feelings on the importance of listening and asking questions- I answer ALL questions and comments personally within 24 hours!



  1. Maggie T says:

    Michael- Now I know the reason you ask so many questions during our sessions lol!
    Talk soon-


  2. Hi Michael,
    Really EXCELLENT information, as usual! It’s especially hard
    to listen to boring people that have nothing to say. Like my dear old Grand pa used to say, “If you have anything important to say, say it FIRST!”
    Take Care-


    • Mike says:

      Love your “dear old Grand Pa”, Bruce, sounds like a dude after my own heart! Thanks for stopping by!

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