16 Lessons Learned That Coaches Can Adapt And Use In Their Own Practices

Expert Panel® Forbes Councils Members

The best way for any professional to evolve and advance in their industry is to keep an open mind and learn from others. Whether you’re keeping an eye on seasoned coaches who have been in the field for decades or new coaches with innovative visions, if you are a coach, there’s a lot to learn from watching others in your space. 

You wouldn’t want to try and replicate other coaches’ exact methods or styles, but you can incorporate some of their best practices into your own work and adapt them to build your own unique style. Here, 16 members of Forbes Coaches Council share some of the best lessons they’ve learned from other coaches and explain how they’ve adapted and used those lessons in their own practices. 

Featured members share lessons other coaches can adapt and use in their own practices.
Forbes Coaches Council members share lessons they’ve learned that other coaches can adapt and use in their own practices. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.

1. Provide Space For Storytelling

One technique I have seen used and have used myself is to provide space for storytelling. There is an art to simultaneously holding space for storytelling and facilitating movement. Once it starts, the coach can expand in different directions by gently asking, “If you had to summarize your story in one sentence, how would you do that?” This invites the client to focus on what is most important at this moment in time. – Palena Neale, unabridged

2. Use The Power Of Collaboration

Use the power of collaboration—or collaborative competence, as I prefer to call it. Early on in coaching, I wanted to do everything. In the last three years, I have learned from my mentors how more is achieved not just through collaboration, per se, but through aligned collaboration. Leveraging the strengths and opportunities of other competent people with shared values gets the job done better, faster. – Eden A. Onwuka, A Woman And Half, LLC

3. Master The ‘Coaching Conversation’

One of the biggest breakthroughs in my coaching practice came when I finally mastered what I call the “coaching conversation.” This is the pitch I make when clients are deciding whether they want to work with me as their coach. The structure of the conversation I use today came from input over time from other coaches, and it has made a tremendous difference in my “closing rate” with prospective clients. – Brian Bartes, LifeExcellence

4. Engage In Time Management Exercises

As a career coach, I have worked with many coaches who guided me to business success. I learned gratitude and positivity, and these are important messages I share with my clients as they engage in career management campaigns. As a trainer of career coaches, I focus on time management, helping them design schedules. I ask them to engage in time management exercises so they can control their calendars. – Diane Hudson, Career Marketing Techniques, LLC

5. Go Deeper At The Contracting Stage

On my own road to mastery with my mentor coaches, I learned to go deeper at the contracting stage and explore “the thing beneath the thing” with my clients. This practice helps clients identify the nub of their issue, leading to better coaching outcomes. I learned from my peers to trust my instincts and to not be afraid of going beneath the surface in serving my clients, which were true game-changers. – Linda McLoughlin, LeadershipWorks

6. Play Back What You Heard In Writing

The value of writing things down is highly underrated. Playing back what you heard in writing is often the “reflection trigger” that clients need and want. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

7. Be Vulnerable And Show That You Trust The Process

During a mentor coaching session, I discovered that there is value in showing vulnerability as a coach—and more importantly, the amazing impact modeling my vulnerability can have. We ask clients to trust the coaching process and explore alternative ways of thinking. Demonstrating that you, as the coach, are trusting the process will eliminate the need to be a perfect coach and develop you into an amazing coach. – Sheila Carmichael, Transitions D2D, LLC

8. Get Centered, Present And Balanced Before Engaging

I learned from one of my colleagues, who is also a mindfulness instructor, that before the coaching engagement, it is important to be personally centered, present and balanced. Your role as the coach is to actively listen and be fully engaged so that you can ask the right, best questions to help the client arrive at an optimal solution. Even just two short minutes of respite before the engagement helps. – Denise Russo, SAP

9. Be Self-Aware During Conversations

In conversations with coaching legend Tim Gallwey, I learned the importance of being self-aware during coaching conversations. Often, when coaches remain focused on their clients, they tend to lose sight of their own emotions and unconscious biases slipping into the conversation. It helps to take frequent mental “stops” and evaluate our own thought processes while engaging with the client. – Krishna Kumar, Intrad School of Executive Coaching

10. Be A Mirror To Help Clients See Other Perspectives

The best lesson I learned from a colleague, who was a seasoned coach, is that if I’m working harder than the client, I’m doing something wrong! My role is not to “solve problems,” but to be a mirror for the client and to continue to help the client see their situation from different perspectives. – Deborah Goldstein, DRIVEN Professionals

11. Meet Clients Where They Are Right Now

I learned to meet my clients where they are right now. While we set goals for growth together, I’ve found that it’s essential that I don’t make assumptions about what they know (or think they ought to know). I find out where they are mentally and emotionally, and then adjust my expectations for how fast or slow I will progress with them throughout our time together so that they get the most out of their sessions. – Julie Fisher, Your Digital Guardian

12. ‘Suspend Assumptions’ And ‘WAIT’

Two concepts have stuck with me, and I’ve used them successfully with clients: “Suspend assumptions” and “WAIT”—which means asking yourself, “Why am I talking?” As leaders build skills such as delegating, empowering others, communicating, listening and so on, doing this helps them slow down their thinking, disregard any assumptions they may have about the person or situation and listen more than talk. – Kristy Busija, Next Conversation Coaching, LLC

13. Keep Growing, Reinventing And Doing More

The best advice that I’ve ever received is to “never stop growing; never stop reinventing; never stop doing more.” In business, it’s been important for me to focus my attention on these three pieces of advice because of the challenges they present—focusing on these points will keep you from becoming complacent and will challenge you to continue pushing forward. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

14. Talk About Your Clients’ Success Stories

I’ve learned to not sell myself to my potential clients. I adapted by talking about the success stories and the miracles my clients have been able to achieve because of coaching. As a matter of fact, I often offer potential clients a chance to talk with people I’ve coached so that they can see for themselves what is possible. – Michelle Perchuk, MTV Coaching

15. Check Your Blind Spots By Consulting With Peers

I’ve learned to check my own coaching blind spots and participate in peer supervision and consultation regularly. Being able to talk through what I’m doing with colleagues has been invaluable in keeping my perspective fresh with clients. I have also benefited by hearing about the coaching moves and techniques they have utilized in their practices, and have found parallels in my own work on occasion. – Jennifer Landis-Santos, Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies

16. Separate Working ‘In’ The Business From Working ‘On’ It

In my very first training back in 2008, I learned to separate working “in” the business from working “on” the business. From that day forward, I’ve stacked my client sessions, enrollment sessions and meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I reserve Monday and Friday for working “on” the business—financials, marketing, expansion and so on—and that is how I have grown my business every single year since I started. – David Taylor-Klaus, DTK Coaching, LLC