What Expertise Does a Coach Need?

Coach expertiseClients who hire a coach to support them create their next level of success often look for a coach who is like them, meaning they want someone who has experience in their industry, or has been a CEO like them, or has been a sales person, a lawyer, or whatever their expertise or position is. Or they may want someone from the same culture, country, educational level, or background.

The last person you often want to coach you is someone who is in the same industry or has been in the same job that you’re in. This often comes as a surprise to prospective clients. Such a coach can often hold the same biases and beliefs as their client, and so it can be the ‘blind leading the blind,’ or more like the ‘expert leading the client.’

That’s because such a coach can fall back on being the expert based on their experience and and then feel like they add value by giving suggestions. In fact, their expertise may limit their client to what they’ve experienced. This is more of a consultant or mentor role than what a coach does. It’s okay to hire a consultant to give you expert advice, or hire a mentor to share how they ‘did it.’ But neither of those are a coach.

Many coaches feel comfortable being recognized for giving advice or for mentoring based on their experience. For example, beware of any marketing or social media ‘coach’ who has a ‘system’ for being successful, as long as you follow it. Anytime there is a prescribed way to be successful, you are hiring the antithesis of a coach.

Let’s call them what they are; consultants and/or experts capitalizing on the lack of regulation around the use of the word “Coach” to describe their services.

Join us on July 14 for a free teleseminar on understanding how the 11 ICF core competencies work in ‘real life’ in a coaching session. Find out more here.

Gravitating to what feels familiar can be a limiting option for the client

It’s understandable that people gravitate to those that seem similar to them as familiarity brings a level of comfort. Yet having been practicing as a professionally paid coach for 16 years, I know this to be a limiting belief that often means a client misses out on working with the most effective coach available for them, whether that’s a coach similar or very different in background and experience.

Some of the most successful coaching outcomes from clients are where I’ve not had any industry or position experience. For example, I’ve worked with hundreds of engineers and technical experts in industries such as information technology, medical devices, construction, and online search. Yet I’ve never been an engineer or been employed in any of these industries. I can ask questions that an expert in the industry wouldn’t think to ask because it might seem ridiculous. Or an ‘expert’ coach may be unable to ask questions without having a belief about what is right or wrong in this situation in this industry or position.

What expertise sets a coach apart?

The coach is an expert in the mastery of coaching skills. Yet even more than that, a coach is an expert in the skills of communicating more effectively, of building relationships, and of helping the client to grow their self-understanding. It’s the coach’s responsibility to their clients to continually be upgrading their coaching skills, and more importantly, that they are developing themselves (their Coaching Presence). Because it’s the coach’s ‘way of being’ that determines how they listen to their clients, and what they make important or what they discount.

In our Mentor Coaching Group, we help our coaches to strengthen their coaching presence, and their coaching skills, using the ICF core competencies.

Here are some key coaching skills a coach holds expertise in;
  1. Knowing what a coaching process is so the coach structures a coaching engagement and coaching sessions for the optimum benefit of the client
  2. Visioning – clarifying the gap from where the client is now to where they want to be
  3. Listening broadly and deeply to their ‘What’ (situation), and ‘Who’ (inner world of expansive and limiting beliefs, their strengths and values, and successful strategies they’ve used in the past)
  4. Observing emotions present and how they empower or hinder the client
  5. Observing shifts in energy, pace, tone and body language (if present in-person)
  6. Reflecting back anything from points 3, 4 and 5 to the client through observation
  7. Inquiring using questions that allow the client to discover what they know and don’t know
  8. Creating opportunities for the client to see themselves and their circumstances from different perspectives, then create actions and support structures that move them closer to their goal or vision.

A coach who is an expert in coaching skills can work very effectively with anyone, as long as the coach and client have rapport and feel that a trusting, confidential relationship is possible to build. Find the best coach for you, not one you feel comfortable with based on industry or position experience. Be open to all options before choosing a coach.

Questions to ask prospective coaches

Here are some questions a client interviewing prospective coaches might want to ask:
  • Where did you get your coach training (if they say ‘in the real world’ they are not trained in coaching skills. If they haven’t completed at least 60 hours of coach training, they are not likely to know what coaching skills are versus other skills they may have)
  • What coaching credential do you hold? (MCC, PCC or ACC are ICF credentials – from most to least experienced)
  • Have you ever had your own coach for at least consecutive 6 months? (if they say no, then they’re not walking the talk, nor know the true power of being coached)
  • What are you doing to upgrade your coaching skills and presence?
  • What was your most successful coaching engagement, and why?
  • What was your least successful coaching engagement, and why?


Registration for our last 3 month Mentor Coaching Group of 2014 is now open.

Commencing September 9 from noon-1.30pm Eastern/NY time. Registration is limited to 7 people on a first come, first served basis.


Carly Anderson and Karen Boskemper offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants.

One of those offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group

Carly and Karen also offer other mentoring options which you can find in the Store