Business Coaching: Qualities of a Good Coach

A business coach speaking at a table to others about the qualities of a good business coach

Years ago, I was invited by a local business organization to a roundtable for area business coaches. The goal of the roundtable was for the organization to obtain feedback and input on a business concept. Including myself, there were 12 business coaches that day.

After the two-hour conversation, I walked away somewhat sad. “Are these really the quality of business coaches that my local business community has to offer?” I asked this question because the comments, feedback, and advice I was hearing from my colleagues was less than stellar. They lacked empathy, insight, and understanding. Conversely, the motivation behind the comments seemed self-serving and financially driven. 

The experience drove me to some introspection. I asked myself, “What are the qualities of a good business coach?” and, “Do I have those qualities?” Here’s what I discovered.

The Ingredients of Excellence in Business Coaching

A Motivation Mindset

One of the qualities of a good business coach is the ability to motivate their clients. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach for the coach. Good business coaches understand that each client has a unique set of motivators. The key is having a process to uncover what those motivators are. Once they are understood, a coach can use questions and observations that leverage that motivation. 

Years ago, I was working with a social media manager. Her boss told me she was struggling in her role and asked me if I could help. One of the first questions I asked her was, “What are you paid to do?” She said, “I’m paid to post on our social networks and keep them current.” I then asked, “So any justification for a raise would be based on you posting items on time, right?” She thought for a minute, then the light bulb went on: “No. I guess I’m really paid to generate leads.” From there, we defined the motivation, and coaching helped her to become better at lead generation. 

Planning for Solutions

Another quality for a good business coach is the ability to help the client with making a plan. The coach doesn’t make the plan; the coach helps the client make their own plan. In concept, this can be as simple as asking three questions: 

  • Where do you currently stand?
  • Where are you headed, and where do you want to go?
  • What will it take you to get there?

With those three elements, a coaching conversation can become a planning conversation. 

Accountability and Action

One of my favorite parts of being a business coach is when I hear a client say something like, “I knew you were coming today, so I made sure I had my ‘homework’ done.” They often will say this with a proud smile. This is another value that a good business coach should bring: The ability to keep clients accountable.

Saying we’re going to do something is good. Committing to someone else that we’re going to do something is even better. The best coaches will challenge their clients to action. 

A Solid Framework for Success

The best coaches had an intentional process, approach, or methodology for working with their clients. Whatever the specifics, it should have these components:

  • A process for establishing goal and targets
  • Conversational tools for establishing the current true reality
  • Out-of-the-box thinking to help explore all the potential options
  • Definition of next steps, and commitments to taking them
  • Qualitative or quantitative measurements toward success

The Heart of a Teacher

I get hit up 3–4 times per week by some business development rep trying to get me onto their lead generation systems for coaches. The promise is always the same: “Make More Money!” Honestly, that’s not my motivation. 

If you’re looking for a sound business coach, look for someone who has the heart of a shepherding teacher. Teachers find their fulfillment in seeing their students learn, transform, and thrive. In the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, Mr. Holland tells a student, “Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart, it’s about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page—I can’t teach you that other stuff.” Mr. Holland has the heart of a teacher. If you’re looking for a business coach, find someone with the same mindset. 


Finally, a good business coach will demonstrate a high level of creativity. But this might not be what you think. Business coaching creativity is not where the coach comes up with brilliant ideas. The really creative business coach has an ability to help you think outside the box. Their favorite question is, “What else?” These coaches help their client think differently and critically. 

Find a Business Coach with Experience

Great References and Reviews

There’s a reason why Google reviews are so important: They tell the actual story. Reviews of a coach are no different. Ask your potential coach for reviews, both from current and former clients. Also, ask the coach how he obtains reviews, and what percentage of his/her clientele comes from referrals.

Success Stories

Sound business coaches should be able to provide several stories of success. When asking for them, look for a coach who tells the story of their client—not their own story. If you hear a lot of “I, me, me…” vs “They, he, she”, then you may not have the right coach.

How to Find a Business Coach Who Brings Results

The best way to find an effective business coach is to ask your network. Find colleagues who have used a coach and who have demonstrated growth. Ask them for the names of their coaches. Then, interview those coaches, using this guide.

Business Coaching with Jay Hidalgo

I’m always happy to help with a conversation around coaching. If you’d like to schedule a time for a no-pressure, no cost session, feel free to contact me.