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10 key life coaching lessons

Justin Shelley Leadership & Life Coach.

This month I have been reflecting on what I have learnt from my clients over the years and how those experiences have influenced the coach that I am today.

Over the course of my coaching career to date, I have been fortunate to work with some smart and inspiring clients and through that work, I have benefited greatly from these experiences.

Here is a summary of the top 10 things I have learnt from my clients:

1. Trust your instincts

Being a coach means that you need to be completely adaptable and able to react to what a client’s needs are in the moment. Knowing which tools and techniques to use and what questions to ask can be challenging, particularly for a new coach.

Learning to trust in your instincts and to stay out of your head has a significant effect on the way that you coach because it allows you to be fully present for your clients and trust in your own ability (see point 7 below).

As coaches, we are taught to trust our instincts, which goes against the more traditional rational thought processes that we are all taught by our educators.

I like to encourage my clients to trust their instincts when working through their own objectives.

2. Communication is key

Working with a high functioning professional can often result in clients committing a significant amount of coaching time developing their listening and communication skills to improve their leadership performance.

Part of becoming a coach is being taught how to communicate clearly, ask empowering questions and listen to our clients holistically. The great news is that these skills can be passed on to clients as they develop their unique communication skills.

I strongly believe developing strong communication skills is an essential part of becoming a modern authentic leader.

3. Coaching reveals the blind spots

A huge advantage of coaching versus any other self-improvement process is seeing the blind spots, and revealing to clients their ways of thinking, or behaving as never experienced before.

Often when working one-to-one with clients, the moment a client sees a blind spot can be an extremely profound moment, which is often very meaningful and emotionally charged. It is an opportunity for the client to make big decisions and create great change.

It is also a moment in the coaching process that is extremely rewarding to observe as a coach.

4. Performance is influenced externally

The way in which clients tend to react to challenges, or the way they approach a situation or a set of circumstances, is unique to them.  

Any time that a client has found that they are not performing to the best of their ability normally falls into one or more of the following categories:

Spiritual (purpose, values, desires), Mental (clarity, focus, challenge), Emotional (needs and desires being met), Physical (physical self-care, sleep, feed, exercise), Social (having the right interaction) or Environmental (the right environment to complete or enjoy a task).

Knowing consciously what influences your performance has many benefits.

5. Buy-in is everything

Without buy-in, coaching has no foundation and clients who are not bought into making changes from the coaching process are missing its point.

Whilst coaching sessions themselves are insightful ways to move forward and make transformational changes, it is the work on goals outside of the coaching session that is key to changing habits and behaviours.

Without the client buy-in to carry on the work outside of the coaching sessions, coaching can be a waste of time and money.

A coach can shine a light and provide insight and tools, but it is the client’s ultimate responsibility to make the changes required.

6. Learning to be fearless is powerful

Learning to embrace the unknown and take reasonable chances without worry or fear is the key to self-mastery and the ability to move forward in any direction a client may choose.

When a client realises that fear does not exist in the present moment, they realise there is nothing to lose and anything is possible.

Learning to let go of fear takes courage and vulnerability.

7. Presence in the moment

A key ingredient to the coaching relationship is presence, which means that your attention as a coach must be completely focused on the client and your mind empty of everything else.

For the coaching connection to have power and trust, the client must never feel like you are going through the motions with them.

Without presence, there is not a connection with the client and trust can be lost.

8. My experience is my empathy tool kit

Being a good coach means being able to remain strongly objective whilst still being able to connect with the client empathetically. At times this can be challenging but staying out of the client’s story and not getting emotionally impacted or attached is crucial.

What I have found invaluable to this process is my own colourful spectrum of life experience as it allows me to be empathetic to a variety of client experiences without my clients bringing up any judgement in me.

However, I have found that you are always just one step ahead of your clients, which keeps you humane and on your toes.

9. Accountability is key

One of the key ingredients of coaching is accountability, which ties in very firmly to point 5 above on Buy-in. Accountability is all about doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.

Without accountability, there is no driver to move forward. In coaching ultimately it is the responsibility of the client to move forward, although one of the things I love about my work is playing the accountability partner with my clients.

I get to witness first-hand as they achieve their goals.

10. Clients always have the answer

As any experienced coach will tell you, the answer that you think your client needs is almost always right on the end of your tongue, or so you think.

Despite the enthusiasm and our innate desire to assist our clients, coaches should never give clients the answer.

Apart from depriving the client of the "Aha" moment, there is nothing more satisfying and deeply rewarding than watching the client figure out the answer for themselves.

Personal development is all about finding your way through the fog, and who are we to deprive our clients of that moment?

The journey continues.


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