One of the big concerns that comes up for new coaches is whether or not you QUALIFY to be a coach. Whether you’re looking to become a life coach, executive coach, business coach, career coach (or some other coaching niche), figuring out (and then meeting) coaching qualifications can be quite challenging.
In this video and discussion below I’m going to talk about what really qualifies you to coach.
What qualifications do you need to become a professional coach?
There are three ways a person can qualify to coach professionally (life, business, or executive coaching):
- what you KNOW (your expertise and knowledge that you provide)
- what you’ve DONE (your experience and achievements)
- your COMMUNICATION skills (ability to listen, share, and discuss in elegant and effective ways)
- your COACHING skills (your ability to ask powerful questions, hold your client accountable, transform them, etc.)
Below (and in the video above) I’m also going to cover:
- 1:10 How What You Know (Your Expertise & Knowledge) Can Qualify You
- 5:00 How What You’ve DONE (Your Experience & Achievements) Can Qualify You
- 10:00 How Your Coaching Skills (Your Coaching Ability) Can Qualify You
- 15:10 How Your Communication Skills Can Qualify You
- 18:28 How Many Qualifications do You Need?
- 21:25 You Don’t Have to be Someone You’re Not to be a Great Coach
- 21:56 Doesn’t a Certification (or Coaching Credential) Qualify me to be a Coach?
- 22:20 The coaching profession is completely made up.
- 22:47 A coach can be certified and still be completely incompetent.
- 23:19 The Current Coaching Standards Aren’t The ‘Best’ Coaching Standards
- 25:30 The ‘Unregulated Coaching’ Opportunity
If you want to skip forward to any of these topics, you can click on the (above) time codes to skip to that part of the video.
The Coaching Job Interview
But first, imagine two coaches are sitting in an office, competing for a job in a group interview.
They sit nervously, waiting for the interviewer’s questions.
The first candidate is asked what qualifies them to be a coach. They eagerly respond,
“I have these three high-level certifications.”
The interviewer probes further and asks if they have anything else, to which the candidate hesitates before admitting, “No, just the certifications. But I paid 10,000 for these.”
Next up, the second candidate exudes confidence as they share their skills.
“I know how to help people lose weight and keep it off.”
“I’ve helped 10 people lose over 50 pounds and keep it off for 10 years. I’m highly skilled at helping clients ask questions to find out what’s getting in their way and transforming it.”
The interviewer then asks if the second candidate has any certifications, and they boldly reply, “No. I just get results.”
The interviewer quickly tells the second candidate (the one with ZERO certifications) that THEY got the job.
The interviewer wastes no time and quickly tells the second candidate (the one with ZERO certifications),
“Candidate number two, you got the job.”
The first candidate can hardly believe it, asking in disbelief,
“What? Why’d I spend all this money and all these certifications if I still don’t qualify?”
As you picture this scene in your mind, remember that it’s not just a story.
In fact, this case (a TRAGEDY for the ‘certified’ coach, and a VICTORY for the ‘results coach’) is a story that plays out every day…
…when a coach is enrolling a client.
…when a coach is attempting to set Discovery Sessions.
…and, yes, when a coach is applying for a JOB.
Don’t let that tragedy happen to you.
What you think qualifies you to be a coach may not be what really qualifies you to be a coach.
How do you really know the qualifications you need to have before you can be considered a competent coach?
What really matters when it comes to coaching?
- Getting results and helping your clients succeed?
Let’s take a step back and truly evaluate the qualifications and skills needed to be a competent coach…
…starting with the FIRST way you might qualify:
What You Know (Your Expertise & Knowledge)
First, let’s discuss how your knowledge can qualify you to be a coach.
You can gain extensive knowledge through research, which is why we value teachers.
However, there’s a common fallacy that suggests, “Those who can’t, teach.”
Richard Bach counters this by saying, “We teach what we need to learn.”
This fallacy fails to recognize that even if a person knows one way to achieve a result, that single method won’t work for everyone or every situation.
Take sports (coaching), for instance…
In recent years, analytics have gained popularity.
If you’re not familiar with analytics, check out the Brad Pitt movie Moneyball.
Analytics involve using numbers and percentages that math experts calculate to determine the success odds of specific activities in a sport. then they give those insights to the players and coaches on the field, and the players and coaches use those insights to change how they play to increase their odds of success.
These math experts may not be able to play the sport themselves, but their knowledge helps the team to perform better.
Similarly, you can’t play the game of a client’s life for them…
…but you can help them to take a step back and re-examine what they’re doing, see how successful what they’re doing is, add any adjustments that could be made, and, if so, what those adjustments could be.
You benefit from teaching what you know as well. As they say “The more you teach, the more you learn.”
Sharing knowledge with your clients gives you a deeper level of understanding of the knowledge that you do have. You’ll remember more and implement knowledge at a higher level. It keeps your expertise top of mind for you and increases your commitment to implementing it in your own life at an even higher level.
A 2014 study was conducted with students that knew that they were expected to teach information to their peers, rather than simply be tested on it, and they remembered more of it than their peers did.
In 2018, a similar study was conducted where students were required to teach what they were learning to other students and they got higher scores with even less time to study. You can learn more about the Protege Effect HERE.
Finally, when you, as the coach, have in-depth knowledge gained from studying various aspects of a subject, you can provide a person with multiple ways to achieve a result.
Don’t Discount Your Knowledge!
Many coaches tend to discount or underestimate the value of their own hard-earned knowledge, simply because it becomes second nature once they know it. Most knowledge is effortlessly retained once you know it, which makes it seem less valuable.
Don’t fall into this trap.
What you know could be worth tens of thousands of dollars to your client because they don’t know about it yet. New knowledge can be just as transformational as ‘transformational coaching’ because it opens up new worlds to your client.
In fact, for some people, not knowing a solution exists for a painful problem can be so disheartening that they may even consider giving up.
For instance, if you’re a person who has cancer, and there’s a magic pill that you could take to cure your cancer…
…but you don’t know about it…
…then you can’t save your life.
The knowledge you hold is like a MAGIC PILL for your clients.
It’s magical because they haven’t discovered it yet.
Share the magic you have, whether it’s related to relationships, finances, careers, or any other area of expertise.
Knowing a PROVEN METHOD:
You can qualify as a coach if you’re someone who understands a proven method. This is where certifications and coaching models become important. One way to be qualified is to learn a coaching method that involves asking questions to guide your clients through their transformation.
WARNING: The pursuit of knowledge can be the most overlooked form of procrastination.
Coaches find themselves enrolling in course after course without actually applying the information.
Remember, experience is the best teacher.
It’s crucial to prioritize action – do first, learn second.
Don’t just LEARN… SHARE your information with the world.
The world needs your information.
Once you’re done sharing for the day, then you can resume your pursuit of knowledge!
What You’ve DONE (Your Experience & Achievements)
What you’ve done can qualify you to be a coach.
You may have experience in a certain aspect of life, such as health, relationships, or career…
…so you can use that experience to help others anticipate obstacles they may face in achieving their goals, since you’ve already navigated a similar journey.
When you’ve achieved something that your clients aspire to, you become a role model, making you extremely valuable as a coach.
Witnessing your accomplishments raises your client’s belief in their own abilities and inspires them to attempt the same feat, knowing that you’ve succeeded.
Tony Robbins says that success leaves clues.
When you discover these clues, it allows you to compress time and accomplish a goal much faster than it otherwise would take you. He calls this process of discovering clues ‘Modeling’.
Let’s say you’ve won a gold medal.
This makes you very valuable to clients who want to win a gold medal, because you know secrets about winning a gold medal that most people don’t know.
This principle applies whether you’re helping clients find their soulmate, or build a million-dollar business.
That said, one limitation that coaches may face is that their experiences can sometimes cause them to restrict their thinking, believing that everyone will have the exact same experience they did. That’s not always the case.
Taking Action on Difficult Things
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re good at doing the ‘hard stuff’… difficult things.
People with this trait often hold themselves to higher standards than others.
As a coach, they are likely to hold their clients to those same high standards. They won’t let clients dwell in the past or focus on the future as a means to avoid the present.
“What are you doing about it right now?” becomes their life mantra and the benchmark they set for others.
You’ve probably seen a top performing athlete that didn’t really want to work that hard…
…but then their coach yelled at them from the sidelines, so they performed at a higher level than they otherwise would have without their coach.
Impressing Your Clients: The Guru Effect
Potential clients are often impressed when they see that you’ve successfully overcome challenges they are currently facing. Dean of Master coach University, Jeffrey Sooey, calls this ‘The Guru Effect’, which he discusses in this video series.
A prime example of the Guru Effect is Tim Ferriss, the author of the Four-Hour Work Week. He understood this concept that if he could get himself to do difficult things, he would qualify himself as a winner that people would want to learn from.
This mindset led him to become the Chinese National Kickboxing Champion after only four weeks of training.
How’d he do it?
Ferriss meticulously examined the rules, realizing that all he had to do was push his opponents out of the ring three times to win the match.
By learning to manipulate (i.e. reduce) his body weight, he ensured he faced smaller opponents whom he could easily push out of the ring, resulting in their disqualification.
Is Tim Ferris the most physically qualified kickboxer in the world?
He simply found another way to win within the rules of the game – and you, too, can find a way to win within the rules of YOUR game… whatever it might be.
Being The Star
In the movies, every star faces one of four or five goals (usually ‘hard things’) to accomplish. Here are the five typical goals:
- to win something (love, a game, etc.)
- to stop an injustice (a killer, a tyrant, a monster)
- to escape something (their past, prison, an abusive relationship)
- to retrieve something (money or a lost relative)
- to deliver something (the ring, the holy grail, the mortgage)
When you’ve lived through (and, hopefully, accomplished) ANY of these difficult goals/problems, YOU become the star, and that will qualify you to coach in the minds of many clients.
Are You Coaching Regularly?
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re coaching regularly.
When you coach consistently, your clients will have confidence in you, knowing this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ll also feel more comfortable as you coach because you’ll more easily recognize patterns.
Even if you’ve failed a lot or you’ve seen your clients fail a lot… that can HELP your coaching, and even further qualify you to coach.
Because you’ll recognize hazards that are ahead of your clients on their way to accomplishing their goal.
For instance, if you’ve received a speeding ticket before, you can effectively warn someone else traveling down the same road to watch their speed and avoid making the same mistake.
Coaching skills need to be practiced.
If you don’t regularly hone your coaching abilities, you’ll get rusty.
Even if you’re a trained and experienced coach, not coaching consistently will cause your skills to atrophy.
Do you HAVE your own coach?
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re someone who has a coach.
…qualifies you to coach.
The self-awareness practice that comes along with having a coach will go a long way in helping others as a coach.
When you’re being coached, you’ll achieve better results in your own life, and that will propel you more powerfully to coach others.
Dave (a coach in our community) says,
“I wouldn’t hire someone who doesn’t have a coach. The biggest thing that comes to mind is if they don’t see enough value to have one, how can I trust them with my time, money, and future?”
Your Coaching Skills (Your Coaching Ability)
Obviously, COACHING SKILLS should qualify you to be a coach.
You don’t have to be a coaching genius, either. You can keep it simple, and just focus on the fundamentals.
Some coaches love to make things complicated so that they sound smart, but success often comes from focusing on these fundamentals.
Coaching is about helping clients to take actions that they wouldn’t otherwise take to create the possibility of greater results.
For example, I helped a client lose over 40 pounds.
I didn’t do it by improving their knowledge of health.
I did it by holding them accountable to taking consistent action by exercising regularly.
Jason (another coach in our community) makes the point perfectly when he says,
“Number one, can you help people? Number two, can you help people? Number three, can you help people?”
“Who can you help and how can you help them? I’ve started multiple businesses. I wanted to help single fathers because I am one, so that’s what I coach on, single fathers’ business setup.”
In coaching, a key skill is CREATING AWARENESS.
There are actually THREE layers of awareness.
- What was actually said? This layer is all about helping your client and you stay aware of what was actually said.
- What was meant? This layer is about helping your client and you stay aware of what they really meant (beyond not just what is said).
- What’s the deeper truth beneath it all? In this layer, you’d help your client to see the deeper truth beyond the current conversation.
These three layers ‘hold up a mirror’ to your client, and dispel the lies that they sometimes tell themselves.
Helping Clients Overcome Obstacles
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re someone who’s great at helping clients deal with their obstacles.
- Help them to identify potential obstacles that are in their way.
- Help them to avoid, cope with, or reduce those obstacles.
- Help them overcome and get past those obstacles to accomplish their goal.
Exploring What’s Possible
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re good at identifying and exploring what’s possible.
Simply presenting a new possibility can open valuable doors for your client.
Imagine the impact of helping a client discover new ways to improve their health, make more money, or find the love they’ve always dreamt of.
These new possibilities can create opportunities for an entirely new life for your clients.
I recall working with a client who hired me to help with her business.
Although she was single, she wasn’t initially open to exploring the possibility of finding a loving relationship.
We focused on her business, and she achieved success with my guidance.
That success triggered her to see more positive possibilities in her life.
Pretty soon she became more open to the idea of love. Fast forward a couple of years, and she ended up getting married.
By introducing new possibilities and helping clients recognize their potential, coaches can have a profound impact on their clients’ lives, both professionally and personally.
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re great at critical thinking processes.
The value I bring to a coaching client includes helping them
- weigh options
- deconstruct problems
- make decisions
- prepare for (or predict) probable outcomes
- organize plans and priorities
Essentially, I assist them in thinking through a problem or, in some cases, even thinking on their behalf.
By actively participating in the problem-solving process and offering insights based on expertise and experience, a coach can help clients navigate through complex situations more effectively.
This collaborative approach can empower clients to make better decisions and achieve their goals.
‘Thought Partnership’ as a Coaching Skill
This kind of critical thinking supports something that goes beyond typical coaching…
…what I call a ‘thought partner’ relationship.
What’s a thought partner relationship?
It’s where you work together with your client to think through a problem or goal they’re grappling with.
For instance, JTS Advisors embarked on a large-scale executive coaching project with ILFC, a multinational airline leasing company.
Interestingly, they didn’t want us to be called coaches, as they felt it was somewhat arrogant and might deter clients from embracing the coaching process. Instead, they referred to us as ‘thought partners’, which aligns with the role I just described.
We coached over 50 executives for more than a year, using the thought partner role as the foundation for the coaching relationship.
Dean of Master Coach University, Jeffrey Sooey, talks about thought partner coaching relationships in THIS VIDEO HERE. If the idea of being a coach or a leader feels intimidating, consider trying out the thought partner role. You might find it more comfortable and better suited to your strengths.
Putting RESULTS Ahead of FEELINGS
You can qualify to be a coach if you put results ahead of your client’s feelings.
A good would would rather their client be unhappy with them, than to allow them to live a lie.
This brings your coaching value beyond what a typical ‘friend’ provides.
A coach will tell you the truth, even when it’s challenging.
A friend may try to appease you even if that means allowing you to remain deluded.
Your Communication Skills
Let’s explore how your communication skills can qualify you to be a coach.
Be a Great Listener
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re someone who’s a great listener.
Oftentimes, all that’s needed is for someone to listen and create a space for the client to find their own solution.
Most people aren’t really listening to you. They’re just waiting for a chance to speak. They’re waiting to talk. So, just by you truly listening, your communication skills will be significantly above and beyond most people.
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re someone who’s approachable. If you’re good at making people feel comfortable sharing with you without feeling fear of judgment.
How do you know if you’re approachable? Well, if people spontaneously speak to you and open up to you without even knowing you very well, or maybe even just met you, you’re probably pretty approachable. They might even say things to you like, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.” If that’s ever happened to you, you’re probably pretty approachable.
Being approachable is really important when it comes to the coaching relationship. You can be the best coach in the world, but if nobody feels safe opening up to you, you can’t do anything with them in the coaching process.
You can qualify to be a coach if you’re someone who’s good at helping your client to stay curious, and to allow mistakes.
This dynamic is similar to comparing a child’s perspective versus that of a parent.
A child might lack perspective on a problem, blowing it out of proportion, and thinking it’s the end of the world.
Meanwhile, a parent who remembers what it was like to be a child and face similar challenges, can maintain a different perspective and successfully coach the child through the situation.
As a coach, adopting this supportive attitude and perspective can help clients navigate challenges more effectively, encouraging them to learn from their experiences and grow in the process.
This life is one big grand experiment…
…and then we all die at the end!
No success is permanent, but no failure is permanent either.
Your client can recover from anything (at least until they’re dead).
You could qualify to be a coach if you’re patient.
We live in an instant gratification society, so if you have patience, you have a commodity that is rare in today’s world.
Clients don’t change on your timeline…
…they change on theirs.
Patience allows you to influence your client and keep them in the coaching conversation.
When your client stays in the coaching conversation, they’ve got a chance to get a breakthrough from coaching…
…because you never know when it’s all going to ‘click’ for your client and and they transform.
Still not convinced that patience is important to the coaching process?
Tony Robbins says,
“If you want to transform someone, just wait, and they will transform just because time has passed.”
If you want to transform someone, just wait, and they will transform just because time has passed.”
If patience is good enough for Tony Robbins, it could be good enough for you.
You can qualify to be a coach if you inspire clients to take actions that they’ve been procrastinating on.
Often your client simply needs you to believe in them before they believe in themselves.
After breezing through all these qualifications, you might ask…
How Many Qualifications do You Need?
You certainly don’t need to have all these qualifications.
You really only need one or two to qualify.
That doesn’t make you a great coach, of course.
Then clearly communicate that quality to your potential clients (or employer).
- Which are your qualifications?
- How can you accentuate them?
- How can you communicate them?
- How can you strengthen them?
- Which qualifications do you want to add (that you don’t already have)?
We asked coaches what THEY think qualifies you to be a coach.
“That’s an internal values conversation to have with yourself. No one is going to give you permission or anoint you. Coaching is not one size fits all, and there is no universally agreed upon unquestionable bar that can accurately qualify or disqualify a person from coaching someone.”
Universal qualifications for coaching don’t work.
Because coaching is a relationship…
…and relationships are not one size fits all.
Literally EVERYONE qualifies to coach SOMEONE.
The real question is who YOU’RE qualified to work with (versus whether you’re qualified to coach at all).
Do the only great relationships come between two qualified people?
Of course not.
In fact, you could meet someone who fits all the ‘proper criteria’, and they could be a nightmare relationship (some of us have experienced these nightmares!).
In a relationship, we don’t really care about qualifications. We care about finding the best match for us…
…and nobody can tell us who is the best (or most qualified) relationship.
Relationships are subjective.
Relationships thrive on personal preference. No one can know how you’ll feel about someone.
The best relationships are often unpredictable. We can never know who will match with who.
That said, we DO know a good match when we see it, because the chemistry is undeniable.
Some people fall in love with a criminal and are happy.
Some people fall in love with someone on their death bed.
No ‘qualifications’ can keep these lovers apart.
And nobody can say that any coach is not universally qualified.
Just like choosing who you’re going to fall in love with, choosing a coach is personal and subjective…
…so nobody can say anyone is the most (or least) qualified coach for anyone else.
Clients choose their coach based on their own personal criteria, which varies for every client.
Even the ‘most qualified’ coach won’t be the perfect fit for everyone.
You might be the best coach for someone simply because you have CHEMISTRY with them, and, as a result, you’re able to reach them when no one else could.
For some coaches, qualifications are more about their own feeling… an inner confidence (versus skills, knowledge, or experience).
These coaches could take 20 coach trainings, get the highest certification, and have all their clients worship them…
…and STILL ‘feel unqualified’.
No amount of ‘external qualifications’ will make them feel fully qualified or ready to coach.
For them, a strong coaching relationship might be built on feelings of trust and rapport, which may be more valuable than formal qualifications or certifications.
You Don’t Have to be Someone You’re Not to be a Great Coach
A friend of mine told me one of their kids works with doctors…
…but they don’t have a medical degree.
They brought up their ‘lack of qualifications’ with their superior,
“What if the doctors question me? I don’t have a medical degree.”
Their superior said to them,
“It’s none of their business. All that matters is how well you do the job.”
If you worry about clients questioning you, or like you have to be someone you’re not in order to qualify to be a coach, watch this video where I dispel that myth.
BOTTOM LINE: You don’t have to be someone you’re not in order to be a great coach.
Doesn’t a Certification (or Coaching Credential) Qualify me to be a Coach?
Coaching isn’t regulated.
Nobody can tell you that you don’t qualify.
And nobody can tell you that you do qualify.
Neither opinion can be backed up with any type of airtight consensus (outside of the opinions of people who want to justify actions they’ve already taken).
Certified coaches might tell you that you don’t qualify to be a coach if you don’t have THEIR certification…
…but their motivation’s likely more about justifying their own certification decision than anything else.
The coaching profession is completely made up.
International Coach Federation says THEY are the standard for all professional coaching.
A lot of people believe them, but there’s no official verification that their approved providers teach the best way to coach.
“You need coach specific training in the ICF Competencies, and credentialing through hours requirements. But, I also think that just because you’re credentialed doesn’t mean you’re great at coaching.”
I’d go even further…
A coach can be certified and still be completely incompetent.
Remember Tim Ferris winning the gold medal in the Chinese Kickboxing National Championships?
He won the title by using the rules to his advantage…
…not because he was a better fighter than his opponents.
He was the WINNER…
…NOT the best FIGHTER.
Would you choose Tim Ferris to defend your family against if you under physical threat?
Instead, you’d likely rather choose someone who could physically defeat that dangerous threat… even when there are no rules to protect you.
Some certified coaches are like Tim Ferris as a kickboxer.
They got certified through smart use of the rules…
They know how to ‘pass the test’…
…but they have a difficult time getting results in the real world.
The Current Coaching Standards Aren’t The ‘Best’ Coaching Standards
Just because a coach can get certified in a widely accepted method doesn’t mean that method works best.
There could be new, more effective methods that we simply haven’t discovered yet.
Here’s a gory example:
In the past, LOBOTOMIES were considered legitimate strategies in the mental health community…
…even though they are now regarded as barbaric and ineffective.
I admit that’s an extreme example (and the procedure was never 100% accepted)…
…AND I don’t think any coaches are doing the equivalent of lobotomies in coaching today.
The originator of the technique even won the Nobel Prize, which highlights the level of legitimacy and acceptance it enjoyed at the time.
In fact, the last lobotomy was performed in the 1980s, not that long ago!
For up to 20 years, you could have been lobotomized if you suffered from mental illness.
In fact, many people became de-facto zombies because the ‘people helping’ community of the time accepted this practice.
Someone, at some point, had to speak up and say,
“Hey, that whole ice pick to the brain thing? I know we’ve been doing it that way for 20 years, but I think I found a better way.”
Hey, that whole ice pick to the brain thing? I know we’ve been doing it that way for 20 years, but I think I found a better way.”
Not every coaching standard that’s widely used today is going to be the best idea forever.
You might come up with your own approach…
…and discover the BEST way to coach!
The prevailing thought in mental health (and personal development) today is primarily based on incomplete studies that haven’t been peer reviewed (or proven through replicating the study).
These studies ‘slip through the cracks’ and into established knowledge because nobody is willing to or able to double-check them.
Many of the coaches that tell you that you’re not qualified may base a significant amount of their own methods on research that’s not fully proven.
If you want to review this research, check out THIS ARTICLE and THIS ONE.
Don’t be afraid to question everything.
We might find out in fifty years, that some of the accepted psychological practices widely used today are actually harmful to people.
BOTTOM LINE: In order to advance science and psychology (and coaching), we must keep questioning everything.
The ‘Unregulated Coaching’ Opportunity
The fact that the coaching industry isn’t regulated creates the opportunity to discover what works based on results, rather than trying to justify accepted reality.
So find your own most important qualifications and continue to push the art of coaching to the next level.
If you still feel you need an outside approval that you’re a qualified coach, the industry uses a shorthand to determine qualifications through certifications.
You may or may not need one.
It depends on your situation.
So, before you spend the time and money to get certified, watch a video that clarifies the specifics called “Can I Be a Life Coach Without Certification? What Coaching Schools Don’t Want You to Know”. That video covers even more detail answering the ‘certification question’, as well as the best way to get started as a coach.
I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure that you leave a comment with your thoughts or questions.
By the way, if you want my help with starting your own money making coaching business, Master Coach University is holding a webinar in a few days called “How to Start Your Coaching Business in 30 Days” that you can attend for FREE. Just go to the link I give you HERE to attend:
In the webinar, you’ll learn how to get your first paid clients fast and make it feel natural for you.