What are the skills needed for coaching?

All organisations, in almost every sector, are trying to get the best out of their people. Formalised coaching provides the time, space and environment for individuals to think deeply about how to solve a problem, and how to move themselves – and their teams or students –forward.

Expert coaches are able to work with people, in a non-directive way, to help them to learn and grow but importantly, empower them to be responsible for their own actions. Developing professional coaching skills with a school or organisation’s leadership can be an effective way to improve staff morale and help them to achieve their goals and objectives. The quality of a leader’s coaching skills will directly impact productivity and the ultimate success of a team or organisation.

Skills for coaching 

Coaching skills are the behaviours and actions of a coach that focus on helping individuals take responsibility for improving their performance. Rather than focus on solutions, coaching skills aim to ask probing questions in order to guide others toward improvement and learning through self-reflection, collaboration and insight. 

Coaches don’t need to be an expert in any particular subject or function but they do need to be an expert at empowering people, holding them to account, challenging them to think deeply and to own their progress and performance. 

Here are some fundamental coaching skills that can help your organisation achieve success:

Goal Setting

The first important skill in coaching is the ability to elicit clear, achievable, well-defined and motivating goals from the people being coached. This includes getting acceptance of the reality of the current state and a clear commitment to achieving a future state. The right goals and milestones guide the actions and focus energies on a clear objective.


Strong leaders are able to use coaching to connect with others in a non-directive way that’s free of judgment. Coaches recognise and understand another person’s perspective, which helps them guide even the most challenging conversations because their focus is on achieving higher goals rather than identifying what caused the difficulty. Coaching gives people an opportunity to describe their reality and the ability to empathise with others shows coaches are trustworthy individuals who will quickly earn the respect of others.

A Growth Mindset

Coaching challenges limiting beliefs. Coaching is about shifting someone’s mindset so that they believe in growing other people. Strong coaching skills develop individuals that fundamentally believe the people that they work with can solve their own problems and can grow. Coaches can listen for what’s not being said as much as what is being said. They can understand when a colleague uses a generalisation or makes an assumption about what is going on and what can be done about it. 


A great coaching skill is to actively listen. Coaches gather information from a conversation and with no judgement are able to filter it and clarify it for the individual being coached. Coaches develop the skills to listen to what’s being said and what isn’t being said, what is a generalisation, and what’s an assumption about an issue.  


The difference between knowing and discovering is curiosity, which is another basic skill good coaches possess. Coaches should try not to judge and to stay as objective as possible while you find out what truly matters to their coachee. Show a genuine interest in their reality, focus on their goals and be in the moment instead of focussing on the next question or technique on your agenda. Keep interruptions to a minimum but at the same time keep the conversation focused and on-target.


Empowering the people being coached to help them become responsible for their own actions is a crucial part of coaching. Coaching takes the onus away from leaders, who instead of taking on more responsibility are able to empower their teams, making them more accountable for success, which leads to shared ownership of goals and provides a sense of fulfilment for all parties.


Another essential coaching skill is the ability to communicate effectively. Whether this is to a mentee, a coachee, other members of staff or even a board of governors, communicating with clarity and transparency gains the trust of others and ensures that everyone is clear on expectations. Coaching is based on quality conversations so by making coaches more reflective they have a greater ability to articulate what they mean and enhance the quality of coaching sessions. 

Through the coaching professional apprenticeship, coaches will develop the core skills needed to be successful coaches in a range of settings who are able to provide coaching to individuals, teams and leaders to improve performance and embed a coaching culture within an organisation’s wider practice and approach.

The success of the apprenticeship is measured not only by the skills they gain but by the impact they have on their organisation.