Coaching Mindset: Definition and How to Embody It

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Coaching Mindset: Definition and How to Embody It

Challenges and Steps to Developing a Coaching Mentality

by Chester Jackson

In this article, we will talk about the definition of a Coaching Mindset and how you embody it as a coach. We will unfold how you should think about the coaching process and how to treat the person you are coaching. We will discover why coaches, leaders, and managers should adopt a coaching mindset. Coaching tools and techniques without a coaching mindset are empty shells. No connection and no relationship with the client can be formed. Being there for the client, with the client and dancing in the moment is essential.

Coaching Mindset: Definition and How to Embody It

ICF describes embodying a coaching mindset as the attitude of those who develop and maintain a mindset that is open, curious, flexible and client-centered.  Having a coaching mindset is essential to being a coach and creating deep and meaningful connections. 

When we are “present in the moment” or “dance in the moment”, we can be unscripted and allow the conversation flow naturally to what is most meaningful for the client.  We are in the here-and-now with all our senses, focused on what is impacting the client. 

This awareness requires training and practice of active listening skills. Remember Karen’s article about The Three Levels of Listening? We cannot listen at level one. Having awareness of our level of listening and sharpening our listening skills increases the focus towards the client. We constantly challenge ourselves to “keep a tourist mindset”, to be curious and non-judgmental.  We challenge the client when we sense patterns or inconsistencies between what is said and not said, differences between the words and the tone, facial expression or body language. 

ICF Core Competency: Embodies a Coaching Mindset 

This competency is the difference between doing and being a coach.  It helps us be the right thing for our client.  Focusing on our client requires self managing our own emotions and responding to the client as opposed to reacting. 

This competency might be difficult to listen to in a recording. Think about the client as a system, or as a system involved in systems and ourselves, the coach, also as a system. We have our own bias and internal influences and cultural differences so we might need to seek supervision or mentoring to become more confident in our practice. 

The Characteristics of a Coaching Mindset

Digging a little deeper on the characteristics of a coaching mindset will help to realize the importance of it and the impact it may have on the client.

Coaching is Client-Centred

“It’s not about you” are the words we should always keep in mind. Coaching is not about the coach and how great you are.  Be present, be curious, and be intentional about working in partnership with your client in their growth. To focus on them, you need to prepare yourself.

Coaching is About Development, Not Just Solutions

This concept is embedded in the ICF Definition of coaching “…. partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. …”.  Our clients come to us to help them through a problem.  If we focus only on the solution to that problem, then our clients will not grow.  Coaching is about growing and maximizing potential.  

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Coaching is a Positive Approach

The benefits of positive coaching carry ‘face validity’, meaning that even without research evidence, most people would agree that positive coaching generates real benefits (although there is abundant research to support the validity of positive coaching). People in general, regardless of generation or culture, respond better to positive interactions.” we can read in the book The Power Of Positive Coaching.  Coaching is forward facing using learning as building blocks to improve growth. Explore the present with them while designing what they want their future to be. When coaching others, your clients should find the answers to your questions by looking forward and not by looking in the past. Consider what is possible over what isn’t possible. “It is just as realistic to believe you can as to believe you can’t.” we can read in the book Coaching with NLP. 

People Are Resourceful And Want to Succeed

As coaches, we strongly believe our clients are “resourceful and whole” and genuinely want to achieve success. Having a coaching mindset is to treat them as a whole and knowledgeable person and not as someone that needs to be fixed.   

Your Client Knows More About Their Problem Than You

Be the expert in coaching and not the expert in your client’s problem.  Having a coaching mindset is about trusting that your client is the expert and they know more about their problem than you do. Asking them about the details of their challenge is forcing them to talk about the past and not focusing on the now or the future. Let your desire to hear about all the details pass.

How to Embody a Coaching Mindset?

Let’s take a deeper look at how you can practice and improve your coaching mindset. 

Acknowledge Clients are Responsible for Their Choices

If we believe our clients are resourceful and whole and they want to achieve success, we must respect and acknowledge they are responsible for their choices. You may enjoy a pleasant walk through the park on a nice compacted gravel road. They may choose to walk along a rocky path up the side of a mountain. It is ok if they choose that path. Maintain your coaching presence by remaining in partnership.

Engage in Learning and Self-Development as a Coach

We all want our clients to grow and maximize their personal and professional potential. As coaches, we must also continue growing to maximize our own personal and professional potential. Continuing education allows us to learn new coaching skills, get feedback on our coaching, and exercises the mind. Be a life-long learner and take time to work on your own learning and development. 

Develop an Ongoing Reflective Practice

An example of reflective practice might be “why did this happen in that session”? 

Reflection is a tool that changes an experience into knowledge. Reflecting not only on the what but also on the why.

Reflecting on your own experiences will help to recognise how often you are reacting to the stimulus in your sessions, and reflecting in action, like we said, “is easy!”

If we as coaches do not reflect on our experiences, then we simply do not gain the knowledge and understanding of the whys and hows of coaching. This can often be seen in coaches who rely on tacit knowledge to form most of their understanding, they know how to do something, but often they do not know why they are doing it.

Be Aware of The Impact of Culture and Honore Diversity

Different cultures and diversity across the world will have a large impact on how you engage in a partnership to coach your clients.  We must be aware of words and phrases we use that may seem benign in our own culture and can seem very disrespectful or even offensive to other cultures.   Get to know your clients and become aware of how your contributions help move the conversation forward and what may cause it to come to a grinding stop.

Use Self-Awareness and Intuition

Knowing yourself is a big part of coaching and growing your Emotional intelligence. 

Connect with your client at a deeper level by using and sharing your perception, intuition or “gut feeling.” Your coaching presence will improve as you “dance in the moment” with your client. This is the only way to evoke awarenes in your client.

Focus on your client completely as a whole person. Focus your coaching on who versus what. 

Develop Self-Regulation of Emotions

Become self-aware of your emotions, triggers, and core values. This means that you have high emotional intelligence, which will help you better empathize with your client. It enables you, the coach, to be present and not let your bias and/or past experiences influence or show judgment towards the client. 

By doing so, you will create a safe space for your client and enhance your coaching presence. 

curious and empathetic listener displaying a coaching mindset

Mentally and Emotionally Prepare for Sessions

A coaching mindset in being client-centric includes preparing yourself for your next session. Avoid having back-to-back coaching sessions. Spend time thinking about your previous coaching session and preparing yourself for the next client. The next client deserves your full undivided attention and should not be subject to what you may bring in from your prior sessions.

Seek Help From the Outside if Necessary

We are not licensed therapists or a psychiatrists. If you are confused about the differences between coaching and other service professions, you can read Lucia’s article.

Having a coaching mindset is knowing where coaching ends, and something else begins. Coaches need to know their limits on helping people to avoid unnecessary damage to others. When our clients need help dealing with their past to move forward, we need to refer them to someone with the skills to help them. When they are ready, then coaching can resume.  

People Have the Freedom to Make Their Own Choices

Coaches can help others maximize their potential by helping clients identify limiting beliefs, look at different perspectives, and evoke new awareness about themselves. Coaching seeks to help them sustain their growth past their immediate problem, and having a coaching mindset respects that the client is free to do what they think is necessary with that new learning.   

Limits to Adopting a Coaching Mindset

Your bias and experiences may influence you when it comes to coaching mindset. 

Things like 

  • Your core values
  • Previous experiences 
  • Lack of self-care (working long hours, not being able to get the needed sleeping hours)
  • Unhealed wounds
  • Assumptions and habits.

Use Coaching Tools to Develop a Coaching Mindset

In the book Presence-Based Coaching: Cultivating Self-Generative Leaders Through Mind, Body, and Heart, Doug Silsbee explains presence as “… a state of awareness at the moment, characterized by the felt experiences of timelessness, connectedness and a larger truth.” 

The use of coaching tools such as: 

will help you grow your coaching presence to embody a coaching mindset. Nonetheless, having self-awareness and a growth mindset will do as much for your coaching presence.


  • Bring the whole you to coaching; your growth, curiosity, respect, and being there for your client will make the difference. 
  • Have a mentor coach to help with personal growth and supervision to make you grow as a coach. 
  • Develop an ongoing reflective practice and prepare mentally and physically for your sessions.
  • As much as you grow as a person and professional, you will improve your coaching presence. 
  • Be aware of your bias, judgment and experiences, and trust that your client is resourceful and whole and he will get to the best outcome. 
  • As a Coach, you need to take care of yourself first. A clear mind and a well-rested body will do wonders for you and your coaching presence.


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