What makes a good coach? – Introduction to Coaching Skills author Christian van Nieuwerbergh

What makes a good coach? – Introduction to Coaching Skills author Christian van Nieuwerbergh

by Suswati Basu
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A lot of amazing women have helped me along the way as I reflect this week on international women’s day which was on March 8. Despite this, I do suffer from a sense of imposter syndrome. So what makes a good coach and how do we manage this in a pandemic?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Christian van Nieuwerbergh, University of East London coaching and positive psychology professor and author of Introduction to Coaching Skills: A Practical Guide. Here is the full interview:

Jane Baker, High Tickets Sales Disruptor

Helen Cowan, founder of executive coaching company The Tall Wall

Am Golhar, Creative Business Media Strategist and mentor / coach

Gemma Nice, Easyoga founder, yoga instructor and relationship coach

Creative genius consultant, artist and author Mandy Nicholson

Life coach Shirley Walker from the Seasoned Coach

Fabienne Fredrickson, Boldheart founder

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Kim Morgan speaking on her own channel:

Michael Bungay Stanier on the Marshall Goldsmith Show:

Books looked at this week:

Christian van Nieuwerburgh: An Introduction to Coaching Skills: A Practical Guide

Kim Morgan: The Coach’s Survival Guide: An essential companion to anyone setting out as a professional coach

Michael Bungay Stanier: The Coaching Habit: say less, ask more & change the way you lead forever

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.


Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to episode 16 of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

I think I’ve been a mentor or a mentee in some capacity for most of my life. And a lot of amazing women have helped me along the way as I reflect this week on international women’s day which was on March 8. Despite this, I do suffer from a sense of imposter syndrome. So what makes a good coach and how do we manage this in a pandemic?

I asked a host of wonderful women how they manage as coaches here are just some of them here. Meet Jane Baker, High Tickets Sales Disruptor, Helen Cowan, founder of executive coaching company The Tall Wall, and
Am Golhar, a Creative Business Media Strategist and mentor/coach.


So for our first book, I actually came across this whilst doing a coaching course at the Open University and Christian van Nieuwerburgh literally wrote the textbook on coaching. An Introduction to Coaching Skills: A Practical Guide takes a practical approach through activities and thinking exercises. Christian was kind enough to speak with me this week. Here he is giving some key tips. And find the full interview on www.howtobe247.com.


Van Nieuwerburgh says coaching is a managed conversation between two people, aims to support sustainable change to behavioird or ways of thinking, and focuses on learning and development.

Some of the skills required include the ability to listen, ask questions, to summarise and to notice.

A coach differs somewhat from a mentor because a coach assists coaches in uncovering their knowledge and skills in order for them to become their own advisor whilst a mentor needs more expertise and is a more like a tutor.

In terms of listening, he says its an underrated skill. When used effectively, Van Nieuwerburgh adds that listening can make people feel valued, respected and resourceful. Staying silent is also a powerful skill.

He also recommends noticing what is happening and not happening, looking at signals from coachees and what may be going on with themselves. The better a coach is at noticing things, the more likely they are able to support significant or transformational change in their coachee.

Van Nieuwerburgh also describes three important facets of becoming a coach which are skillset, clear conversational framework, and a coaching way of being which we talk about in the interview. But generally effective coaches are humble, confident in their ability, believe in their coachee’s full potential, treat others with respect, have integrity, and demonstrate intercultural sensitivity.

Our second book comes from Kim Morgan, who wrote The Coach’s Survival Guide: An essential companion to anyone setting out as a professional coach. Managing Director of Barefoot Coaching and business coach, Morgan explores how to support newly qualified coaches or anyone wanting to move into the field.

Here she is on her own channel.


Morgan says sometimes it’s hard to know where the boundaries lie. However she says when it comes to self-disclosure, a good rule of thumb is to only share information for the benefit of your client, rather than for yourself.

So for example as a coach, you might say to a client that berates himself for getting anxious before public speaking that he shouldn’t be too hard on himself, and that you also get nervous when speaking publicly. Also it’s important to understand your client’s personal space, so don’t go in for a hug if its not expected or welcome.

It’s your job to show your clients that they’re in a safe environment, where they can express strong emotions without interference.

Thankfully Morgan also addresses the fact that a lot of new coaches suffer from imposter syndrome. This involves feeling like an unworthy imposter in one’s profession.

The phenomenon was first outlined by clinical psychologists in the 1970s to describe feelings that were prevalent in professional women. In recent decades, however, it’s been estimated that around 70 percent of women and men will experience imposter syndrome during their professional lives. Those suffering from it often put a huge amount of effort into their work to make up for their own sense of inadequacy. Ironically, this often results in greater success, which then leads to even stronger feelings of being a fraud. 

Morgan recommends asking yourself where these feelings are really coming from. If you’ve struggled with feelings of low self-worth throughout your life, then your imposter syndrome may have its roots in your childhood experiences. In this case, it’s worth seeking professional help, either from a therapist or your coaching supervisor. Alternatively, if your sense of incompetence is limited to your new career as a coach, then it might help to remember that these feelings are common for people in your position.

Just remember that it’s not simply your accreditation course that makes you a coach. In fact, any experience you gather in your area of expertise adds to your competence.

She also recommends building your career with real-world connections. Despite advances in technology, Morgan says there’s often no substitute for getting out into the real world and meeting potential clients. 

She suggests if you’re new to the coaching business, it’s a good idea to get involved with networking groups, set up meetings with individuals or businesses who may become your clients, or arrange to give presentations to audiences that might contain potential customers.

Although it’s quite normal to find the idea of ‘selling’ your coaching uncomfortable, this discomfort is something you’ll need to deal with if you’re to become successful. So when it comes to developing your coaching business, be persistent – and don’t be afraid of the offline world.

For coaches actually working in the field, setting up contracts with clients its essential if you want commitment as well as boundaries.

A strong work life balance is essential. One of the reasons people end up working so hard is because they derive all their self-esteem from their professional successes. This can become so extreme that they feel useless when they’re not at work. You can end up having a uncomfortable relationship with your client full of resentment if you do not maintain boundaries.

Canadian coach of the year award winner Michael Bungay Stanier is the third author, who wrote “The Coaching Habit: say less, ask more & change the way you lead forever”. The book breaks down the elements of coaching and explains how to coach effectively. Here he is on Marshall Goldsmith’s show.


Stanier says aim to coach your employees for ten minutes every day in an informal setting, rather than scheduling rigid weekly coaching sessions. Coaching should be a regular part of life; you should always be in “coaching” mode.
A coaching habit helps you guide your clients or employees toward self-sufficiency. It’s about development and not performance.

He says a lot of people “coach” by feigning interest and nodding meaningfully as a client talks. Such behavior isn’t productive for either side. To coach effectively, begin with the Kickstart question.

The Kickstart question is an essential tool in your coaching toolbox, and simply involves asking: “What’s on your mind?” Moreover, if you find yourself in a 20-minute discussion about the weekend with the client you’re looking to coach, asking the Kickstart question will get you back on track.

After you’ve listened carefully to what your they have to say, he says move to the AWE question: “And what else?”

The AWE question prevents a conversation from becoming stuck on a single topic when it’s clear there’s more the person wants to say, but perhaps can’t find a way. He says asking the AWE question is handy if you find yourself wanting to make a comment, too. He says it’s all about listening than speaking and offering advice.

He adds consider using the Focus question: “What’s the real challenge here for you?” When the coachee starts to lose their train of thought or if you’re having a hard time following, that’s a good time to pop the Focus question.

While a coachee might want to vent about problems with a certain project, for instance, it won’t solve anything. The Focus question helps you narrow down the problem so you can tackle it together. In short, it helps you determine which challenge you need to work on first.

Another question to ask is the Foundation question “What do you want?” to get to the heart of the matter. Apparently, scientists say that people are driven by nine major wants and needs: affection, creation, recreation, freedom, identity, understanding, participation, protection and subsistence. The Foundation question helps you figure out which of these wants or needs is motivating your coachee.

Another important technique is the Lazy technique where you ask “How can I help you?”
Asking this question helps you check if they are asking you for something or just wants to let off steam. It also clarifies the issue by pushing your client to get to the point.

It’s unwise to say “yes” to every single opportunity that comes your way. To ensure you give yourself time to think clearly, ask yourself the Strategic question: “If you’re saying ‘yes’ to this, what are you saying ‘no’ to?” Focus your decisions by identifying the projects, people or habits you’ll have to change or abandon if you take on a new task. Stanier says its important to make room for your clients to learn through reflection by asking “What was most useful for you?”

It’s okay to give space and silence to your client as well. It’s about listening.

And most importantly it’s a lifelong habit to learn.

In recent years, neuroscientists and behavioral economists have gained insight into how humans develop and maintain habits. There are five events that need to occur for a habit to form:

Cause, the reason you want to change current behaviour
Trigger, the moments that encourage you to offer advice.
Mini-habit, are the seven coaching questions addressed earlier
Training, is practicing them as often as possible.
And action plan, to fall back on when you slip up.

So to sum up:

Introduction to Coaching Skills recommends six things you can start to do to build up your skills which include listen to others, allow for choices, show an interest in others, provide helpful feedback, believe in others, and encourage others to identify meaningful goals.

The Coach Survival Guide says new coaches face many challenges, from imposter syndrome to burn out, but most of these can be overcome with the right attitude. From conflicts of interest to setting appropriate client boundaries, an approach that emphasizes clear expectations and self-care can help you succeed in your new career. She actually recommends getting fit because coaching is such a sedentary job!

The Coaching Habit says a good coach doesn’t just spout advice to a team. A good coach instead guides employees toward self-sufficiency in a positive, caring way. Use key coaching questions and truly listen to your employees to figure out what they need and want. Empower them daily so they can lead themselves. A recommendation is to create a coaching support group. Find other people who are looking to develop a coaching habit. Check in with each other often and share experiences and strategies.

For me, I think it’s that age old issue of self confidence that reinforces the imposter syndrome mentality. But I feel a little more relieved talking to others who feel the same way.

And to end this session here is another group of wonderful women. Meet Easyoga Founder and Yoga Instructor Gemma Nice, creative genius consultant, artist and author Mandy Nicholson, life coach Shirley Walker, and Boldheart founder and business growth coach Fabienne Fredrickson speaking on coaching. And if you enjoyed this please hit subscribe.

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