The Most Common Things Clients Want From Their Coaches

Understanding the Value of Your Coaching from your Clients Perspective

When people look for coaching services there are a multitude of reasons that motivate them. It is difficult to quantify how and why clients seek out the aid of a coach. Due to the wide breadth of areas that coaching can take root, the aspects that both prospects and clients want from coaching vary wildly. Prospects have very different reasons from clients on why they seek coaching. The qualities they look for in a coach also change depending on their desired results.


In April of 2009 the International Coach Federation published a study titled “ICF Global Coaching Client Study” in which key questions were answered using data from a range of participants. Forty-one clients participated in five focus groups in order to measure their opinions in regards to coaching. The data accumulated from an online survey was also used where 2,165 clients participated. The survey focused on answering questions about the characteristics, desires, and demographic of clients as well as their evaluation of coaching from experience.


In ascertaining the most common things prospects and clients want from coaches, there are two main categories that influenced the clients from this study. These were: seeking coaching services, and the importance of coach attributes.




The study ascertained the top 3 factors that influenced clients to seek coaching as well as which factors were seen as the most important overall. They chose from a selection of 15 areas commonly addressed in coaching. This data was then quantified and compared through the percentage of responses.


When selecting the top three reasons the clients sought coaching the most important categories were as follows:


  1. Self-Esteem/Self-Confidence (41%)
  2. Work/Life Balance (36%)
  3. Career Opportunities (28%)
  4. Business Management (25%)
  5. Relationships (25%)


The categories which were deemed as most important were:


  1. Career Opportunities (15%)
  2. Business Management (14%)
  3. Self-Esteem/Self-Confidence (13%)
  4. Work/Life Balance (10%)
  5. Work Performance (8%)


The study expounds on why clients sought professional coaching over methods such as therapy and counseling.


“A key differentiator for the industry is that coaching is seen as an ‘action plan’ rather than an exploratory process… some focus group participants indicated that coaching offered them an ‘action plan’ rather than an opportunity to explore their ‘issues.’” (authors, pp. iii).


Motivation based mainly in the areas of personal growth and career are prevalent in both above lists. Clients seek out coaching in order to create a plan and execute actions in order to attain results.




Reasoning behind the selection process of a coach was also examined in the study. The clients were asked to rate the importance of 24 attributes when selecting a suitable coach candidate.


Data concerning the information sources used for this process revealed that:


“By far, the top information source used by almost half (46%) of clients in general is personal referral/word of mouth. The next closest source is the coach’s Web site which was used by only 20% of clients. When asked to indicate which information source was the most influential, personal referral/word of mouth was again the most often cited at 38% of respondents.” (author, pp. V).


The most important coach attributes taken into consideration during the selections process were:


  1. Personal Rapport (83%)
  2. Personal Compatibility (80%)
  3. Effectiveness of Coaching Process (78%)
  4. Coach’s Confidence (74%)
  5. Level of Coach-Specific Training (56%)


The highest rated categories for somewhat important attributes are:


  1. Years as a Coach (50%)
  2. Cost of Coaching (50%)
  3. Other Relevant Experience/Background (45%)
  4. Sense of Humor (42%)
  5. Level of Formal Education/Schooling (41%)


The majority of attributes considered as “very important” were in the personal category of the coach. Somewhat important attributes ranged through all five categories, centered more on the background, experience and method of the coach.


Clients seek coaching in order to create real changes and attain results in their personal and professional lives. They coaches they chose where people who they deemed as having high personal efficacy and expertise. Prospects and clients alike seek these attributes the most in a coach. They value personal referrals more due to the intimate nature of coaching.





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