Key to Developing Effective Coaching Skills


Key to Developing Effective Coaching Skills

By Nancy L. Zentis, Ph.D.

Several months ago, during a role-play activity in one of my Executive Coaching Certification Programs, I listened as one of the participants was coaching another participant.  It quickly became apparent that she was very skillful and deliberate in her coaching style.  Her style resonated with me, and brought to mind a technique borrowed from Carl Rogers and the field of psychology.  She confirmed, she had learned a technique called “Unconditional Positive Regard”.  This term is described as a non-directive, client-centered approach.  This approach involves showing complete support and acceptance of your client, regardless of what the client says or does.  Whether they are expressing “good” or “bad” behaviors or emotions, the coach accepts and supports the client without placing conditions on this acceptance.

The coach accepts what the client is expressing and allows the client to have his or her own feelings and experiences.  Rogers believed coaches can nurture a client’s growth by being accepting of their feelings and experiences by demonstrating unconditional positive regard.  He believed people have a need for both self-worth and positive regard from others.  How they think about themselves and how they value themselves plays a major role in their well-being.  People with a strong sense of self-are more confident and motivated to achieve their goals.

The opposite occurs when the coach demonstrates “conditionalpositive regard, where the coach’s approval depends on their expectations of the client’s expected actions to change their behavior.  As a result, the client may experience a loss of confidence and self-esteem.

Rogers believed that every person was born to develop in a positive and loving way.  Demonstrating positive unconditional regard plays a significant role in helping shape a person’s self-image.  As the coach, you have an opportunity to welcome, accept, and show understanding to help the client by creating the conditions needed for change.

Here are some steps to demonstrate Unconditional Positive Regard:

  1. Build a trusting relationship and a safe environment for the client to share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences.
  2. Eliminate judgment of the client, strive to understand their issues and challenges from their experience.
  3. Be patient, avoid telling. Put your own opinions, judgments, and experiences aside.
  4. Accept that the client has the ability to be resourceful, and possesses the knowledge, experience, and willingness to solve their own problems.
  5. Be focused on the client to help them succeed.
  6. Have an open mind, show respect, actively listen with empathy, and believe in the client.
  7. Refrain from giving advice, instead, ask questions that lead them to find their own answers.
  8. Provide frequent feedback to support and acknowledge the client’s successes; build on their strengths and potential.
  9. Guide the client to develop deeper self-awareness through inquiry and discovery and self-assessment.
  10. Encourage the client to be creative and innovative, to use critical thinking to solve problems, and creative decision making to develop sustainable solutions.

To become an effective coach, we must suspend judgment.  Avoid being the expert and telling clients what they should do.  Provide support, show appreciation of their experiences.  Through unconditional positive regard, coaches can help clients make their own choices, to find the path that’s right for them.

Author:  Nancy L. Zentis, Ph.D.

Dr. Nancy Zentis is the Chief Strategist and CEO of Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and Professional Development Skills for ongoing learning.  As a consultant in the field of OD for many years, she has developed Talent Management and Leadership Development Strategies for many leading organizations. She leads the Executive Coaching Certification Program.   She can be reached at  For more information about our certification programs and short courses, visit our website

IOD offers an Executive Coaching Certification Program online to help coaches advance their career and build their reputation as an effective coach. This program provides participants with the tools and skills needed to develop an integrated executive coaching strategy.

The Executive Coaching Certification Program (ECCP) is offered online over 8 months, 3 hours per month to maximize your development as an Executive Coach.  Each session is delivered through Go-to-training.  Our expert faculty provides interactive discussions, examples, tools, guidelines, and resources to enrich your learning.  For more information, visit our website:



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