The Most Constructive Client Feedback 15 Coaches Have Received

Expert Panel® Forbes Councils Member

Although it’s the coach’s job to provide guidance to their clients during coaching engagements, the relationship between a coach and a client can be mutually beneficial in that regard. Clients often provide important pieces of constructive feedback to their coaches, which help the coach grow and evolve as well.

Here, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the most impactful feedback they have received from their clients and how it impacted their practice and methods.

Featured members share the most constructive client feedback they've received.
Forbes Coaches Council members share the most constructive client feedback they’ve received.

1. Leave More Space For Discovery Between Questions

Early in my coaching career, I had a client tell me that my questions put them in an uncomfortable but necessary state of reflection, but that by pressing on to the next question, I robbed them of valuable discovery. Since hearing that observation, I have learned to sit with the silence until my client invites me to move forward. I continue to be amazed at the tangible value found in those moments. – Jakob Franzen, The Modern Coaching Company

2. Recommend The Simplest Next Steps

My client wanted me to recommend the simplest, most direct possible action when they asked for suggestions on what to do next. In contrast, I usually have so many options, I want someone to see them and then choose for themselves. The unintended impact was that I overwhelmed my client and contributed to their inaction. When I keep to this simpler approach, we end up in a productive discussion, and they come up with the best answer for them. – Kathryn Gorges, Inspired Success

3. Charge More For Your Services

I was coaching a client with an MBA, a leader in their field and an expert in process improvement with very high professional standards. When I finally worked up the nerve to ask for feedback, he responded, “Everything was great; you should be charging more for your services.” This is not what I was expecting, but a great example of the value of asking for feedback and not assuming the worst. – Lori Wilson-Hudson, Energy Wellness Coaching

4. Know That Your Style Won’t Suit Everyone

I once had a client tell me they wanted a coach who was more “spiritual and less direct.” This conversation reminded me that my blunt, pragmatic communication style is not appropriate for all audiences. I now do a much better job of articulating expectations during client screening to make sure I am a suitable match for the client’s needs and personality. – Thomas Frank, Ascend Coaching and Training

5. Listen Without Interrupting Clients

Any coach will tell you that great listening skills are key in coaching. And this is something I realized very early on in my coaching career. After one particular coaching session, a client remarked that earlier in the session I had interrupted him, which he had found quite jarring. Taking this on board and keeping my internal chatter at bay by noticing it was key to improving my listening skills. – Dr. Rakish Rana, The Clear Coach

6. Help Clients Learn To Self-Assess Their Progress

“Am I a green belt, blue belt or what?” one of my first coaching clients asked. He wanted an understanding of how far he was on the leadership journey. Guideposts or metrics that measure actual levels of competency can be hard to get. The desire of clients to know where they stand and to have a system for self-assessment influenced me to orient my practice toward self-directed development, fueled by an inner drive to do good and be good. – Jessica Hartung, Treelight Leadership

7. Drive More Strategic Action Instead Of Caretaking

“Thank you for holding the umbrella to keep us safe, but don’t be afraid to let your own light out—we need that power too.” A member of a team once said this to me. In creating a safe place for them to learn and take risks, I became more of a caretaker versus a coach. These words stick in my mind now when I work with teams, and, when needed, I drive more strategic direction and action. – Susan Murray, Clearpath Leadership

8. Dial Up Challenges Early On And See How They Land

Sometimes, it is hard to establish how much constructive challenge a client can benefit from in the early stages of a new coaching relationship. The best advice I received from a client is to dial up the challenge early on and see how it lands. Then, co-create an agreement on how challenging from a place of not knowing can help new ways of being emerge. – Andrew Tallents, The Tallents Partnership Limited

9. Create More Accountability And Structure

I once had a client tell me that they wanted more accountability and structure in our sessions. One of the beautiful things about coaching is that you don’t know where it will lead you, but sometimes it’s important to lay out clear goals and action items. Coaching uses a relationship model, and designing an alliance with your client means that both of you know what your responsibilities are. – Josephine Kant, Google for Startups

10. Deliver More Comprehensive Proposals

A client recently told me that my proposal was too “scanty.” My ego was hurt, but then I remembered that there are no failures, only feedback. Then, I asked the client if we could jump on a call so I could further explain myself. The client agreed, and I closed on the seven-figure coaching job. It is not what happens that matters, but how we respond. – Paul Foh,

11. Make The Distinction Between ‘Dots’ And Patterns

A CEO client suggested that the most powerful part of the coaching relationship is making the distinction between a particular “dot” and a pattern. This means being able to zoom out, add context and evaluate matters longitudinally. For this CEO—and for many leaders—the deluge of “dots” makes it difficult to objectively address the underlying patterns and change the trajectory towards the goals. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

12. Base Program Material On The Resources Clients Need

The most constructive information I’ve received from coaching clients over the years includes the type of resources and support they’d like to receive from me. Much of my coaching program material was built following feedback from clients so that it could serve future coaching clients with similar needs. – Luke Feldmeier, Online Leadership Training – Career and Leadership Accelerator for Engineers

13. Allow Clients To Create Their Own Stretch Goals

One piece of feedback from a coaching client that has impacted me is that I hold back challenging them to stretch even more. This may happen when the coach’s mind unintentionally sets “limits” based on what the coach deems realistic or achievable instead of letting the client exercise full autonomy in creating the “action plan.” The important thing is not to prejudge what is possible but allow the client to choose the path. – Thomas Lim, Singapore Public Service, SportSG

14. Use Your Own Insights To Facilitate Masterminds

At the start of my coaching career, one of the ways that I got clients was by leading masterminds around books. We would read, then gather to discuss the book on a Zoom call. After my first-ever mastermind call, a client called me and told me that if she wanted to just read the book, she wouldn’t have joined the mastermind. This feedback helped me to bring more of my own insights into these calls. – Othman Abdulrasheed, Business Leadership Consulting

15. Don’t Be So Direct As To Come Across As Harsh

The feedback that has had the most impact on me came from a client who told me that I was very direct and sometimes came across as harsh. This feedback made me realize that I needed to work on my communication style with clients, and it has helped me to become a more effective coach. – Peter Boolkah, The Transition Guy