Evidence-based Coaching Tools

If you conduct a google search, you will find that there is no shortage of coaching tools, but there is a lack of clarity on how and when to use specific tools and little research to shed light on this process.

A growing body of coaching research considers the specific tools or interventions that coaches use as they work with clients—most tools originate in a cross-section of disciplines including psychology, business, and education.

As you look for tools to use in coaching practice, keep in mind that many will fall into one of the following broad categories:

  • Mindfulness training involves increasing attention, awareness, and acceptance of thoughts and emotions, which increases adaptation to stressors. (Robins et al. 2014)
  • Feedback interventions defined as “actions taken by an external agent to provide information regarding some aspect of one’s task performance with the implicit goal of improving performance (Kluger and Dinesi 1996)
  • Goal setting involving specific, difficult (but achievable) goals to which an individual is willing to commit are motivating and likely to lead to higher levels of performance (Grant 2006).
  • Gratitude diary or letters where the client writes a letter of gratitude to others or keeps a gratitude diary noting what they are grateful for each day (Seligman et al. 2005)
  • Strengths exercise where clients take the VIA strengths survey and then identify new ways to use their strengths https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register (Seligman et al. 2005)  Other positive psychology-based interventions: https://www.instituteofcoaching.org/resources/positive-psychology-coaching-interventions
  • Behavior Modification builds on goal setting to develop action plans for behavior change. https://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/articles/coaching-for-behavioral-change-2/
  • Learning or skill-development interventions focus on the development of new skills to help the client change or improve behavior or performance.

Tools that are appropriate in life coaching may not be appropriate in career, business, or leadership coaching. It would be difficult to imagine a CEO making a vision board or a college student conducting 360 Feedback.As you consider coaching tools, consider the needs of your client, the setting, and the specific goal your client hopes to attain. Choosing a tool because you like it or because you believe in it is not an effective decision if it isn’t appropriate for your client or the goal or objective of coaching.



Grant, A. M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching

psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1, 12–22.

Kluger, A., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a

meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 254–284.

Robins, J. L., Kiken, L., Holt, M., & McCain, N. L. (2014). Mindfulness: an effective coaching tool for improving physical and mental health. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 26(9), 511–518. https://doi.org/10.1002/2327-6924.12086

Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.



  • Have fun with my last class. Thank you.

  • In my experience, Goal setting has been very beneficial when working towards a task. There is a great sense of achievement when working towards a goal and finally obtaining that goal.

  • I think that Mindfulness is not addressed enough in regards to coaching or training. Being able to meet people where they are is the only way to coach them forward. Thank you for this!

  • Ginger Ulloa-Enright

    I like the mindfulness component of coaching. I think this can be used in all areas of coaching; especially now with our current situation and an increase in stressors/anxiety. Teaching people the tools necessary to be aware of their thoughts and emotions equips them with how to decrease stress and increase attention/retention.

  • I appreciate the psychology-based interventions. I believe that even a basic understanding of psychology can be beneficial as it can effect any field of work especially in human improvement.

  • This is a great article! It identifies differentiators amongst coaching tools. The resources offered are essential for all levels of management. It also helps build upon ones’ leadership style.

  • Coaching comes with so many moving parts! I was very surprised that the gratitude letter could be used as a tool to support your client. It is a great way to recognize all the people that have helped you during your coaching journey. These letters could be very therapeutic in nature; which could be another reason why it works. I plan to use this method to see how it can affect the feelings and emotions of the coachee throughout the coaching process.

  • I enjoyed this blog and when I read the first line about few will tell you when to use them I thought to myself OMG I thought it was only me that felt that way. I guess it is all about determining the best tool for your clients needs. It is often said that some coaches have specific tools that they normally use overall. I guess there are a number of them that you can tweak to work for any situation.

  • This is a really great article to get us started in thinking about the variety of tools out there. I also came across https://positivepsychology.com/life-coaching-tools/

  • Natasha Thomas

    I really appreciate this review of tools and how to use them based on the categories they fit into. Specifically I’d like to learn more about behavior modification tools and its’ most effective when combined with appropriate goal setting.

  • Thank you for this article! Your observation that our favorite/preferred or most practiced skills do not mean they are the right fit for all clients.

    The numerous coaching types and tools available make it all the more important we set clear expectations, boundaries and commitments before entering a coaching relationship with clients. Just as Marshal Goldsmith outlines in his practice, there need to be non-starters for taking a client, some clients will need support that we are not prepared to offer and it is critical we redirect them so our time and their is not misused, especially if the payment model is based on results and not time spent.

    Deciding what the rules, process, accountability and maintenance of the coaching program look like are a great start to set you and your client up for a productive partnership.

  • Jordan Feinberg

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning this perspective when considering coaching. My first company actually trained us on the importance of emotional intelligence and correlated that with being an objective to the organization! I still use these tools to this day. I also enjoyed that they included personal life coaching as well as professional life coaching at my last organization as this article mentions there are appropriate settings for each. My past Director is still to this day a huge mentor of mine both professionally and personally. Thank you for posting this article!

  • These are great insights to have when considering coaching. Different situations, companies, and experiences of employees and leaders differ, so it is important to have mindfulness when considering what tools to use and the overall approach to use in coaching the client. Having an open mind and emotional intelligence are also important for obtaining mindfulness. The article mentioned the importance of different situational factors one should consider when coaching a leader or employee in the professional setting. The last sentence really resonated to ensure the tool chosen to use is not based upon personal liking, but rather to ensure the tool chosen fits the objectives of the organization or client of service. Adaptation is vital! Thank you for posting this article!

    Michelle M.

    • Coaching is on item that managers need the most strength, in my current role in management I take pride in ensuring my team makes goals that they set for themselves to help them understand what it takes to be superior in whatever you do.

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