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.



  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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!

  • 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.

  • Have fun with my last class. Thank you.

  • The education plans of the Knovva Academy revolve deeply around shaping minds through Immersive Learning.

  • These seven tools are very interesting in how they can help one another for anyone to obtain a better potential. As a professional or any skill, they would want to improve.

  • I agree there needs to be consideration when it comes to coaching in knowing the needs of the client and the specific goals the client hopes to attain. There are many different types of coaches and trainers out there and we want to ensure we are getting what we want and need.
    I like the 7 categories that are mentioned. To me some of these categories stand out more than others to me. All 7 of these are very good categories when it comes to training and development.

  • Really enjoyed reading this article and found it extremely helpful. I’ve always thought goal setting, feedback, and strengths to be very important. As a coach/ administrator you want to be able to connect with your staff and team members. Using these techniques can make team bonding and team communication a lot easier.

  • Alexandra Tuti Edwards

    This makes total sense and it is important to use coaching tools appropriately. This article briefly explained coaching tools and I found this article to be helpful. To be a great manager, you must know your team’s strengths and areas of opportunities.

  • This was a good read. I’ve always believed that setting goals and providing feedback is important for growth. As a manager we should be able to communicate with staff what’s expected from both sides. Using the tools in the article can make team morale and communication better.

  • I enjoyed reading this article. It makes sense that the tools for executive or career coaching are not going to be the same for life coaching.

  • Such a good point that not every tool applies to all types of situations. I would have thought that goal setting might be one with a wide range of applications but the more I think and having read this piece, I see the distinction now and how important it is to ensure the tool is aligned with the client and the goals.

  • Great point made here about not all tools being useful depending on the situation. It can be difficult at times to to move away from a tool that we are comfortable with, but it is important to be confident and have an understanding about when certain tools are and are not useful.

  • I really appreciated this article and shared it with our training manager.

  • Mindfulness is an essential element of my success. I try to work in meditation to my daily routine so that I can stay present and not get overwhelmed by everything around me.

  • I loved this article and what stood out most to me about it was when the article mentioned not all coaching tools may be effective depending on the situation and also life coaching tools will be different from business coaching tools. This is something that will definitely help in choosing what is most effective in a situation.

  • I think learning and Development is extremely important. I read an article that mentioned 87% of millennials say learning and development in the workplace is important while 59% of millennials say having opportunities to learn and grow is extremely important when deciding whether to apply for a job. I will always keep this in mind!

  • Priscila Membreno

    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.

    So, I would kind of have to disagree with this statement (please feel free to respond if you dont agree with me!). Yes, not EVERY tool may be appropriate in business,career, leadership coaching, however, I feel like most of them would be. Any tools that fall into the categories of: Mindfulness, Feedback, Goal setting, gratitude, strengths, behavior modification, learning or skill development, I think can help anyone be better rather its for work or just for yourself. Yes, its not typical that a CEO would be making vision boards, but hey, maybe thats what he/she did to get to that level. Vision board REALLY helps out certain people and can totally be possible. A college student may not be conducting 360 feedback but theres nothing wrong with them trying to. They are in college working towards a degree to get into a certain feild. Almost all careers have some sort of feedback system so this wouldn’t be a bad thing that a college student is learning how to do so. As I mentioned, I think all those tools can really help you as a person, even if its not for a particular job setting. Everyone, regardless of what job they have, should practice mindfulness, goal setting (rather thats achieving a job title or just doing well in a sport), strength, behavior modification, learning or skill development.
    This article speaks about these topics in only a business setting but I believe it can most definitely be applied in almost al settings.
    What do you guys think?

  • I tend to agree that tools are needed and necessary regardless of the type of coaching that will take place.

  • Good article! I laughed when it said “CEO making a vision board”. I get that it may not be the most effective tool but I think it would open up their minds for creative thinking. I think it is a good activity to get you thinking about priorities and goals. Digital boards are popular now and I think it might work in this situation.

  • I enjoyed this specific article because sometimes organizations throw information at you and expect you to figure out how to apply it and use it in your daily work life. Without teaching how to apply coaching skills and what skills are needed for which situations, it is pointless to require others to coach effectively. Yes, allowing employees the independence and flexibility to interpret information is important, but if the individual has no information on how and when to apply each coaching tool, it is ineffective to all parties involved. No one benefits from coaching tools they don’t know how to use.

  • Bernadette McGinester

    Some jobs just throw you in a seat and expect you to figure out. deciding what coaching tools might be beneficial to your success is important to help you progress. While some of the coaching tools might not work for every industry a couple seem to be helpful for me. Mindfulness is useful in my my field of housing because the job can be stressful and by being able to deal with them and work through your feelings you are able to not breakdown or lash out at anyone. Goal Setting plays a part in my daily routine because there are always projects and deadlines to meet. by setting goals for each set in the project it allows you to complete the task efficiently.

  • Coaching tools are very necessary but like any type of thoughtful instructional design the tool has to fit the situation and be appropriate. The most important aspect about coaching though isn’t the tool, its’ whether or not the people using it believe in it. I have seen the most uptake of coaching tools when they are “home grown” by the very people who will use them.

  • In order to give the best instruction, we need to use coaching tools of all kinds, but like any other instructional design tool, they should be appropriate to the situation.

  • This article was very insightful because, as stated in the post, every coaching tool or method will not apply to every situation or issue. Depending on the case, we must choose the appropriate and ideal approach to help resolve the problem. I agree with some of the comments stating how jobs expect you to figure out the best methods or resolutions when knowing they put you in a new environment without any guidance or proper training. I am fortunate that my employer consistently practices mindfulness daily because our leadership understands our job is stressful and can be demanding. By being consistently mindful, we are increasing our ability to adapt to stressors, reduce our anxiety, and overall decrease our stress level.

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