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.


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