Coaching Tools 101: 5 Coaching Tools for Authenticity (with examples)

Woman lying in grass outside with notebook pondering and using coaching tools for authenticity

In this article learn about the 5 best coaching tools for authenticity, plus why and how to use them and a real-life example for each authenticity exercise.

Have you noticed that people these days are tired and stressed—a lot of the time. Yes, it's our busy lives and multiple competing priorities and repsonsibilities. But we're also tired and stressed from keeping up a mask—who we think we should be, rather than who we are. It takes effort NOT to be ourselves!

But what does it mean to be authentic? And how can we help our clients be more authentic?

Authenticity is a sensitizing and blessed power. It comes with feeling at home with oneself, and therefore at home in the universe. It is the greatest power in the world the power to be ourselves. Ardis Whitman

If authenticity is about being yourself—and being true to yourself in your actions, we can help our clients be more authentic by exploring who they are so they can see their true self underneath the protective layers, shoulds and wishful thinking.

We can also help our clients be themselves by holding them accountable—asking questions that ensure they align their actions and choices with who they are.

Then as our clients gain confidence and trust in being who they are and increasingly express that in the world, they'll have more energy and confidence to handle life's challenges. And that becomes a virtuous circle: the more they express who they truly are in the world the more success they have, the more confidence they gain and they're happier too!

Here are 5 Coaching Tools & Exercises for Authenticity (with examples)

Please Note: Client names and details used in examples have been altered to ensure anonymity.

Who is it for? Any coaching client! When using with executives, you can swap out "Trevor the Troll" for a scary boss.

The Exercise: Through a fun process of elimination using bridges and a troll, your client identifies the 5 qualities they value most about themselves—what makes them UNIQUE. And it's often not what they expect. In fact it's likely they will choose one or two qualities that surprise even them!

Coaching Tools Example: As a result of this exercise, Jamie realised she had been concealing her "wackiness" (as she called it). She decided to embrace her wackiness and began wearing more colourful and interesting clothes to work and on dates. Whilst she said it was scary to reveal herself like this, she felt more vibrant and alive. A few months later she felt happier and more confident and believed her relationships with two of the quieter kids in her class (she was a teacher) improved enormously as a direct result. And while some of her dates were a bit surprised by her outfits, she realised that if someone couldn't accept her wacky clothes they probably wouldn't be able to accept her either.

How this exercise helps us be more authentic: Your client gets insight into which qualities they value most about themselves. When 'push comes to shove' what unique qualities will they NOT let go of? Then as coaches we can ask questions to help them embrace and express more of their uniqueness in the world.

For more on this Coaching Tool:

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Who is it for? Any coaching client!

The Exercise:

What we think makes us happy, is rarely what makes us truly happy. We envy our friend, colleague, neighbour as they go on a dream holiday, get a new car, snazzy watch or go to see the new experimental theatre in town—but what someone else does is not necessarily right for us! So what makes us truly happy?

This coaching tool draws out experiences where people are in flow or very present with themselves. Make a list of what makes your heart sing! This is unique to us—and it's also usually much easier and cheaper(!) than the things we think we should be doing.

Coaching Tools Example: Arlene, bored at work, has been pressured into going to an exercise class at the gym by colleagues to cheer her up. She hated it, but felt guilty—she should enjoy it! After this exercise she decided to go for a regular strenuous hike with a friend instead—what makes her heart sing is the outdoors, the challenge, companionship. After a few months she has gained a 'following' of people from work who join her for the weekly hike - and she is considering setting up as a trail guide!

How this coaching exercise helps us be more authentic: Your clients get unique and authentic ideas on what makes them truly happy, instead of what they think should make them happy. And the more they do these things, the happier they are. Then the more connected to their real selves they become, which spills over into making more authentic choices and life decisions.

For more on this Coaching Tool:

3) Reflections of You!

Two Businessmen Annoyed by Each Other for Reflections Coaching Tool

Turn Annoying People into a Learning Opportunity!

Who is it for? Any coaching client!

The Exercise: When your client next notices they're irritated or annoyed by someone, instead of focusing on the other person, they can use it as a learning opportunity and look within.

What does how they feel say about them? Next time someone irritates them they can ask (or you can ask them!) these 3 questions:

  1. What beliefs or values of mine are NOT being met or honoured?"
  2. Where am I taking this belief or value TOO seriously? Where am I being too rigid?
  3. What am I seeing in the other that I might be afraid of, or repressing within, myself?

Coaching Tools Example: Derek would see someone being rude and it really bothered him. Through looking within he learned that 1) He believed politeness helps the world be more harmonious, and compassion was a key value for him. But 2) Often he was over-polite, rather than standing up for himself and what he believed. And 3) He recognized he was capable of unreasonable and rude thoughts, but he would never say them out loud! It therefore annoys him when someone else doesn't make the effort to do the same. Interestingly he realised that when he got annoyed with someone for being impolite or rude, he  disconnected from his own value of compassion (for the person being rude!).

How this coaching exercise helps us be more authentic: The self-knowledge we gain from introspection like this allows us to grow. We identify important values and beliefs, recognize and process our own difficult feelings—instead of blaming others—and see when we have cut off from ourselves. This allows us to be a whole, flawed—and therefore authentic person, rather than only being how we think we should be. And this awareness also allows us to choose to act differently next time.

For more reflective exercise ideas see References and Resources below 1

Who is it for? Any coaching client!

The Exercise: Our values influence what we do, how we think and how we feel about the world around us. When we do or see things that go against our values we feel sad, bad or get mad! And when we live life in a way that aligns with our values we feel good - we're authentic, fulfilled and happy!

Find out what matters most to your clients! Brainstorm, then narrow down to their Top 10 values before prioritising them. The biggest learning actually comes from the prioritisation - where our clients might realise that happiness or love is ultimately more important than almost anything else...

Coaching Tools Example: Doug felt stuck in his relationship and career. His top 3 values turned out to be Freedom, Love and Honesty. This helped him see that although he felt trapped, he had been self-sacrificing and not being honest with his partner or boss - or himself! After a few months of actively practicing truth-telling in support of his (current top) value of freedom, he felt reinvigorated in his relationship (although there was still a way to go!). He was also now in line for a sideways move at work into something more fulfilling.

How this coaching exercise helps us be more authentic: This is pretty straightforward: Once we know our values we can consciously make choices and take action that align with who we truly are - and what matters most to us. Probably the most essential tool for developing authenticity!

For more on this Coaching Tool:

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  • Sample Values Example List

    Sample Values List

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    This free coaching tool with 89 sample values helps people put their values into words—with value examples. Help your clients get clear on what matters most. (1 pages)

    Also Available In: Coaching Welcome Packet

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    • Brandable

5) Intuition, Gut-Feelings, Inner Wisdom

Woman using coaching tool of intuition with colourful cogs in brain shape above head

Who is it for? Any coaching client!

Whatever you call it, listening to and following our intuition is a key tool to help us be more authentic. I believe intuition is

  1. A combination of all our experience, knowledge and what we sense—that hasn't yet coalesced into a tangible thought and/or
  2. When we know the answer but it's inconvenient/difficult/embarrassing/awkward and not what we want to see/hear/feel—so we block ourselves from seeing the truth!

The Coaching Exercise: Ask your clients to practice paying attention to bodily sensations and/or to be silent for a few moments while they look within and allow answers to arise. It can be as simple as asking, "What do I REALLY think and feel about this?" If your client needs help to draw out the messages from within - asking questions around the 5 senses or what they feel in their bodies and then chunk down into the detail of what their senses are trying to convey to them.

Coaching Tools Example: Raff was torn. He couldn't decide whether to move to Iowa for a new job or not. It was a big decision with multiple factors - an ex-wife, a new girlfriend, nephews, aging parents, a pay increase if he stayed, and big "what ifs?". We practiced looking within (listening to intuition) on small things - what to have for dinner, where to go on the weekend, which route to take for work. Gradually as he learned to listen to small signs and paid attention to his body and gut-feelings, he came to a decision - and it felt right. Years later he is very happy and successfully settled in Iowa! There had been some pretty tumultuous ups and downs after moving, but at each stage he looked within as he had learned to do, before deciding what to do next.

How this coaching tool helps us be more authentic: If we have hidden who we are, or blocked our authentic needs and common sense beneath fears and layers of shoulds—our intuition provides a path home to our true self. Our bodies find a way of sending us a signal when we need to pay attention—we just need to notice and act!

For more detailed neuroscience on Intuition and Cognition, see the References below 2

Want to Help Your Clients Connect with their Authentic Self?

Get "Troll Travels: Who am I?", "What Makes My Heart Sing?" and the "Personal Values identification Workbook" in the Self-Discovery Toolkit below.

Coaching Tools for Authenticity Wrap-up

An authentic person is happier and has more energy to plough into life. And because authentic people feel relaxed and at home in themselves they tend to be more likeable - and successful too!

Help your clients deeply answer questions like, "Who am I?", "What matters most to me?", "When am I not myself?", "What makes me happy?", "What do I really think?" and "How can I be more me?" Your clients will grow,  feel more fulfilled - and rave about you and your coaching!

And there you have it.

These are the coaching activities and tools that I think are most universal, that I would not be without—and they're all fun too!

And I'd love to hear from you which coaching activities, tools and exercises you use most—or find most useful—in your coaching practice.

Tell us your favourite coaching activities in the comments below!

If you liked this article about coaching tools for authenticity, you may also like:

If you're curious about Coaching Tools and how they help read our Complete Guide to Coaching Tools here >>


  1. For more self-reflection exercises check out these tools from the Papyrus Project
  2. For some detailed neuroscience on intuition, read this Psychological Bulletin Intuition: A Social Cognitive Neuroscience Approach Copyright 2000 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 2000, Vol. 126, No. 1, 109-137
Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Woman lying in grass outside with notebook pondering and using coaching tools for authenticity by Vanatchanan via Shutterstock

Image of Two Businessmen annoyed with each other for Self-Reflection Coaching Tool by Dragon Images via Shutterstock

Image of Woman with cogs above head in shape of brain for intuition as a coaching tool by StunningArt via Shutterstock


  1. Lalitha Brahma

    Excellent article. In fact I took extra time to read it aloud and listen to myself. It makes so much sense. Thank you so much!

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Monique! First, thank-you for taking the time to comment. And so glad you liked the article 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise

  2. Kristina Karlsson

    I was just setting up a workshop -Dare to be you- when this came up in the email Love synchronicities .. and this was inspiring me even more, Thank you for this!


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