Coaching Tools 101: The 9 Coaching Exercises and Templates I Would Not Be Without

Happy Coach with Life Coaching Tools Exercises Laptop

I am often asked which Coaching Tools and Exercises I like best, use most, would recommend or would not be without. Below, I share the tools that I think are most universally useful for coaches and our clients, plus a little on how to use them! Enjoy.

First, if you're wondering what Coaching Exercises are, read our Complete Guide to Coaching Exercises & Tools >>

And we'd also love to hear from you which tools and exercises you use most - or find most useful - in your practices. So as you're reading this, if you think of any essential coaching tools you use, simply comment below!

Here are the 9 Coaching Exercises and Templates I would not be without:

  1. FREE: "The Wheel of Life" Coaching Exercise. Recently updated, I consider this to be the ultimate coaching tool. It's endlessly usable for different applications. Also see our article with 12 different ways you can use the Wheel of Life here. And of course our Complete Guide to the Wheel of Life for Coaches.
  2. "What Makes My Heart Sing?" This coaching exercise draws out the experiences where people are in flow or very present with themselves. Then you coach them to see how the experiences they've chosen are both easy to create and - usually - free! Great for helping people begin to understand what creates joy and happiness. Great for: life-coaching, spiritual workshops, one-on-one sessions and also for homework as part of values exploration. Ultimately this exercise helps our clients connect with what makes them truly happy and to see how easy it can be to create that.
  3. The "Big Rocks" Coaching Exercise uses a powerful metaphor of trying to fit rocks, pebbles and sand in a jar and how we tend to fill our lives with sand and pebbles first and leave no room for our "Big Rocks" . The story and concept comes first and then a jar with "Big Rocks" is used as a visual to help them prioritise their activities and cement the learning. You coach them around identifying, learning to prioritise and action the "Big Rocks" first, and then to put their metaphorical pebbles and sand in AFTERwards. Great for: Anyone who struggles with many priorities and tasks - especially moms! Also great for business, executive, career coaches and corporate workshops to help with procrastination, improving productivity and being more focused.
  4. "The Urgent Important Matrix". This coaching tool helps people become very AWARE of how they could waste less time - and be more productive. So like "Big Rocks" it's a great tool for business and corporate use. Great for: This coaching exercise is very versatile and helps absolutely everyone better understand how they currently spend their time - and to identify and eliminate their unique time-wasters. With the amount of television, internet and social media usage these days this tool couldn't be more relevant!
  5. "Spheres of Influence". This coaching tool reminds me of the serenity prayer - to focus on what we have control over and let go of the rest. There are 3 concentric circles representing what we have 1) control, 2) influence and 3) everything else. The client focuses on a current issue and fills out the circles . This coaching exercise helps with identifying where and where NOT to spend their time and energy - and decide which actions to focus on. Great for: Life! OK, so any situation where your client is worrying over things they have no control over. Also, corporate situations where there's a lot of change in the environment. This concept is a powerful take-home for workshops!
  6. The "Personal SWOT" Coaching Tool. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is an age-old business tool that has been adapted for personal use. Who wouldn't benefit from an inventory and understanding of their talents, skills and so-called 'weaknesses'? Great for: Fantastic coaching opportunities around the client's "opportunities" (goals) and "threats" (self-improvement and actions). AND this tool can also be used for confidence boosting - to help the client value themselves and spiritually to help them accept their weaknesses as part of the whole. I love this tool - while it's great for career, executive and business coaches, it's also great for life-coaching, self-confidence boosting and self-awareness generally.
  7. "Energy Zappers" or "Tolerations" Coaching Tool (Free). These are simple, powerful "list" tools that help clients identify literally what's zapping their energy or what they are tolerating. Coach them around eliminating these energy sucks and freeing up more energy for their goals and life. Great for: Anyone - because we all have things we are tolerating or that zap our energy. A fun group exercise in workshops where you'd like your client to free up more energy, this coaching tool is helpful for any type of coach with any type of client!
  8. "Life-Mapping Tool". This visual coaching tool gives a helicopter overview of significant events in a client's life. It specifically asks for events of importance to the CLIENT and not what others would think. And because it asks for what is significant for THEM (not just so-called achievements) it gives clues to values, meaningful goals, limiting beliefs and more! Great for: This is an awesome tool to start a coaching relationship with. It's more fun and powerful than interviewing a client or getting them to write out events - and the relative "peaks" and troughs give an instant overview for both client and coach to move forwards from together.
  9. "Detox Your Relationships". We ALL have difficult people in our lives - and when it comes to family and work colleagues we may have little choice about it. This coaching exercise helps our clients assess who energises and who drains them. They will also begin to think what they can do about it! Then you coach them to find more time for people that energise them, and less time or different strategies for those who drain them. Great for: Fabulous for individual coaching - whether in a career or broader life situation. Watch out: While it's excellent for a teleseminar, use with care in a workshop situation if people know each other. Workshop attendees may appear negatively on another attendees list and will someone feel they can be honest with a friend sat right next to them?

There you have it. The tools I think are most universal. But as mentioned, I'd love to hear from you which tools and exercises you use most - or find most useful - in your practices.

Please add in your favourite tools and exercises by commenting below!

If you liked this article about coaching forms, templates and tools, you may also like:

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, 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 >>


  1. Ivy Baker

    This is some really good information about leadership coaching. It is good to know that there are a lot of different templates. I liked that you talked about SWOT and how that can be a good model for your training.

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  3. Matt

    This is a really helpful list, thank you. What are your thoughts on Be/Do/Have? I'm having my client run through this right now.

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Matt, thank-you for taking the time to comment!

      So, Be/Do/Have is a broad principle/idea with many applications. You already know that it turns on it's head the idea that 'things' we have make us happy. Instead the idea is that we should be the best person/who we are, that will lead us to do the "right" things that lead us to have what we want (or perhaps what really matters?).

      It's a great idea to play with and share with clients! Warmly, Emma-Louise


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