I often get asked about how to run a coaching session. To my mind this is a loaded question, it has a myriad of different answers because everyone is different. It is also important to remember as a Coach being flexible is the key.
Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
I have coached in sports and fitness and in businesses. I am a facilitator/trainer and have a private coaching business so here, with this experience in tow, I log just some of my notions for running a good coaching session that can transfer across all aspects of coaching.
Set the Expectations
Once agreement has been made for coaching set the expectations. Whether in sport, business, facilitation or private coaching the expectation of time keeping, non-attendance, prior payment (where appropriate) and other notable expectations are set from the very beginning, often before the person arrives at the session. As the Coach role model the expectation. If punctuality is important then ensure you are punctual. If mobile phones are not accepted be sure that yours is not available to you. One of the most powerful ways of coaching is to walk the talk and role model.
How do you communicate your expectations?
Have a Plan (of sorts)
Before I enter a coaching situation, I do have a plan. In employment I knew the purpose of the session and therefore I had a plan, often with more than one option penciled out. In sports and fitness my plan was to evaluate and enhance required skills and the level of the recipient, keeping the coaching as simple as possible, and adding practical application and have fun.
In my private practice my plan is to know what the client is coming to see me about, and some thoughts on how I may help them. I may make a few notes – not many – or plan a couple of opening questions.
One thing I have learnt is to keep my plans light and be prepared to discard them at any given moment. They will not bind me. Naturally, with experience the plans become lighter and lighter and intuition has become my friend. I still set a general plan for each session.
Set the Scene
The scene is really set right from the early communications and before the person arrives for coaching. You have already set the expectations and let the person know what they are to expect from the coaching.
Prior to the person arriving be organised. The scene is set by what is around you (relevant or irrelevant) and how you are as the Coach. If it is formal be sure to have the surrounding and your own appearance as formal, if it is informal then likewise set the scene professionally and less formally.
Let the person know what they will get from the coaching. Across all coaching, communicate clearly what the focus is of the session and the expected outcome?
When I am working with a client I always let them know that we are going to have a change of some sort today. I often set the scene by saying “what are we going to work on that will make a difference for you today.” By my linguistics I am telling them they will have a change – I am setting the scene.
What is the scene you want to set for your recipient and how will you set this simply for them?
No Nasty Surprises
I hate nasty surprises (nice ones are always welcome!!!) There should never be any nasty surprises in any coaching session. What might be a nasty surprise may vary in general rules though in can include, no last-minute increase in pricing, in employment coaching no changing purpose of meeting or surprise attendees. In Sports Coaching no sacking from the team in front of others.
It is all about being respectful, ethical and responsible.
Rapport, Rapport, Rapport
A lot can be done with good rapport. It aids the trust levels between coach and recipient, it opens the possibility to better and deeper coaching sessions. It makes a huge difference to your coaching. Take time to build rapport.
What do you do to create rapport? How do you notice if you are or are not in rapport?
Listen and Learn – WAIT versus Questions
Listening is an art. Adhere to the adage “two ears, one mouth – to be used in that ratio.”
Gathering useful information and not letting the person being coached go on for too long is an art. Listen to find what you want and interject when the conversation goes into too much detail or loses emphasis.
Ask questions to gather knowledge. Let the recipient know you are listening, confirm what you are hearing to them – then listen to the answer.
Watch the person while you are listening. People say a lot with their body language and facial expressions. Learn to observe well. I have a “watch, learn and evaluate” attitude when coaching. Notice what most people do not. Everything tells a story.
Someone on one of the courses gave me this acronym:
WAIT! Why Am I Talking
It is a good question to hold.
How well do you listen? Do you interject or finish sentences? Do you assume to know things? If so, is that really listening?
Keep it simple. The hypnotist Mesmer used to do a lot of elaborate hand movements when inducing hypnosis – he was quite the showman. Humility is a good asset for a Coach.
Keep your sessions simple, keep your techniques even more simple. Avoid the desire to do too much in one session. A less is more approach is a good one.
“Check In” Regularly
I always check in with the recipient during the coaching session and at the end.
Are they keeping up with what is going on? Do they understand? Do they have any questions?
How do they feel about what has occurred in the session? What is different for them now after having worked on the challenge? Do they have any questions?
It is useful to let the person it is ok to be a learner, to not know before we explore. Be a positive coach and acknowledge any big shifts
In order to enhance the changes made, activities should be set for the recipient to complete in between sessions. In a Performance Improvement Programme the Coach will set the expectations of what the employee is to do; in sport practice is often set. In personal or business coaching tasks are assigned to move toward the desired outcome.
Homeplay keeps the recipient engaged and accountable. It also can demonstrate the knowing of being supported by the Coach. It offers opportunity for habits and behaviours to change and for the recipient evidence to know they can change. This step is a key part and all great coaches do this.
Last point on the topic is this
Have fun! Life is always better for a laugh!
Christine Walter is passionate about coaching! She is a Master NLP Practitioner and NLP Trainer, Hypnotherapist, Life Coach and mBit Coach and Trainer. As well as personal coaching she offers training courses via through her own business Lodestone and contracts to other agencies. She is a Director of Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance.