8 Simple Steps To An Awesome Coaching Session
By Christine Walter, Lodestone
One of the most common questions I get asked from new coaches is
“How do I structure a coaching session?“
In this article I extend some ideas and thoughts for you.
Before we start though, consider some of Eisenhower’s wisdom first, “Planning is everything, plans are nothing”. I offer this as my starter because it is very easy to become too fixed to a plan if you have spent time creating it, even though it might not be right for the time.
1. Prepare Yourself First
How are you as a Coach before your client arrives?
What have you done to prepare the environment?
How have you prepared yourself?
For any coaching session it is important that you turn up first. Your client will be taking the lead from you. Everything you do is energy that, without even knowing it, you and your client are calibrating on. So, get yourself in the right frame of mind first. Believe in yourself, BE the Coach. Believe in your client! Believe change will occur and let that energy fill your session. Anything to the contrary is doubt and will get in the way.
To prepare for a session, I like to shut everything down several minutes before my client is due to arrive. I review any notes or any information I have asked them to provide. As much as possible, my thoughts and my energy are with them before they arrive.
2. How To Begin A Session
What session is it with your client?
People are often nervous on their first session. Perhaps they do not know what to expect. They often have all the stories and fears they believe in life, such as “will this person judge me if I open up?”, “will this person understand me?”, “what if I can’t change?”. Think of a time when you went to a course and did not know anyone, or perhaps were starting a new job. What were you thinking?
Spend some time at the beginning of the session to build rapport. This will probably take more time on your first session than subsequent ones.
Stephen Covey once said,
“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
Take time to build rapport.
How will you know when they are comfortable enough to begin the session?
What are you noticing that means they are relaxing more?
3. Have Some Standard Openers
Linguistics make a difference! As a Coach you should always have the power of the unconscious mind in mind, at the beginning and throughout the session.
After I have got rapport, I start by setting the intention.
I use a linguistic presupposition “So, what are we going to work on today that will make a difference?”, and I put my tone down. I am not asking a question; I am stating a fact. In this supposed question I have made some presuppositions (assumptions):
- We are going to work on something
- What you choose will make a difference
If it is a subsequent session, I like to start with “so, tell me what is different now for you since our last session.” – and tone down. This is quite a different question to “Has anything changed?” because again, there is a linguistic presupposition. There is an assumption that something has changed and by asking in this manner, the client completes a trans derivational search to answer the question.
What are some openers you can use to open the coaching part of your session?
4. What Is the Purpose of the Coaching Session?
This is important to understand because it directs your session. A session on Goal Setting is quite different to one that is addressing a significant emotional event of the past. Is it an exploratory session, discovering what the significant blocks are? Is it one where the challenge has already been identified and now is the time for working through the blocks?
Each session will have a different sort of outcome.
The First Session
Generally, a client will come with an idea of what they want to work on. The first session for me, is to understand what the client wants to achieve and what has prevented them from achieving it to this point. I listen for resources that can be mapped across to achieving this outcome. I listen for limiting beliefs that are holding them back.
I am also listening to understand if the problem is the true problem! Often the challenge the client perceives to be holding them back is a symptom of the true challenge. Take lack of confidence for example. A lack of confidence is often a symptom of something else – fear of judgement perhaps.
I am also listening for something that I can get a good response from in this session. People want convincers so I look for “the low hanging fruit” that I can offer to begin transformation. This is often a simple technique such as an anchor, a reframe of a belief, or helping to change the effect of a thought. Consider this:
What does your client need to let them know that they can change?
A Subsequent Session
First, as I have said, I reflect on the past session/s. By getting a client to reflect on how they are being different now is an unconscious convincer, a reminder that change is occurring.
I may have an idea of something to work on in this session, based on the notes of previous sessions. This is my plan B because all sessions are directed by my clients, so I always ask them what they would like to address this time. If they do not know I offer one or two that I have thought of followed by “is this something you would like to address?’ The client always has the choice.
Occasionally, I have set the next session with the client in these previous sessions. This is usually done when there is a significant emotional event of the past that is clearly interfering and requires addressing. These past events can often be intimidating and sometimes may take a reasonable amount of time to address so I set the intention the week before. It allows the unconscious mind time to adopt and adapt to the idea.
Truly listen to what your client is saying. Genuinely be there for them. Put anything you have going on in your life to one side. If you cannot, then do not do the session.
Silence your mind. Listen with the pure intent of gathering information. Self-talk, daydreaming or drifting off is not appropriate. Remain focussed.
If you are a note taker remember that over 50% of communication is via physiology. Find a way to make notes and watch your client. Personally, I say “you have given me a great amount of good information there. Just give me a moment to capture the key points before we continue.” This validates what they are saying and stops them from talking while I write down the key points. And, do keep it to the key points.
Ask questions if you do not understand something.
6. Be Prepared To Change
This is some Coaches’ biggest challenge. Your client will often have validated or reasoned their way of being. They may be holding beliefs that are little more than an excuse. If a coach does not challenge this then change will take longer to occur, if it occurs at all. “Not enough time” is an excuse. As a Coach, do not accept this – it is merely saying that the driver has not yet been found or the outcome is not important enough yet.
Be prepared to challenge people’s beliefs and “stories”. You are not coaching otherwise.
7. Keep On Track
It is very easy to get involved in the detail of your client’s story. Your client has rehearsed it so many times they are very good at telling it.
Be very aware of the difference between content and context. As the Coach you want to know when the problem becomes a problem i.e. in what context. The rest becomes content and will get in the way.
8. Set Tasks
Change requires repetition. Set tasking for the client to do in between sessions. I personally do not prescribe; the client and I agree on the tasking. Your client’s buy in is key to them completing the tasking.
Make sure the tasking is appropriate to the outcome and works within the time frames of your client. There is little point setting 45 minutes of daily tasking if they only have a perceived 15 minutes to commit to it.
Set a time and day for the client to update you if you are not meeting again. Accountability is important.
Putting It Together
Here are some pointers that might help you:
✔ Do not doubt yourself. Do not buy in to your stories – they will get in the way! BE the Coach. Believe in yourself, your client clearly does!
✔ Start simple, keep things simple. Complex techniques just give you more to trip yourself up with.
✔ Have some standard techniques that work with most things. You will find a lot in the resources area for ANZCAL members. Practice a few simple ones so you know them well and let those be your starting sessions. The more success you have early in the sessions the better for you and your client.
✔ Look for ways to reframe what is being said. Reframes are quick and effective ways to add to transformation.
✔ Less is more. Work on one, sometimes two things per session and then leave it at that.
✔ Practice what you preach; walk the talk. In which every way you want to phrase it, be the person you expect of others; avoid double standards.
✔ Be flexible. Be free of judgement. Be curious. Be “zen”. Life is what it is, it is not perfect, it is not meant to be anything other than lived. When I coach from this place I am not blindsided, or surprised. My responses are calm, I am calm, and my client can be whoever they are meant to be – everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have.
✔ When I am flexible and curious, I can see many more options and be more creative. I believe that change will occur, I simply help my client to find that opening. If I am too stuck in how things should be done I miss opportunities or cannot respond effectively.
✔ No one “must”, “needs to”, “has to” or “should” do anything. Let your client oversee their choices. Teaching your client that they have a choice and it is theirs only to make is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
✔ Keep up with professional development. The more tools in your repertoire the more versatile you can be.
✔ Be professional, be humble, have fun, be yourself. You can make a difference, enjoy the opportunity.
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
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 her own business Lodestone, and other agencies. She is a Director of Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance.