How to Conduct a Coaching Session
In 1998, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) conducted a survey that led them to discover that 94.3 percent of the coaches who took part in that survey conducted their coaching sessions by telephone. That statistic will form the basis of the focus of this article as we explore how you can conduct a coaching session with your client over the phone. The process in the discussion below looks at a coaching relationship that is past the first session, but any session, including your first session, can follow the same format.
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Step 1: Identify Your Client’s Concerns
In this first step, your focus is to find out what your client feels strongly about and wants you to help him or her to address. For example, your client may explain that she is finding it hard to overcome her nervousness during job interviews.
Go ahead and ask that client to explain why it is important for him or her to address those specific issues that he or she has pointed out. This question will help you and the client in two major ways.
First, you will have a chance to prioritize which specific concern to address first in case your client mentioned several concerns that can’t be addressed in one coaching session.
Secondly, the “why” question helps you to assess how motivated the client is to overcome a particular issue that he or she is experiencing. Clients who are strongly motivated will find it easier to commit to any course of action agreed upon while those with less motivation will require more work on your part as a coach to keep them accountable.
Step 2: Set Goals for the Session
Each coaching session that you conduct should have a specific goal or goals. Use your interaction in Step 1 above to formulate a goal or goals for the coaching session. These should be written down so that they can help you and the client to review the progress that is being made from one session to another.
Step 3: Coach Your Client
Work with your client to identify the different ways through which the issue he or she is having can be addressed. Sometimes, your coaching task may require you to help your client to reframe a given situation so that a shift in perspective can cause a change in the client’s emotional reaction to the situation.
For example, your client may wish to breakup with his or her partner because of a misunderstanding they had recently. You can help your client to reframe the situation so that he or she sees it as a failure of each of them to see the perspective of the other, and therefore providing more clarity on the matter can set the foundation for a stronger relationship.
You can then ask your client to select what he or she thinks is the best way to deal with the issue that the coaching session is focusing upon. Follow up this question with another on how the client and other people will notice a change after that option has been implemented.
Step 4: Agree on Homework/Action Steps
This forth step involves agreeing on the specific actions that the client will take in order to bring about the desired change. For example, the client may commit to conducting mock job interviews with a family member or a trusted friend as one of the ways to overcome the interview jitters that have been compromising his or her performance during interviews. The homework may also include reading or checking out the additional resources that you recommend.
Ask your client to explain what he or she will do to ensure that she follows through on the action steps agreed upon. For example, she may promise to send you an email notifying you about the progress made in taking the steps agreed upon.
Step 5: Discuss the Lessons from the Coaching Session
This stage of the coaching session signals the time when you discuss the lessons or takeaways of this particular session. The client can explain what he or she has learnt in the session. For example, your client may reveal that she has learnt that her nervousness during job interviews was the result of failing to prepare adequately for interviews, or that she didn’t realize that the company she was interviewing for needed her as much as she needed the job (thereby reducing her feelings of powerlessness during job interviews).
After the client has shared the lessons learnt, press on and find out how he or she intends to benefit from those lessons in future. This can include how those lessons can be applied to other aspects of the client’s life, such as his or her dating life.
Step 6: Establish Accountability Mechanisms
How will your client hold himself or herself accountable for taking the steps agreed upon? This accountability is important because the ultimate aim of the coaching process is to empower the client to acquire new skills that will last a lifetime. Your work as a coach is to facilitate that change process, but not to do the work for the client.
As already suggested earlier, the client may check in with you to report on his or her progress, or she may have an accountability partner that will push her to do what has been agreed upon before the next coaching session. Different techniques work for different individuals, so let the client take the lead on this one.
Step 7: Get Feedback on the Session
It is advisable for you to allocate some time at the end of each session to get the client’s views about how the coaching process is progressing. Is she uncomfortable with any aspect of your coaching style? Would she like more or less time to be allocated to a given segment of the coaching session? Such feedback helps you to address any developing issues early instead of leaving them to worsen over time. You can also schedule a review session at certain points during the process. For example, you can hold these sessions after every four weeks in case you agreed that 12 coaching sessions will be needed to address the issues for which your client sought your help.
Just as clients are different and should be handled differently, so do coaches differ. You are therefore free to tweak the format above to suit your unique style as an individual, but you will ultimately realize that the general structure of the coaching session will more or less follow the same format. At the end of it all, everything is fair if it leads you to help your client to attain their objectives.
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