Chapter 6 The Coaching Process
Overview of the Coaching Process
This chapter is focused on looking at the coaching process in detail from the beginning to the end.
A discovery session is something that is specific to coaching. Not to be confused with an “intake” session.
Something that is all too often not discussed in coaching circles is the fact that one of the biggest skills a coach can develop is the discovery session. A discovery session is an introductory session with a coach that is normally free so that the coach and client get to see if working together is a good idea. The session can last anywhere from 15-60 minutes depending on the type of coaching offered. A discovery session actually serves multiple purposes:
- Mutual interview of coach and client
The discovery session can be thought of as an interview of both client and coach. The coach is interviewing the client to see if they’ll be a good client to work with. And the client is interviewing the coach to determine if they’re comfortable with the coach’s personality and way of approaching issues. In the discovery session the coach and client get to know one another and review any questions either party may have for the other.
- Determine if the client is a fit for the coach’s services, niche, or specialty
During a discovery session the coach will determine whether the client is a good fit for the type of coaching they do. It’s not a smart idea for a business coach to take on a client who wants to work on their relationships. This is “discovered” during the discovery session. As such, it’s essential for the coach to ask the client questions to really get at the core of why they are seeking out coaching, what they hope to achieve through coaching, and how familiar they are with the coach’s work.
- Determine if the client can be worked with and is coachable
The discovery session is also a session that allows a coach to ask the potential client questions to clarify their level of investment, motivation, work ethic, etc. to ensure that the client is ready for coaching. There is nothing worse than working with a client that is not ready for coaching. A coach cannot make a client change. So they must ensure that their client is willing to and ready to change on their own with the assistance and encouragement of their coach. Many clients will seek out coaching even when they’re not ready to change or not ready to take responsibility for their role in the issues that they’re having. These clients are considered “uncoachable”. Although they won’t always be uncoachable, they are uncoachable at the moment and therefore you should not take these clients on as it will result in a difficult experience where you feel the need to “pull” your client toward their goals rather than helping the client achieve their goals. This ensures that both the client and coach find coaching to be a positive and fulfilling experience.
- Client determines if they’re comfortable with and enjoy working with the coach
A discovery session is essentially a “try before you buy” experience for the client so that they get experience of coaching with the coach prior to deciding to spend money on coaching and to sign on with that specific coach. They will see if they “click” with the coaches perosonality and coaching approach. And they’ll be able to determine whether the coach is asking them questions to take them deeper into what they want to work on or if the coach isn’t very skilled in a coaching session. If a client doesn’t ask questions during a coaching sessions this may be an indication that the client expects the coach to do all of the work and the coach should ask questions that explore this in more detail.
- Where the coach sells the client their coaching sessions or packages
While we normally think of “coaching” as a coaches job. A coach just also sell their services to their clients. But luckily, once you get comfortable coaching, the sales make themselves. The best strategy to sell a client a coaching session or package is to show up as your best self and demonstrate your best coaching when you’re in the discovery session with your client. Do not hold anything back. Make sure that you show them your best stuff so that they’ll be itching to come back for more. When you do this a client will naturally ask toward the end of the session how to proceed to purchase coaching with you. When you haven’t demonstrated your coaching sufficiently you may find yourself “trying” to make a sale with a client. Often this is the wrong tactic as clients often lose trust in coaches who seem like they are selling things. Instead, communicate to the client that you are keeping the door open for them if and when they are ready to make the investment in the future and give them your business card or email address. This will allow those clients who take time to think about things enough space and time to explore their options and determine if you are the right coach for them. After all, you don’t want to coach anyone who doesn’t rally want to be there!
- Client determines if they are willing to make the financial investment in coaching
Part of selling coaching packages and sessions is when you tell the client what their investment will be in your coaching. This is when you reveal the price for what you are recommending to your clients whether that is one session or a series of 6 or even 12 sessions. The deeper and more profound the issues, the more sessions the client will need to work through those issues and meet their goals. Packages are often priced cheaper than single coaching sessions in order to encourage clients to purchase more sessions for you. So if one session is $100, a package deal of 6 sessions might be $500 and a package of 12 sessions might be $1000. This way they get a better deal by purchasing more sessions from you.
It’s important to get comfortable talking to oyur clients about money and about prices. One great way to do this is to talk to your friends and family about your prices. Get used to saying the number you charge out loud so that you don’t stumble over it when you are discussing it with your client. This is also a time when silence is golden. Just because a client doesn’t give you an automatic “yes!” to coaching with you doesn’t mean they’re a no. They may be thinking about it. A great way to motivate your clients to make quick decisions about coaching with you is to offer a “fast action bonus” if they sign up immediately by giving them an instant 20% off (for example) your coaching. This will often motivate people to get off of the fence and purchase a session or a package from you immediately.
A welcome packet or pre-coaching questionnaire
A welcome packet or “pre-coaching questionnaire” is a form that a coach has a client fill out prior to their first full paid session together. It allows the client to provide useful information for the coach to know such as their family dynamics, their age, and their goals in coaching. This document will serve as an in depth client intake that will help the coach get to know the client before the first session. Although, not every coach uses a welcome packet most coaches do and find it extremely helpful. It also gives the coach a document they can refer back to between sessions to get reminders of significant events or people in the client’s life.
For both your own and your client’s protection it is essential to have a signed coaching agreement in place before the beginning of the first session. This agreement will help the client understand the role of the coach, the role of the client, the coaching process, what to expect in their first session, the nature of the relationship, and parameters of coaching such as fees, length of session, and scheduling. The coaching agreement outlines the coach and client’s responsibilities in the coaching relationship so that the client is aware that they are responsible for their progress, even though you as coach will be assisting them in reaching their goals. It also helps the client know how long each session is, who calls who, how to schedule their sessions, and the fees that you charge for each session. The coaching agreement also serves as a legal document that will help you to protect your interests. As such it is important to have it reviewed by an attorney. To have your cancelation and refund policy detailed in the document. This document will serve to limit any confusion between coach and client right at the beginning of coaching together.
Regular Life Coaching Sessions
The life coaching process is highly variable depending on the client’s needs and the type of coach. Some business coaches only need one one-hour session in order to begin to make enormous changes in their clients lives. Whereas personal development coaches often need 6-12 sessions in order for the client to begin to make changes. Normally sessions are between 30 and 60 minutes and occur anywhere from once a week to once a month or even once every few months.
Fees for coaching can be charged in one lump sum or in a monthly installment. Often when clients pay the entire fee up front they will get a discount over paying in installments. It’s important to note that your fees are not solid and you can raise them as your client roster fills up and as you gain confidence in your skills as a coach.
It’s essential to determine the client’s overall goals in the first coaching session. But it’s also important to determine the client’s goals in each individual coaching session. Then the coach must follow up with the client about their progress toward achieving those goals in each session in order to hold the client accountable to their goals. If the client hasn’t met their goals the coach must follow up to determine why progress has not been made and to find new and novel solutions to their issues.
The coach and client discuss what the client has been going through and the coach uses strategic questioning in order to get to the heart of the issue so that they can explore solutions together and increase client awareness of what’s really going on. Coaches will often assign their clients “homework” at the end of each session. Homework is something that a client does outside of session to help integrate the knowledge that they’re learning in their coaching sessions. An example might be getting up to sing at karaoke if the client is afraid of performing in front of people.
Coaches also highlight client successes, celebrate with heir clients, and provide support for their clients. This occasionally extends to providing brief email and/or phone support between sessions. But this is generally laid out explicitly in the coaching contract so that both parties know exactly what to expect.
The last coaching session can be just as important as the first. The aim of the last coaching session is to bring everything together so that the client can see a clear overview of where they were, where they’ve gotten to, and how they got there. Coaches will often take time to celebrate their client’s successes in this session. But more than that, coaches will ask their clients to report what they feel that they’ve learned through coaching. Coaches can also ask their clients to discuss what they see as their future path, their next set of goals, and how they’ll achieve it. They might also check in with the client to help them figure out ways that they can be vigilant of specific problems popping up again in their lives so as to avoid them in the future.
Coaching Process in Detail
Now that you have a basic understanding of the structure of a coaching session it’s important to go into more depth about what you’ll actually need in each coaching session.
The Coaching Relationship/Establishing Rapport
The coaching relationship is the most essential aspect of coaching. Without a strong coaching relationship coaching will not be successful. A client must feel that they are safe opening up to the coach and expressing their deepest fears and challenges. So the coach must work at the beginning of coaching to establish a strong coaching relationship so that the client can feel safe in exploring their issues in a safe environment.
Establishing trust with the client
It’s important for coaches to create an environment for their clients that feels safe and supported and provides respect and trust. Coaches create this environment through a variety of means. First, coaches establish clear agreements with clients and follow through with their agreements. This is why a coaching agreement is so important. But more than that, following through on agreements means that the coach acts with integrity in their interactions with clients. They always provide all services that they’ve been paid for. And they always follow through when they are contracted for services with clients. If a coach fails to do this then they will lose the trust of their client. But more than that, the coach will lose the trust of clients in general and lose the opportunity for any future referrals for new clients. A coach’s reputation is the most important thing in their arsenal of skills because it’s something that cannot be learned and cannot be fixed once it’s marred. So a coach needs to always follow through with what they’ve promised because it is how they maintain a good reputation in the coaching community. And so having integrity, sincerity, and honesty in both coaching relationships and in life in general is a central important skill in becoming a coach.
Second, they respect their clients views, beliefs, perceptions, and perspectives. In this way a client will feel understood and supported in understanding themselves. If a client does not feel that the client truly “gets” them they will not open up to the coach or recognize their own ability to change. So establishing a trusting coaching relationship fundamentally helps the client to see new opportunities for change in their life. When a client feels understood and supported the do not feel that change threatens who they are. The client no longer feels like a failure and instead begins to see that change is about becoming the best they can be, not about trying to “fix” something that’s wrong with them.
The third important point to establishing trust in the coaching relationship is that the coach needs to show genuine concern and empathy for their clients. They need to genuinely invested in their clients success and overall welfare. At the end of the day, the coach should care about their clients. Without caring and genuine concern the client will not feel as though they can open up to the coach. When coaches show genuine empathy and support to their clients they have the ability to stimulate and encourage new thoughts and behaviors. Trust is the foundation for change. When a client feels that they can trust a client because they feel that the coach is on their side the client will begin to open up to new ways of doing things and exploring new avenues of behavior.
A key skill in bringing together all of the pieces that a client needs to trust a coach is for a coach to ask a client for permission to coach a client on sensitive topics. When a coach does this they are fundamentally respecting their client’s perspective and emotions. But more than that, they are showing the client that they genuinely care about how they feel and if they feel ready to delve into this sensitive area. In this way, the client feels trust that the coach will not push them to work on an area that they’re not ready to work on.
Mirroring is one of the most important skills you can use with your clients. It’s basically mirroring back to your client their posture, volume, tone, bodily movements, expressions, and language. The key to mirroring is to use it subtly so that it doesn’t come across as making fun of or mimicking the client. Mirroring is something that will build rapport in any relationship. You can even try it with your friends and family. People often feel more understood when the other person matches their presentation. After a while the client will often unconsciously begin to mirror the coach and follow their lead and may become more relaxed or excited, depending on what the coach is portraying.
Showing your clients that you respect them can be accomplished by being non-judgmental and non-critical. Coaches can also show respect by demonstrating genuine concern and care for their clients and being inquisitive about their lives Furthermore, most people will know on some level if someone doesn’t like them. So it’s important for coaches to try to find some aspect of their client that they like and appreciate, even when the coach and client aren’t seeing eye to eye.
Assessing Current Situation
Welcome Packet and Questionnaire
The Welcome packet is an in depth questionnaire about the client’s history, family, goals, desires, and what they’ve previously tried that the coach reviews before their first formal coaching session. The questionnaire has items such as name, date of birth, address, email, and nationality.
The welcome packet/ pre-coaching questionnaire also asks more specific questions to get at what the client desires out of coaching and helps the coach gain insights into the client’s life and what they need. Some common questions might include:
- What are the names, ages, and relationship of the important people in your life?
- What are your goals for coaching?
- Why did you seek out life coaching?
- What have you tried in the past to solve this issue?
- What has been your greatest success and biggest challenge in life?
- What tools have you used to overcome hardship in the past?
- What life changes have you experienced over the past 2 years?
- What’s most important to you? Why?
Coaches will often have a form that they send out to all of their clients with the same questions so save time. However, you can customize each form for each specific client if you so choose based on their unique needs and desires in coaching.
Keep in mind that your questions should be clearly worded and have a reasonable purpose behind them. Don’t just ask things out of curiosity. And don’t repeat yourself. Also, make sure to discuss these answers with your client during your first answer and get any clarifying information that will help you understand them and their issues in more depth.
There is a sample pre-coaching questionnaire/welcome packet in the appendices section of this course. You can use this form and modify it to your own needs.
Wheel of Life
The wheel of life is a great tool to help your clients visually see the balance of what’s going on in their life. The tool is a circle where each spoke represents a different aspect of their life. Having your clients fill this out as part of their welcome packet will help you get a peek inside of whether they feel their lives are balanced or out of balance.
The wheel has 8 segments that represent each area of the client’s life as you can see in the example below. The client then draws lines to represent the areas that take up more or less time in their life. In this way you can get a very quick and simple visual representation of what the client feels are important and what they are prioritizing in their life.
Here is an example of a wheel of life where all aspects are balanced:
Setting goals is an essential part of coaching. Without clear goals that are measurable clients cannot know whether or not they are successful at making the changes that they want to make in life. Goal setting is an essential part of the first session so that both you and the client knows what you’re working on and what your expectations for the client are. So it’s important for coaches to help clients to create goals and one of the most frequently used tools to set goals is the SMART technique.
S - Specific
M - Measureable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant
T – Time-bound
Goals need to be very specific, otherwise they are not measureable or achievable because the end point can always be moved. When a client says “I want to lose weight” it is the coaches responsibility to determine exactly what that will look like in pounds, clothing size, or inches lost so that the client will be able to track their progress toward their goal.
Progress toward goals needs to be measured, otherwise the client does not know if they’ve made progress toward their goal.
If a goal is too big the client will get frustrated and feel as though it is impossible. They need to feel as though they’re goal is achievable.
Make sure their goals are big enough to stretch the client to do more than they could do on their own. If a goal is too easy or too small and the client achieves it too early in the coaching process the coach isn’t really helping the client achieve everything they’re capable of. Goals need to stretch clients and make them work toward something that wouldn’t be achievable on their own. Otherwise they wouldn’t need a coach!
5. Time limited:
Open-ended goals are not really goals, they’re aspirations. Goals are concrete and offer a limited time frame in which to achieve it. Otherwise the client may continue putting off their efforts toward pursuing and achieving their goals into the distant future.
Note: There is a goal-setting worksheet in the appendices.
Coaches need to work in conjunction with clients to formulate goals that are specific to their needs and their desired outcomes. There’s no such thing as a one-size fits all goal. They need to be tailor made to not only the client’s needs but also the level that they’re at when they begin to work on their goals. Plus, all clients have different areas that are in need of growth and development. And it is through coaching skills like questioning and increasing awareness that coaches can help clients determine what areas they need the most growth in and what good goals will be. And coaches should help clients work toward their goals on all fronts and embrace all sources of knowledge and wisdom that can help them achieve their goals. This might include reading books, watching seminars, or using practices like meditation and visualizations to help them achieve their goals.
Coaches also need to help clients embrace flexibility when working toward their goals. Although it’s important to make goals very specific, measurable, and time specific if clients feel as though there is no flexibility they may give up when they encounter their first set-back. When coaches help clients see that they can reassess and renegotiate their goals so that they always feel both realistic and expansive then clients will benefit the most.
Lastly, coaches need to help their clients celebrate their goals! Celebration is one of the biggest motivational tools around. When we begin to celebrate our successes we see more and more success in our life. We are able to congratulate ourselves on a job well done and that keeps us motivated to work toward the next set of goals!
Strategizing a Plan of Action
Coaches help clients strategize the best ways to achieve their goals. Clients and coaches do this in collaboration with one another so that they co-create a plan to achieve these goals. The strategic plan includes time-lines for accomplishing the goals, a clear statement as to what the goals are, and any specific guidance that the client is looking for to achieve their goals.
The skill of a masterful and efficient coach is accountability. Accountability is all about keeping the client focused on their goals. Accountability is one of the primary reasons people seek coaching.
Coaches need to help their clients focus on what’s important in reaching their goals. The coach keeps the responsibility for change with the client and makes it clear that it is up to the client to take action on their goals and desires. Although a coach helps keep the client motivated and moving toward their goals, ultimately they can not change their behaviors or thoughts. It’s up to the client to do that themselves. So the coach needs to keep the client accountable to themselves for making change in their life.
Techniques that coaches use to help clients stay accountable for their goals include those that we have already reviewed. Coaches ask clients questions when they do not make progress toward their goals. They also help clients clarify new actions that they can take to help them move toward their goals. Coaches also encourage and acknowledge client successes, both small and large, as this helps the client stay motivated. And as such, they toggle between the bigger picture of the client’s ultimate goals and the smaller picture of what the client is focused on in each specific session.
Coaches follow up with clients about the actions that they’ve discussed in follow up sessions. This helps the client see that the coach is really listening and attending to their needs and it helps the client to learn follow through and dedication to goals. It also helps the client develop self-discipline and self accountability for intended actions, goals, and desires. And it helps their clients maintain goals within their desired timeframe.
To keep client’s accountable, coaches keep notes on what happened each session to review prior to the next session. And the coach comes to each session prepared by reviewing client information from previous sessions. This helps the coach maintain a sense of focus and continuity between session. But it can also help the coach focuses on client goals and desired outcomes while maintaining a sense of flexibility when the client’s goals may change throughout coaching. Lastly, coaches confront their clients in supportive ways when they have not taken agreed upon actions. This confrontation always comes from a place of caring and support so that client’s feel listened to, don’t feel judged, but feel more empowered to take the actions that they failed to take before the last session.
Giving a client feedback is an essential piece of accountability. Without feedback a client is just working aimlessly toward goals without any knowledge of how they’re doing or if they’re doing a good job. Giving feedback allows the client to assess areas where they could improve their performance and areas where the coach believes they are doing excellently. Make sure all feedback is non-judgmental, constructive, but straight forward. Good rapport is an essential precursor to giving feedback.
Encouraging and Motivating
Coaches must also work with their clients to inspire them and help them stay motivated in working toward their goals. Encouraging and motivating can be one of the most important aspects of helping clients within the coaching session. Clients who cannot stay motivated do not keep working toward their goals and often will blame their coach for their lack of progress. The coach must help the client keep their goal in mind at all times but more than that, they must help them see the reasons why achieving the goal is so important to them. Coaches do this by helping their clients stay accountable to their goals and by giving them feedback while working toward their goals.
Chapter Review Questions
- Describe the various techniques you could use to build rapport with your client.
- Describe why accountability is so important in coaching.
Multiple Choice Questions
1. The Life Coaching process begins with the:
- Pre-coaching questionnaire
- Discovery Session
- Regular Life Coaching Sessions
- Completion Session
2. What does the S in SMART stand for?