Often new coaches ask for the top 10 tips for coaching that they can use in their practice. As a coach, we know that there are a number of things to include and remember during the coaching session. Each coaching session and client is unique, so a rigid step by step system is not best for the client. These 10 tips for coaching are some easy things to assist the coach in helping the client to get the most out of the coaching session.
Tips for coaching.
1) Setting the contract.
For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that you have been working with the client for a few sessions and have already got a written “Coaching Agreement.” Setting the mini contract at the beginning of each session is that little reminder for the client as to what to expect from the session. E.g. “We have 60 minutes for this coaching session. Remember that I am not here to tell you what to do, but rather to create a safe space for you to explore options and opportunities to achieve the outcome that you want.” Even after doing this, you will be surprised how many clients still ask for suggestions as to what they should do.
2) Start with a self-celebration.
Sometimes clients come to coaching sessions with the weight of the world on their shoulders. They may feel really stressed, down or that the world is against them. This can easily set the tone for the session of you are not careful. An easy way to shift the mood is by asking the client, “What would you like to celebrate yourself for, for the last week.” By celebrating some success or something about themselves, helps to re-frame their thinking. Note that the question is “What…” This presupposes that there is something that the client could celebrate themselves for. A question like, “can you…” or “Is there anything…” are closed questions and it is easy for the lazy unconscious mind to just say “no” which can further impact on the client’s mood.
3) Be clear on the goal for the session.
This might sound a common sense thing to say, but you will be surprised how many times the coach starts to chase the first thing the clients says. That may not be what the client wants to work on. Similarly, imagine the client says, “I want to lose 20 pounds.” They are not going to lose 20 pounds in that session. So the question would be “What do you want from this session?” It may be that they want to work on an exercise plan or diet plan or maybe brain storm some things they can do. It might even be that they don’t really want to lose the weight, but that they feel bad about something somebody else said. So they may actually first want to work on self-esteem as an example. Remember to always work on the client’s goal and not your own agenda. It is imperative to be clear on the goal for the session.
Similarly the client may not even have a goal for the session. In that case, the session could just become a chatting session. If the client does not experience growth or achieve results due to the coaching, they could become disenchanted and cancel your sessions. When the client does not know what they want from the session, you could ask them something like the following. “What is that one part of your life that is not quite as great as the rest?” Or, “What is that one thing that you wish you could have more or less of in your life?” These are examples of questions that can help the client to start thinking about what they would like to change.
4) Create a safe, trusting, non-judgmental space.
Some clients come to coaching fearful that they may be judged in some way. One of the most important things to do is to build Rapport with your client. In doing so, you will help your client to feel more comfortable and safe. It is important to then to be very careful in not making them feel that you are judging them in whatever they are talking about. Example a coaching client that has cheated on their partner. Something like, “What did you do that for?” would sound judgmental. As a coach, it is important to put your own feelings and opinions on hold in the coaching session. Remember that the unconscious mind has accepted the morality that it has. That is not to say that it is the same as our morality.
5) Consider your questions.
Powerful questioning is one of the top tips for coaching for a number of reasons. For the sake of this article, let’s simply look at open ended questions and asking one question at a time.
Open ended questions.
As in the previous example, as a coach you want to ask questions that guide and support the client through their self-exploration and perceptions. Typical open ended questions are questions like, “Who, what, when, how, tell me more, etc.” Note that the question “Why” is rarely asked, as it can sound confrontational, judgmental or lead to excuses. There is a time and place for closed questions, but for the most part, open questions will help the client to explore deeper and help flesh out available data.
One question at a time.
When you ask a question, give your client space to empty out, without interrupting. Allowing them to really consider the question and answer. By asking multiple questions, they may answer the easy one first, or simply not think deeper about each question. You will serve your client better by asking one question at a time. Of course remember that it does not mean to have the client go in a loop of complaining about everything.
6) Use active listening techniques.
By using active listening techniques, you will help to create a trusting space for your client where they really feel listened to. In turn this will also assist you in being able to ask really powerful question. Active listening and powerful questioning goes hand in hand. If you don’t really hear what the client is saying or not saying, then it is almost impossible to ask powerful questions.
7) Pareto principle.
You’ve heard the saying, “2 ears and one mouth, use them in that order?” Sometimes coaches think that they have to do all the talking. In fat it is just the opposite. The client talks 80% of the time and the coach only talks 20% of the time. By asking one open ended, powerful question at a time and then using active listening techniques, it is only natural that the client will talk most. Remember that in coaching it is OK to have the “uncomfortable silence.” It gives the client time to think. They will thank you for it as they have probably had very few people really listen to them or allow them to empty out.
8) Ask for permission.
Sometimes as a coach you may have an intuition or something sensitive comes up for the client. Get their permission before making a bold request, offering suggestion or coaching in sensitive new areas. It may be that they are OK with that and in some cases, they may just not be quite ready to deal with it. Having asked the question, will sit with them and when they are ready they may come back to it in a future session.
9) Time Check.
Find it funny in the movies that you see a therapist working with a client and then as soon as the time is up, the therapist says, “Great, that’s out time for today.” That client may just have been on the verge of a major breakthrough and now they get shutdown just like that. Check in with your client to confirm the amount of time left so they are not cut short and “left hanging.” An example might be to say, “We have 10 minutes left in this session, so as we come to the end, what would you like to talk about?” Personally I always give myself an extra 30 minutes between clients, so that my clients do not have to be cut short. At the same time, I respect they have other things to do and I don’t want to keep them up. So we play this by ear. Be aware that some clients will take all the time you give them.
10) Ask for a commitment and takeaway.
Remembering that the reason for the coaching session is to work towards a goal or outcome. If a client does not feel that the coaching is working for them, then they will not continue with it. By getting commitment from the client as to the actions they are going to take, helps to focus their mind on achieving their goals. It is also useful as part of their “homework” to keep them on track. Some clients need this more than others as it can also serve as to staying accountable. The take way and commitment are not necessarily the same things either. Example, a take away might be, that they have the resources they need to achieve their goal. Where the commitment is to find out about a training they could do to further their skill set.
That’s our tips for coaching.
These are simply only 10 tips to remember as you are coaching your clients. Again the aim is not to be rigid in coaching that can lead to restricting both yourself and the client. Also being too rigid can make the client and you feel uncomfortable.
We have also written a number of other articles that go into these tips individually. If you found this article useful, then please share it with others, so that they too may find benefit in it.
I wish you every success in your coaching career.
Remember that if you believe it, you can achieve it.