How to Start a Meaningful Coaching Conversation

When it comes to having a successful coaching conversation, it is essential to be able to listen attentively, respond attentively and resist the urge to impose your own solution. Leadership will be a key factor in achieving success in the coming year, so consider making these 10 leadership resolutions for the new year. It is natural to feel a sense of familiarity when you have done something many times before, such as taking a family trip to the beach. As professionals, we may not always think of our preparation for sessions as planning, but it is an essential element in helping your coach reach their goals.

Before continuing, why not download our three free exercises for achieving goals? These science-based exercises will help you or your clients create achievable goals and master techniques for creating lasting behavioral change. Structuring coaching sessions is beneficial for both the client and the coach, providing a clear outline to keep them focused on achieving the client's objectives. One of the most popular models used in various types of training is the GROW model (Whitmore, 198). Our article on the GROW training model provides an overview of this model, as well as a selection of training tools and techniques to integrate into your practice.

It is important to understand how the coaching structure benefits both you and your client. One of the most effective ways to do this is through questions. Asking good coaching questions is the foundation of effective training, regardless of the model used. All coaching approaches use questioning in a variety of ways to help discover individual thought processes (McMahon, 202).

The coach can stimulate thinking and turn ideas into action through five key questions (Barlow, 200). These five questions can be asked in order, according to the difficulties and issues that need to be discussed, with the ultimate goal being to get the coach where they need to go. It is important to establish a history with your client by asking them about their education, previous work experience or even personal experiences that have led them to this point. This helps create a good relationship and makes it easier for the coach to feel comfortable. By understanding their background and where they come from, you are better able to meet their needs.

Open-ended questions help coaches figure things out for themselves rather than looking for an answer you think they should be looking for. After identifying where they want to be, they may have trouble figuring out how they want to get there. This usually happens when they really want your advice but can be helped by thinking about alternatives and options they could use. Analyzing each option or analyzing plausible scenarios helps them select a counseling approach that they are most comfortable with (Barlow, 200). Alternatively, they may choose to try the riskiest option first, such as a rehearsal with their coach, so that they can develop the courage needed to get out of their comfort zone and achieve their goals using a method they may not have considered before. This last step asks them to examine how they would measure their learning and decide if they have achieved their learning objectives.

It can also help clarify what actions need to be taken and what method will be used (Barlow, 200). If they have trouble identifying something concrete, they can also reflect on how they feel after the session as this will continue to be useful for moving forward. When planning sessions it is important to first understand your client's needs. To achieve this you must structure the first session around developing a connection with them. While it is important to prioritize their goals it is difficult to understand these goals without making them feel emotionally comfortable.

One strategy that coaches can use to help clarify their clients' objectives is inviting them to complete a short standardized questionnaire before their first training session. This gives clients space to carefully consider their training goals without fear of being judged or distracted by anxiety or nerves related to their first session. Quenza (pictured) is a great tool for this job. It has a simple drag-and-drop activity generator that allows coaches to design a variety of quizzes and activities that clients can complete on their portable devices. With this tool coaches can also design registration surveys that can be completed throughout the training relationship. This provides clients with an opportunity to express how they feel they are progressing towards their goals, provide feedback or indicate what they would like discussed in future sessions.

After establishing an understanding of your client's motivations it is time to understand each objective and analyze how they will achieve it. Goals provide a basis for planning, guidelines for decision-making and justification for actions taken. It is worth noting that achieving goals often consists of particular actions that require particular behaviors (Dolot, 201). Goals can be established through various theories and methodologies for setting different objectives depending on what needs to be achieved. Our article on goal setting has 20 templates that you can explore and use to help your client identify and break down their objectives. These two templates can help you in the initial stages of getting to know your client and help you discover more about why they are pursuing their goals or objectives.

Here are three guidelines that can help facilitate a meaningful coaching conversation: when participating in coaching it is important to listen to emotions without assuming the topic of conversation; leave space for your client to express themselves; and prioritize your client's goals.

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