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How to Create the Perfect Coaching Session Structure

How to Create the Perfect Coaching Session Structure

Save time and be fully present for your clients by implementing a coaching session structure that will act as the framework for your coaching process.

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Your next coaching session is about to start. You can’t wait to dive in. You have a great coaching client and are excited to see how you can help them make progress. You’re a good coach, and your enthusiasm is infectious. But how can you ensure you and your client have a productive coaching session?

That’s simple. Create a repeatable coaching session structure, or model, to provide a framework for every client session. 

Now you might think that imposing structure on your coaching session might take away from the creativity and fluidity of your conversations, but it doesn’t have to. By implementing a repeatable framework, you can channel your passion and creativity while effectively meeting your client’s needs and expectations. It keeps your sessions focused, so you can be fully present instead of worrying about what to do next.

The other benefit of structuring a coaching session is the effort it saves. Easily replicate the template from client to client with little time spent on customization. It’s important to have a planned structure and template even for your first session. It allows you to offer a consistent experience and create a sense of familiarity to help build your rapport with your clients and help them feel at ease.

Convinced? Awesome, but you’re probably wondering how to structure a coaching session. We can show you how to establish an effective coaching structure using five simple steps. Whether you need a template for the first session with a new client or want to break out of a routine that no longer produces the desired results, the process is the same. So let’s dive in!

What’s the structure of a coaching session?

Whether conducting in-person conversation, placing a coaching call, or recording a webinar, the structure of a coaching session is roughly the same. Our session is broken down into four or five sections, depending on where we are in our coaching program. 

STEP 1: Establish a rapport.
STEP 2: Recap for accountability.
STEP 3: Set a goal for the session.
STEP 4: Reframe challenges and find solutions.
STEP 5: Review strategies and commit to an action plan.

Before we start, we’ll need to consider our client. Is this a stand-alone session? Then we need to remember we’re looking to achieve a smaller outcome in a limited amount of time. If this is part of an ongoing coaching program to reach a long-term goal, we should structure sessions with the big picture in mind. 

To do this effectively, we need some background. We should consider asking our clients to fill out an intake form to provide the information we need to help them. Using a CRM helps us better serve our clients and houses all our documents and forms on one easily accessible platform, like Practice

We’ll dive deeper into the particulars during our one-on-ones, but it’s helpful to have this laid out ahead of time to pre-plan sessions. We also provided some time estimations, assuming a typical 60-minute session.

Now, let’s break this coaching structure into steps:

Step 1: Establish rapport

Kick off sessions by establishing rapport with our clients. It’ll help them get into the coaching mind frame, making them more relaxed and receptive while allowing us to focus their mind on the task at hand. We can accomplish this in several ways; breathing exercises, reflective journaling, and short meditation breaks help our clients push distracting thoughts to the side and be fully present.

Depending on the length of our sessions, this can take five to ten minutes.  

Step 2: Recap for accountability

If this is your first coaching session, your structure doesn’t need to include a section for accountability. You can use the time to get to know your client better, go over their intake form if you used one, and help put them at ease.

If this is a returning client, ask them how their week went. What action did they take, and did they apply any of the strategies we discussed in the previous session? If so, how well did they work? If they didn’t, what stopped them? Did they learn anything from these experiences? 

These questions help us identify potential roadblocks, evaluate the effectiveness of the suggested strategies, and are an opportunity to provide our clients with feedback and encouragement. 

All and all, keep this section to about five to ten minutes. 

Step 3: Set a goal for sessions

Next, we’ll identify the goal our clients want to achieve through this coaching session. This is where we need to be flexible. Although we had a plan in mind and may want to move to the next step to achieving long-term goals, the session depends on our clients. If our client is unfocused or has derailed their progress since the last session and needs help getting on track, it’s our job to adjust and help them move forward. The same goes for if an unexpected challenge has come up and they need to reframe their priorities in response.

Whatever our clients decide, we’ll need to take the time to get a complete picture of the issue at hand. Find out why it’s important. Once we have a clear picture of their specific goals, we can begin to create measurable steps, a timeframe, and a method of accountability for our clients.

Step 4: Reframe the challenge and find solutions together

Now our coaching conversation can really begin. Our job is to use our coaching skills to help our clients see their challenges from a different perspective, gain clarity, and find the most effective path forward. 

It’s time to ask the big, powerful questions like:

  • Why?
  • What does this challenge mean for you?
  • What does your desired outcome look like?
  • Who or what do you need to be to reach this goal?

These open-ended questions are essential to achieving breakthroughs and solidifying our clients’ goals. It helps clarify their motives and discover the depth of their commitment. From there, we can collaborate to map out the path to success, identify roadblocks, and find solutions to overcome them.  

Step 5: Review strategies and commit to an action plan

Working with our clients, we’ll develop action plans outlining the steps and incorporating the tactics and strategies our clients need to take to reach their goals. These action items require a realistic timeline to accomplish these tasks. We aim to clarify the path, so clients are empowered to move forward. We also have to secure their buy-in to this plan. If clients are reluctant, we’ll need to find out why and adjust the action steps to generate enthusiasm and dedication to the process.

When we wrap up sessions, we should ask clients about their main takeaways from our discussion. The feedback will ensure we’re in sync with each other and have clear expectations. Use this time to gauge the need for a quick check-in to follow up on our clients’ progress if there’s a significant gap between now and the next session. 

Additional coaching models

This isn’t the only coaching session structure you can use. Numerous models are available to help you plan, whether you’re conducting a career, performance, or life coaching session. Whatever your coaching business or style, there’s a model for you.

Some of the most popular coaching models include:

The GROW model

GROW is an acronym for Goals - Reality - Options - Will. It helps you establish what your client’s Goal, what’s their current Reality, the Options to accomplish their goal, and what they’re Willing to do to reach the desired outcome. 

The CLEAR model

CLEAR stands for Contracting, Listening, Exploring, Action, and Review. The Contracting step sets the ground rules for your coaching sessions and creates a sense of accountability. Use your active Listening skills to determine what your client wants and needs. Then Explore your client's current situation. Develop a plan of Action to reach their goal. Review the process to determine what worked, what didn’t, and what your client learned along the way. 

The OSCAR model

The Outcome first, then examines the Situation, potential Choices or Consequences facing the client, Actions needed to attain the goal, and then Reviews the process. The client describes their desired outcome from reaching their goal and explores all possible choices to achieve their objective and the potential consequences. Create an action plan with them. Review their actions on an ongoing basis.

The CIGAR model

Examine your client’s Current reality. Help them visualize their Ideal state, identify Gaps that’ll hold them back, and find ways to overcome them through Action. Finally, you’ll Review steps to determine strategies that work, learn from those that don’t, and evaluate the effectiveness of the process for your client.

Improve your business with coaching structures and Practice

These coaching frameworks are highly adaptable, letting you customize them to your individual client’s needs. Don’t be afraid to modify them or create your own. So long as you start and end with a goal in mind, these models give you the flexibility to focus on your client while saving you time and money. 

Are you struggling to find time to plan your sessions due to all the administrative work your coaching business needs to run effectively? Practice helps tame scheduling beasts and streamline your to-do list quickly and easily. Try Practice today.

Free coaching contract templates

We worked with our lawyers to create coaching contract templates, free for any coach to use. Plus, a couple of sample agreements.