You’ve signed a new client and established rapport with them. But less than an hour into your first session, you’ve already run out of topics to discuss. You’re a capable coach with many years of experience, and this isn’t your first time coaching a client one-on-one, so what went wrong?
If this sounds familiar, this guide will prepare you for your next one-on-one session like never before. Read on for tips on creating meaningful coaching sessions that truly benefit your clients.
The many faces of coaching
Aside from sports coaching, one-on-one coaching sessions might be the most popular type of coaching, and for a good reason. In this coaching method, clients get personalized attention for their unique issues. It allows direct and personal communication with clients who tend to open up and air their concerns better than in a group setting.
As with any coaching experience, personal coaching sessions can be intimidating and tough to dip your toes into, but these tips will give you some concrete steps on how to coach effectively.
Why use one-on-one coaching?
Clients sign up for one-on-one sessions to get our complete attention and focus as coaches. Compared to group coaching, scheduling, rescheduling, and conducting check-ins with an individual client is easier in such sessions.
It’s also much faster to build a relationship with a client if they’re the only ones we’re talking to during the session. With this personalized attention, we’re also more likely to remember specifics and provide advice for personal development or work performance, with greater opportunity for continuous feedback.
One-on-one coaching helps build confidence and communication skills in a low-pressure environment without judgment. Another benefit of this type of coaching relationship is the ability to train the adaptability and resilience of both parties involved. With personal coaching, you’ve got more leeway to tread off the beaten path, innovate, and try new ideas. You can tailor your coaching to the specific needs of the client.
How to conduct an effective coaching session
Now that you understand the benefits of this type of coaching program, let’s dive into how to conduct an effective training session.
1. Prepare for the session
When coaching clients, remember that the process starts long before the session begins. Never show up and improvise — this is how one gets lost or runs out of material. Design a template or structure of topics in the order they’re to be covered and set an agenda that you’ll share with the client.
In a professional coaching setting, effective communication includes keeping clients apprised of your plans, so they can put their best foot forward during the session.
Once you’ve established a coaching structure, work with the client to set goals for each meeting. These goals must be attainable within the timeframe available to you and the resources available to the client. It must also be challenging enough to stretch their capabilities and bring a sense of achievement once accomplished.
Finally, take information from past sessions and use it to plan the future. Prepare a list of questions for your client to check their status and see if they feel ready to move forward. Here are some sample coaching questions:
- Have you felt stressed or overwhelmed this week?
- What was the top priority task for this week?
- What’ll be the top priority for next week?
- What challenges would you like to work on together?
2. During the session
The next step is a crucial one — building rapport. This refers to building trust and a relationship with clients so that the conversation flows naturally. Breaking the ice by regularly checking in may seem more important with newer clients, but even with other clients, it’s essential to not be complacent.
One way to do this is by having an open and honest conversation with them. Although you’ve already drafted the agenda and may know how the session will go, check in with the client. Ensure they’re on the same page as you and enthusiastic about achieving the goals.
Make sure the clients are aligned and comfortable with the set goals early on in the session. While confirming this, actively listen and take notes to demonstrate your interest and have a record of it for reference later. A good coaching style is more listening than talking and lets the client take center stage.
To round out the session, ask the client to reflect on the week’s wins, losses, challenges, and growth. This is a great way to take stock of a client’s impression of their own progress and see if it aligns with your observations.
3. Follow up
At the end of the session, the client must leave with actionable next steps. Ask for feedback regarding the next session and the whole process. Some questions to ask might include:
- What would you like to see more of in our coaching sessions?
- What did you enjoy about this session?
- What could be improved?
- What can I do to help you achieve your goals?
Having this feedback system for your coaching business can help refine your focus and better serve your clients. It may also be helpful to follow up with the clients after the session with a report or summary of the coaching session with the next steps clearly outlined.
From online courses to webinars and face-to-face meetings, there are many ways to establish a coach-client relationship. But consider who your client is and if your coaching style would resonate with them.
Some sessions may be slower than others, but don’t get discouraged if there’s a lull in the coaching process. It helps to have extra questions in the pocket in case you power through a session faster than you’d planned. Aim to be flexible and goal-oriented rather than rigidly adhering to a structure you’ve created.
While figuring out how to coach someone, keep in mind that every individual is different and has different needs. One of the greatest advantages (and challenges) of the one-on-one coaching model is how the sessions vary from client to client.
Coaching techniques that are helpful for one client may not work for others. And no matter how well-prepared you are for a session, you may need to improvise as you go.
At Practice, we understand that coaching requires time and commitment. Help us make your job easier with our all-in-one client relationship management system.