Are you interested in finding a coach, but don’t quite know what to expect? This is how a typical coaching relationship works!
You can divide a coaching relationship into seven distinct phases. Although in practice one phase may flow into another, the following description gives you a good idea of what you can – and should! – expect from your coaching agreement, whether you are interested in life-, business-, career-, or any other type of coaching.
1. The Introductory Session – In this initial meeting the coach and coachee get to know one another better by discussing professional backgrounds, identifying the key coaching issue, and deciding how they could best work together. During this phase the foundation for a trusting coaching relationship should be established. If this meeting goes well, the actual coaching objective, as well as the recommended length of the coaching relationship, may be discussed.
2. The Coaching Agreement – Once you have established that there is a positive wavelength between you and your perspective coach (and vice-versa!), it’s time to define the framework for your coaching relationship. What are your goals and expectations? How many sessions will you need? Where should they take place and when? What if you have to cancel? And, also important: What is this all going to cost?
3. The Onboarding or Threshold Session – Now the actual coaching begins. You’ll discover that at first your coach will only ask you – a lot of! – questions. These questions allow the coach to collect relevant information about you, identify core problem areas, analyze blockages you may have, as well as locate your areas of potential growth and development.
4. The Strategy Session(s) – You will now begin getting feedback from your coach. This feedback is based on the analysis from the last session. You and your coach will discuss and decide relevant ways to change your behavior in the main areas that will guarantee you get/stay on track to achieve your coaching goal. Your coach is not giving you instructions or “orders. Your coach is simply “refereeing” as you bring your own inner conversation to the open, and strengthening you in your decisions as you commit to something you probably already know.
5. The Accountability Session(s) – It’s time to translate the ways you have agreed you need to alter your behavior into concrete and regular tasks. This is where your own will power and discipline make all the difference. Your coach now functions as your accountability partner. Someone you agree to check in with regularly, to report on your performance since the last session, to celebrate your milestones with and analyze any difficulties or setbacks you might experience.
6. The Benchmarking Session(s) – Above and beyond just completing the tasks you and your coach have set, your coach will support you as you assess your own progress in working towards your goal. What has happened along the way? What exactly has changed – for you and for your situation? Coach and coachee take an opportunity to analyze the efficiency of the agreed strategies and decide further ‘next steps’ – or realize they need to start all over and develop new strategies and tasks to ensure the ultimate success of their coaching relationship.
7. The Closing Session – Coaching doesn’t simply stop. The final – most valuable – step is the evaluation of what worked for you (as well as what did not) and why. Honesty and clarity in this phase ensures that coachees feel motivated in the future to utilize any new methods, techniques and competencies they have developed during their relationship. Remember: Successful coaching is always help on the way to self-help! This session also provides valuable feedback for your coach on his/her coaching competencies, helps reinforce effective approaches,and indicates possible areas in which the coach can upgrade their own skills.
I purposely avoided discussion the question of certification during your vetting process. Because – whether you choose to work with a certified coach or not – the most important thing your potential coach should bring to the table is their rapport with you!
It’s important that you feel ‘at home’ with your coach in order to have an effective coaching relationship. It’s essential you choose a person you feel you can trust with your doubts and uncertainties; someone from whom you can take the ‘hard questions’ when things get rough, as well as truly celebrate your milestones and victories. Without that level of trust, your coaching experience will never reach it’s full potential in getting you on track – not only to achieve your specific coaching objective, but to help you better help yourself in the future.