Every coach has moments where they look back on a coaching conversation and say “Oh, I wish that would have gone better/differently.” Here are some strategies to make sure that you take care of you clients at the highest level in every coaching conversation. Some of these suggestions fall under the heading of Preparation and the others can be described as Development.
- Do your homework for each session and create the expectation that your client will as well. It’s really helpful to know the focus of the coaching conversation beforehand, as well as the clients summary of their key issues.
- Have a plan. When you do your homework, you have a chance to detail how each interaction will start. You might even go so far as to think about how you’ll know when the client is ready to move to designing actions. Learning to discern when you’ve gotten as far as you can in the time allowed is another key.
- Prepare some launch questions. When I was starting out as a coach, I would write 7-10 questions on post it notes and stick them to the rim of my computer monitor. If I got stuck, I could use one of those questions. After I used it, I pulled it off the monitor so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it again.
- Don’t be married to the plan. If it’s not working, go different direction. Your client will tell you if your plan isn’t working (even if you don’t ask…just listen and you’ll hear it!)
- Ask for feedback from your current clients. If you’ve done a good job creating a safe space for coaching, you should be able to get valuable feedback from just about every one of your clients.
- Review the covenant to ensure that you’re on purpose. If you wavered from the stated purpose of the coaching relationship, check with your client to ensure that that’s actually where they want to go. If it is, consider amending the coaching agreement.
- Do a self inventory. Make a list of the things you think are going well in your coaching. Then make a list of the things you don’t think are going well in your coaching. Follow these steps up with an action plan that describes how you will improve the things that aren’t going well, and supports the things that are going well. (NOTE: you could even do this for each individual coaching relationship if you wanted to get really granular in your preparation!)
- Pray. Spiritual guidance in coaching cannot be underestimated.
- Learn your strengths. Then coach from them. What are you good at? How does that inform your coaching?
- Learn your gaps. What are you NOT good at? How can you cevelop a plan to address those gaps?
- Be authentic. Don’t ask a question that you wouldn’t ask in a non-coaching conversation. Use your typical vocabulary.
- Learn to adapt your coaching, but only when appropriate. Different personalities need different things from a coach. A masterful coach can adapt in the moment to serve the client more effectively. It takes practice, but can move a coaching conversation from the good to the excellent when done well. Think about your pace of speech, sense of humor, and level of sarcasm as places to start.
- Read something about coaching. Whether it’s a blog, a white paper, or a coaching balk, getting your mind thinking about coaching before you coach raises the likelihood that you’ll ask a powerful question at the moment it’s needed.
- Get a mentor coach. Nothing makes you a better coach faster than being coached by someone who’s more experienced, more skilled, or more insightful than you are.
- Record a coaching session, and listen back to it while taking notes on what you do well and what you can improve.. I find that it’s most helpful to let a weaker to go by in between the end of the session and when you listen to it because I’m more able to be objective.
- Develop a list of “go to” questions. The biggest challenge with a list like this is that you’ll want to use them in every session. Set up some guidelines of how many of these questions you’ll allow yourself to use in each coaching conversation. This is one rule that has to be hard and fast. Don’t let yourself a waiver from your strictly imposed limits.
- Offer yourself as a coach, pro bono. This can be especially helpful when trying to find clients outside of your typical practice area. Being stretched by coaching in a new direction is a great way to ensure that your skills are sharp as possible.
- Join your local ICF Chapter. A community of coaches is a great way to ensure that you are a sharp as you possibly can be at any given time.
- Write out your philosophy of coaching. Include why you coach and what excites you about coaching. Talk about who can benefit from being coached–especially coached by you!–and who you think you coach especially well. Don’t be afraid to include stories like that.
- Develop a presentation about coaching that you could offer to your church, a local community organization, or your employer. Nothing helps you piece together a person philosophy of coaching more than trying to decide how you will communicate about coaching to someone else.
- Get some additional training. At CoachNet, we believe in the lifelong learning of coaching skills. You might learn about the skill in a few minutes, but to really master what it means to be an excellent coach often takes years. Being in a training environment development environment with other coaches is a great way to focus on what you do well and improve what you don’t. Events are here, if you want to see them.
- Pray. Spiritual guidance in coaching cannot be underestimated. (Why do we always leave this one tip last?)
So which ones stand out to you? I’d love to hear how you prepare and develop your coaching skills in the comments.