We have all been there.
We are starting with a new coaching client, and we are nervous about how this first session is going to go.
It could be that it is your chemistry session, or it could be your first actual paid coaching assignment. Whatever it is, you could be nervous and you need to spend some time preparing yourself.
I have learned early in my coaching career, that getting myself in the right place for delivering a coaching session was critical. Spending some time to prepare, was and is as important as the actual delivery of the session itself.
In the first instance, I consider the outcome. As my coaching experience has grown, this has become easier. I focus on the quality of the session rather than the content. After all, who am I to bring content into the clients’ agenda.
This visualisation of how the meeting is going to conclude is a great start, but in my experience, our clients often do not present what you expect them to present meaning that preparation is difficult. It is really not useful to consider the outcome as a model or method that has been shoehorned into the session just because the coach is prepared. How do I now prepare for the meeting?
There are five things that I focus on
I need to ensure that my mindset is calm and that noises from outside of the coaching session are minimised. The sounds I am referring to are the self-chatter, the internal confusion that exists as we navigate through a complex array of client requirements.
I am then in a relaxed and focused state and often practice some mindfulness or meditative technique before the session. The calming that this provides is entirely appropriate and ensures absolute focus as we start the session.
Re-acquaint with the coachee
It is likely to have been a few weeks since you met the coachee last. It is therefore essential to re-acquaint yourself with
a. The specific reasons for why the coaching sessions are happening.
b. What the coachee was going to work on between sessions
c. Any updates from the industry or company that is likely to have an impact. This understanding can be tricky, especially if you are engaging with a senior director in an organisation.
d. As the session starts, some find it useful to ask “What has happened for you since we last met”. By asking this question, you are offering the coachee an opportunity to update you on developments at a personal, organisational, and industry level.
Get developing yourself
You will have gleaned that I detach myself from the coachee agenda. This means that I focus on my practise as a coach. I frequently ask myself a question as to what I can do to enhance my capabilities and prepare as a coach.
I give myself permission to strengthen my knowledge, improve my skills further and create a better outcome for my client. By definition, this is not in the 30 minutes before the session but develops from a mindset of recognising the need for continual learning.
Prepare the toolbox
As coaches, we are often succoring for the latest books, coaching cards, and tools that can assist the coachee in getting to an outcome.
Years ago, I acquired a set of picture cards that I have since used (very frequently) with my clients. I have used dice with pictures on them and used walking coaching to help obtain the breakthrough that the client is seeking.
To use these tools, they need to be with you, and you need to be prepared – so what is it that you need to have as a base stock when you coach that you can draw on as and when you need to?
I also canvas caution here too.
Just because you are carrying a certain prompter, should never force you to use a prompter that is inappropriate. Appropriateness should be part of your awareness toolkit.
For example, if through the coaching conversations, I detect that the client is not stimulated visually, I would think twice before introducing a visual prompt such as picture cards. It is a judgment call that you take when you are in the depths of the coaching conversation.
Beyond the mouthwash, we need to take responsibility for the environment that we are going to be coaching in. I have seen so many coaches expecting complete disclosure from their clients while being based in a busy hotel foyer.
We need always to ask ourselves, is the location that we are coaching in going to allow the coachee to be fully present and authentic with you? Will the ‘real’ coachee turn up?
Sometimes, the location may not be entirely ideal.
As a coach, we always need to be aware of how our client is feeling. If we detect some hesitancy then perhaps we need to check in with the client and perhaps alter where we are. Obviously, this awareness is beyond being a pause for thinking due to a great question.
In one situation, we moved from a sedentary coaching conversation to a walking coaching scenario which is so good for so many reasons.
So there we have it – five quick suggestions to give you the coach a great headstart in providing the client with an amazing coaching experience by giving some time to prepare yourself.