It’s an exciting time! You or someone in your organization is finally getting started with coaching. Naturally, you probably have a lot of questions on what the next steps will entail. In this blog, I outline a typical coach-client experience, so you’ll know what exactly what to expect.
Building the Foundation
Your first few sessions with your coach will likely be focused around providing them with a thorough background on yourself, including the challenges that led you to seek out a coach in the first place. You’ll work together to set goals for coaching. These should include both tangible, observable outcomes as well as more qualitative outcomes, such as how you want to experience work and/or life. Goals are important because they anchor your work in coaching and enable your coach to hold you accountable to moving towards those objectives. Of course, they’re your goals – so if you want to modify them along the way, then that’s encouraged. During these initial sessions, you may also complete any assessments that are part of the engagement, so the results can be incorporated into your goals and provide fodder for the coaching itself.
Once the foundation is laid, you will get into a rhythm of meeting with your coach approximately every two to three weeks. You want to meet often enough so that you’re updating your coach on what’s transpired since your last session, but also far enough apart that you have time for any perspective-broadening exercises and any behavioral experiments you commit to trying.
You’re in the Lead
Coaching is client-led, which means that your biggest responsibility is to set the direction of each coaching conversation. While you don’t have to know exactly what you want to get out of each session, you do need to point the way and be willing to work with the coach to figure out what is the highest and best use of your time together. For example, a best practice for each session is to have an agreement about what you want to achieve, how you will know when you get there, and why it’s important to you. While a coach does not bring a curriculum or an agenda to the sessions, they may offer frameworks or tools relevant to an issue you are facing. This allows you try them and see they help. But if they don’t, they will set them aside and move on to the next option.
You’re the Expert
Your coach should rarely, if ever, tell you what to do. They are not an expert on your work and your life – you are! You have the final say. As a coach, I show up with two questions every session: 1) How are you today, really and truly? And 2) What’s the most important thing we can focus on today for you?
Coaching should feel like a purposeful conversation where your coach is deeply present to you and your needs. They convey this presence through active listening, powerful questions, gentle provocations, offering reflections and observations, and helping you commit to forward-moving actions. Often, if not almost always, you will end your coaching session having co-created next steps or “homework” with your coach.
Where the Real Work Happens
Most of the work of coaching occurs in between sessions with your coach. This flow of coaching carries on throughout the engagement, unpacking issues and challenges with your coach, identifying next steps, implementing them, circling back, and so on. This is how mindsets and behaviors change – incrementally over time. Each session builds or extends on the last, deepening and iterating your understanding of yourself, your situation, and your choices.
Coming to a Close
Coaching closes out with a reflection on your successes and opportunities for continued development. You and your coach will celebrate together, with your coach having had the privilege of bearing witness to your vulnerability and hard work throughout the process.