A coaching session is most effective when the client has a focus for the session. That can be a tight focus or a broad focus. Sometimes a client knows exactly what they want to use their coaching session for, and other times they don’t know what they want to focus on, or have many things they want to discuss. So it becomes a discovery process for both coach and client.
Sometimes the client may not have clarity until the middle or somewhere well in to the coaching session, and that’s okay. The whole time you are using your coaching skills – listening, asking questions, clarifying, etc. – and the client is gaining clarity and value.
Listen for the Session Agreement
Once you hear what the client wants as a focus and outcome for the session, you contract with the client at that point. Contracting is what we do as part of ICF Core Competency #2 – Establishing the Coaching Agreement. There’s the overall agreement for the entire coaching engagement, and then there is always an agreement established for each coaching session, which deals with something that moves the client toward the bigger coaching engagement results they are seeking (Planning and Goal Setting).
Within a coaching session, you are always listening for the session agreement. If you hear it and say something like, “If we were to focus on [x] for the rest of this session, would that be the best use of our time for you?” and the client says Yes, then you have a session agreement. If they say No, then you continue exploring with them what they want to obtain from the session. This is also a Partnering approach, a skill associated with Coaching Presence.
Listen for Deeper Themes to Contract Around
As the coach, you are always listening for the themes and deeper coaching the client is inherently asking of you, even if they don’t explicitly state it. For example, a client may say they want to become better organized, when what they are really asking is to learn how to say No to taking on new commitments, or they feel afraid to negotiate around setting priorities with their manager or colleagues, or they are afraid to push out a deadline because they don’t want to disappoint their client. So what they really want is to feel confident in how they speak their truth, and know how to go about that in a way that is honest and respectful.
So the deeper coaching the client wants is on the “Who or Being” level – around their thinking, beliefs, and mindset, and helping them to make the shifts they really want in order to take the action they really want to be taking. And that’s where coaching is really of the greatest value to the client because you are dealing with a source issue and not just an activity issue.
Listen for Re-contracting Opportunities
Now you may be coaching around a focus the client brought to the session, when the client mentions something that is completely different than what you’ve been coaching around as the focus. This is where you pause and ask the client a question such as, “I want to check in with you. We were going in this direction with your focus and now we are talking about something completely different. Do you see the connection between the two? [let the client respond]. If not, would you like to continue with the focus you started with, or do you want to shift to this new thing that has come forth?”
This is called “re-contracting with the client” and allows the client to decide what is most important to them to continue to focus on. This is one way of managing progress in the Managing Progress and Accountability core competency.
You may find yourself re-contracting more than once in some sessions, especially if the client has a lot of things they have brought to the coaching session.
Always be listening for deeper themes around everything the client is saying, and then your re-contracting can be at the Being level, rather than just at the activity (What) level alone. And you will truly be making a difference to your coaching client.
Do you want the opportunity to evaluate MCC Coaching Sessions?
Are you preparing to apply for your MCC, PCC or ACC credential? Or renewing your ACC credential and need 10 hours of mentor coaching? We offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. One of those offerings is a library of MCC and PCC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions. Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group.