The (Incredible) value of checking in

This article was first published in ICF Coaching World, Issue 21. If you’d like to read it there, or access the incredible resources in the publication, you can access it here (it may take awhile to download).

You can read just my article below:

Many, many moons ago (18 years, in fact), when I attended my first coach training program, we were asked at the end of each training session, “What’s your key takeaway from this session?” That also became the last thing we asked a client in a coaching session.

Five years or so later, an event occurred that shook me out of my habit. In response to the question, my client said something like,

“Well it was a really great conversation and I’m taking away x, y and z. I didn’t get the thing answered I really wanted from this session, but the other stuff we talked about was great.”

I remember hanging up the phone and thinking, “Oh no! What happened?! What did the client want to talk about that I missed? I’ve failed him as a coach!”

From that day on, I more specifically clarified what the client wanted to have by the end of our coaching session, and I’d check in during the session to see if we were heading toward their desired outcome.

I offer you one of the most powerful coaching tools we have, the “check-in.”


Where does the client want to end up?

In order to check in and find out how the coaching session is progressing for the client, we first need to know their desired destination. I’m a big advocate for using ICF’s PCC Markers as coaching skills to master, so that I can increase my effectiveness as an Executive Coach, a trainer of coaches, a Mentor Coach, and as an Assessor for ICF credentialing.

The first marker for Creating the Coaching Agreement is,

“Coach helps the client identify, or reconfirm, what s/he wants to accomplish in the session.”

This means we need to know more than the topic the client wants to talk about; we need to understand what it is about that topic the client wants to explore in order to move forward in their desired direction.

An Example

Let’s say your client comes to the coaching session saying, “I’ve just found out that two of my peers are being paid more than I am, and we’re doing the same work. I’ve also trained these two peers when they came to the company, so this feels like a slap in the face. I want to know from our manager why I’m being paid less.”

The client has let you know their topic, yet what do they want to move forward (accomplish) around this topic in this session? It could be to prepare for a conversation with their manager, or how to deal with their emotions first so they are able to speak coherently to their manager. Or it could be something else.

Perhaps your client learned this information right before the coaching session and says they want to work through their feelings about the situation first, and then to prepare to have a conversation with their manager. Now you can ensure your coaching stays focused on these two areas— working through their emotions, and preparing for the conversation.

Check if coaching direction is serving the client toward their outcome

The fifth marker in Coaching Session Agreement is,

“Coach continues conversation in direction of client’s desired outcome unless client indicates otherwise.”

This is your first way of checking in with the client to ensure that you are meeting their needs.

Here are examples of questions to ask to check in:

“Where do you want to start exploring your topics?”

“It seems you are bringing up a different topic. Or do you see this related to your other topics?”

Make a point of checking in somewhere around halfway into your coaching session (or more often if you are doing 60-–90-minute sessions).

Examples of checking in using the client’s language (which is essential for MCC skill level mastery):

“Can I check where you are now in regard to your emotions versus where you started our session?”

“It seems you have some really great ideas for how to approach your manager so far in our session. How would you describe where you are now?”

Checking in allows the client to reflect, and consider….

Don’t wait until the very end of the session for your first check-in with your client, because a check-in almost always has the client share one or two things:

  1. The client reflects on what they’ve become aware of as a result of the coaching conversation.
  2. The client starts coming up with actions.

You want to allow time for the client to explore their emerging awareness, or to talk about their actions. This part of the coaching conversation is just as important as the exploring and discovery conversation, so don’t shortchange the client by allowing no time for them to explore their awareness, and/or actions.

In closing….

Checking in during a coaching conversation is a very powerful tool that allows you to get a gauge on whether the conversation is still serving the client, if the client wants to shift the direction of the conversation, or if they are ready to reflect on what they’ve discovered so far and talk about actions.

Copyright 2017. Full Being Coaching, Inc., and Carly Anderson


Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

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Carly Anderson will be ‘flying solo’ in 2017 as Karen Boskemper goes on to work on other projects. I will her miss her wisdom and support, and yet wish her all the best in her next endeavors.

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