Three ways to prepare for your coaching client conversation

In my capacity as a trainer of coaches, and as a mentor coach, I’m often asked how I prepare for my coaching conversations. There are some bigger picture things, and then simple in-the-moment things that I’ve found work for me, and I share them here with you.

This article was published in the ICF Global Blog; you can read the rest of the article here.

Or you can continue reading below.

#1  – Have a coaching development plan so conversation is on purpose

My coaching work is now primarily contract work I’m offered to coach within companies that are wanting executive coaching services. This covers a range of people, from high potential employees, to Project Managers and Managers seeking to increase their effectiveness engaging with others, to those taking their leadership skills to the next level.

Whichever type of client I’m working with, the initial process is always the same, which is to work with the client to create a coaching development plan. This helps us to know what the bigger picture goals are (the ICF Planning and Goal Setting core competency), how success will be measured, and that all stakeholders are on the same page with the purpose of the coaching. I’ve written an extensive article on Creating a Coaching Development Plan. 

Some clients write pages, while others do much less. The depth of description is up to the client to create in their own style.

Without knowing the goalposts, it’s hard to know whether you’re moving closer to them. A coaching development plan is for life coaching, business, executive – every type of coaching. In our mentor coaching group program, we have an intake questionnaire for our volunteer clients who are coached within our group calls, so we know what their desired outcome for even three sessions of coaching is.

This type of bigger picture preparation means you never have a client coming to a coaching session saying, “I don’t know what to talk about,” as you can always go to their development plan and inquire into any part of it.

#2 – Review and prepare in advance

On Sunday evening, I’m in the habit of reviewing the week ahead, looking at my schedule at what is fixed, versus what is flexible. I sometimes have back-to-back training, coaching or mentoring sessions, and by reviewing my week, I get a mental picture of where I will need to be really focused with my energy, especially if there is a lot of back-to-back work.

If I have time scheduled for creation of materials (including blog articles), this review process helps me to prepare my brain to start creating!

Then every evening, the last thing I do before I leave my office is review the next day. Again, I want to get a mental picture of what’s coming up. I pull up the files for each client, and review what I need to in order to feel prepared for our conversation.

Each client is different. Some I need to read or prepare for debriefs of assessments, while others it maybe the few notes I’ve taken from our last coaching session.

By looking at my calendar for the week, and for the next day, I then allow my brain to do its work overnight, and process whatever it needs to process. I know others who look first thing each day at their day ahead, yet that is stress inducing for me.

#3 – Three slow, deep breaths

I have experimented with what works for me in order to be fully present with a client or group of students, ‘from the very first breath.’ And for me, it’s simply taking three long, slow, deep deliberate breaths. Actually, if I only have time for one of these breaths, I’m present. And being present is the #1 thing a coach needs to be.

There is something magical about taking a slow, deep, deliberate breath, at any time. I’m instantly taken out of my busy mind and grounded in my body, especially as I imagine my breath going all the way down into my belly.

This one breath takes 20 seconds or so. That’s it. If I get 3 breaths in, that’s a bonus.

In closing….

I know that what I share may not be what works for you, and I invite you to experiment with your way of preparing so you feel ready to be with your clients, and give them your very best.


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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