How to Structure a Quality Coaching Session

coaching session

Whether you are looking to implement a new coaching programme or refresh an existing one, Simon Thatcher shares his top tips to help you on your way.

1. Coaching Should Be Driven by the Individual – Not the Organization

Understand why and when to offer it – coaching is a tool, and like any tool, if you use it for the wrong purpose it won’t be as effective. Coaching should be offered when you want an individual to take control of their development process.

The coaching request should be driven by the individual and not the organization. “I’d like to book a coaching session because I need help developing my sales skills” is a much more powerful prospect than “You are having a coaching session because you need to develop your sales skill”.

2. Create a Safe Environment

Ensure you clearly establish what people can expect from a coaching session.

Be up front and honest about what your organization’s commitment to coaching is and what the individual can expect if they book a session. Get them to understand that this is a safe environment where they are responsible for creating solutions to meet their own individual needs.

Most people’s experience of coaching is about being told what they need to improve and how they are going to do it.

3. Give It the Time It Deserves

This session is about meeting the individual’s needs.

Make sure you clear enough time for yourself, so that nobody feels like they are being rushed towards a solution because you need to be somewhere else.

4. Don’t Use a Direct Line Manager


Wherever possible, don’t use a direct line manager.

As part of the coaching process you want to create a safe environment where the person is free to discuss all the things that are important to them.

This can sometimes mean talking about fear and failure areas that not everybody will be comfortable admitting to their line manager. It also helps create a non-biased environment, allowing the coach to focus on the reality of the session.

5. Use a Coaching Model

Plan, prepare and use a model.

If you have never coached before, there are some great models to help support coaching, with the GROW model being the most effective.

GROW stands for:

  • Goal
  • Current Reality
  • Options (or Obstacles)
  • Will (or Way Forward)

Use this to guide and support – but not dictate – how the conversation flows.

6. Beware of Quick Fixes

Be careful when setting your expectations about the outcome.

Far too often, there is an expectation that people will come out of a coaching session and be fixed.

In some cases, the session may have been enough to implement a solution, but that’s not always the case. For some people, the coaching session allows them to understand the why of the situation. Achieving the target may take longer and additional resources such as training.

7. Get the Agent to Design the Solution

It’s not about what you think is best. The solution that the individual chooses to implement should be of their own design.

Allowing individuals to find solutions that meet their own needs is one of Malcolm Knowles’ core principles in his Adult Learning Theory – which suggests that the best learning environments are the ones that are collaborative and use a problem-based approach.

Sometimes these solutions can fail but this can also often be a valuable learning experience.

8. Use the 70/30 Rule


While this rule is used a lot, it’s a good one to adhere to.

70% of the conversation should be from the person being coached. It is down to them to drive the session and generate solutions, while the coach’s role is to ask the 30% of who, what, where, when and how in the session. Advice should be given rarely, if at all.

9. Have a Clear Plan

Set clear organizational expectations. If you’re spending time on this, it’s likely that somebody will want to see a return on investment.

Ensure that after the session has finished, there is a clear plan, including actions, timescales and the anticipated outcome and that this information is distributed to all affected parties.

10. Don’t Let the Follow-Up Slide

It’s what happens after the coaching that’s important, whether it’s the commitment that the coachee has made or that you have made as a coach, you have to find the time to follow it through.

Simon Thatcher

Simon Thatcher

Great coaching sessions can easily be derailed by the distractions that occur in the real world. The real work begins once the session has finished.

Fundamentally, what great coaching gives you is empowered, effective people who have taken personal responsibility for their own development and who help you create a place where people want to work.

With thanks to Simon Thatcher, Founder of The Personal Improvement Coach

You can also follow him on Twitter @ThePIcoach

Author: Megan Jones

Published On: 25th Aug 2022 - Last modified: 30th Aug 2022
Read more about - Skills, , , , ,

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