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Leading a Coaching Session: Everything You Need to Know

Group coaching, Guides | April 1st, 2021

How to Conduct a Coaching Session

Coaching is one of the fastest rising industries globally, reaching as much as $2.4 billion in total industry size last year. As more people and organizations recognize the immense benefits that coaching can offer, this number will increase even more in the upcoming decade.

But even though there’s no doubt the field is very lucrative, not to mention the satisfaction of helping thousands of people that it comes with, breaking into it isn’t always easy either. You need to be able to conduct impactful coaching sessions that have a lasting impact on the people you work with and provide as much value as possible in every single session.

But how can you lead a coaching session that will leave your mentees craving for more? 

Well, the good news is that even if you don’t have a lot of experience, there’s a proven process for developing a coaching session in any format or situation, which will significantly increase your chances of being successful.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most important aspects of a coaching session below. 

Coaching Session Structure

Whether you want to conduct one-on-one coaching sessions or move onto group coaching sessions, there’s no going around the fact that you will need a structured approach if you’re going to achieve good results.

Sure, it might be tempting to try and go with your gut and improvise. But once you find yourself alone with the person (or people) you’re coaching and have to provide a lot of value in a limited time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed if you don’t have a structured coaching session plan to fall back on.

You also want to make sure that the people you are coaching are responding to what you’re saying. And that involves certain tricks you can employ to get people to relax and engage with the topics you are covering. At upcoach, we understand the importance of having a structure in your coaching sessions. We have recently updated our platform to include advanced agenda customization options inside your Programs, which will help you stay on top of any topic you want to cover and use every minute you have as well as possible.

upcoach agenda

But how should you structure your coaching sessions? 

Well, in most cases, you should leave the majority of time in the middle for the actual materials you have to cover. You can divide the time that’s available for that purpose based on the topics, sections, or aspects of the subject that you want to cover so that you don’t get sidetracked.

But then, it’s also essential to use icebreakers, ask (and take) questions, review successes, and perform a few other steps depending on whether you’re working individually or coaching a group.

Coaching Session Example

A typical 60-minute session might look something like this: 

  • Short intro with an icebreaker (2 minutes)
  • Progress review (8 minutes)
  • Topic presentation/Discussion (40 minutes)
  • Questions (5 minutes) 
  • Review (5 minutes)

In most cases, you probably won’t be able to stick to an exact script minute-by-minute, but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you know the sequence and the rough amount of time you have, which will allow you to plan accordingly and ensure that the structure remains consistent, from meeting to meeting.

By using a structured approach, you will not only provide more value but will also project more authority on the subject, have an easier time preparing, and will help participants learn more effectively.

So, while making it easier on you, it will simultaneously help everyone involved, which is a win-win situation.

The 3-Step Coaching Structure

The 3-Step Coaching Structure

Now that it’s clear why structure is so crucial for an effective coaching session, the next challenge is figuring out what approach to use in your situation. While you want to maintain order in the way you conduct a coaching session, you still want the process to be convenient, versatile, and quick to implement.

Luckily, that’s where the 3-step coaching structure can be so helpful. It does a great job of providing a solid framework to work with while also giving you enough flexibility to make each session unique and adjust it based on the circumstances. 

Let’s break down the essential elements of a 3-step coaching structure below. 

The Lead-Up

As a coach, you probably want to provide as much help and value in each session as possible. And usually, the first instinct to achieve that is to dive into the materials you want to cover as quickly as possible.

However, if you don’t give yourself and the participants in the session time to reflect and understand the current situation, you will miss out on many opportunities to provide more help and also have a harder time keeping the people you are coaching engaged.

At the beginning of a coaching session, your clients might be feeling a bit tense, distracted, or not sure how the process will go. A lead-up can set the stage for what comes next and get them in the right mindset to get as much as possible from the experience.

The key goal of the lead-up is to find the core issue that your client is currently facing. As a coach, it’s your job to help your clients overcome obstacles and reach their goals, so this is a great process to zero-in on the main issue at any given time and make it the focus of the conversations. 

But how to conduct an effective lead-up to your coaching session? 

Well, since the main goal is to discover the most pressing issues your client is facing, you should ask questions that help you achieve that. Ask them to talk about their progress, recent focus areas, challenges, and outcomes that they want to achieve.

You can then build on these questions and adjust the topics you want to cover accordingly, providing a more relevant experience. 

The Breakthrough

Once you know what direction you need to take, you will have a much easier time providing relevant value to your clients during the coaching session

Once you know what direction you need to take, you will have a much easier time providing relevant value to your clients during the coaching session. However, if you don’t want the coaching session to turn into a lecture, you have to be mindful about how you present the information and interact with the participants.

Many less-experienced coaches fall into the trap of feeling they have to prove or showcase their expertise on the subject. But just because you can talk for hours about a topic doesn’t mean that all of it is relevant to the listener.

In fact, once you zero-in on the main challenges or your client, your primary goal should be to understand the situation better using open-ended questions and then provide a simple and easy-to-understand solution that enables them to have a breakthrough.

As a coach, you must be able to distill all the immense knowledge you have accumulated and customize it to the needs of each client. That is the area that provides the most value in each coaching session.

To achieve this, the breakthrough part of the coaching session should be all about asking questions that dive deeper into the issues your client is facing while also carefully listening to what they say and even what they don’t say.

The Takeaway

Coaching sessions can be intense. As you get in the zone with your clients and work through issues, the amount of information you cover can be massive. And while that’s great (and one of the reasons why coaches are so valuable), it also means you have to be mindful that your clients don’t become overwhelmed and actually take away the insights that you share with them.

That’s where the takeaway part of the coaching session comes in.

It’s the part where you review what you talked about, structure the information they received into a more actionable format, and lay out the next steps they should take to build on the new information they now have.

However, even though the next steps are essential, you should not dictate them to the client. Sure, you can offer ideas, but allow your client to come up with their own priorities and to-do lists that will make the most sense in their situation.

Also, make sure that the client has a process for holding themselves accountable and following through on the insights and steps they now have. That’s the only way to ensure that they are ready to move forward when the next session comes. 

Effective Coaching Session Tips

Being a successful and impactful coach comes down to hundreds of aspects, some of which you’ll only master by sitting down with actual clients and seeing what coaching session style suits you best.

But you can follow some general guidelines if you want to get on the right track and increase your chances of success.

  • Start with a Positive Note. A good coaching session usually relies on having a positive outlook that puts your clients in a proactive and motivated mood. That’s why it’s always a good idea to start on a positive note and direct the conversation towards solutions instead of dwelling on failures or issues, no matter how frustrating they might be.
  • Develop Trust & Build Rapport. If you want a coaching session to go well, you also need to develop a personal connection with each client. That’s the only way to get them to trust you, which is essential if you want them to open up, trust you, and be willing to listen to what you have to say.
Develop Trust & Build Rapport
  • Listen Actively. As a coach, your first instinct is to provide value. But at the same time, you must be an excellent listener, reading between the lines of what your clients are saying and providing insights that are the most relevant to them in that situation. You must also know how to ask the right questions at the right time, guiding the conversation forward and helping your clients reach the conclusions that they must come to.
  • End on a Positive Note. Just as at the beginning, it’s also good to wrap up each session with a boost in motivation. Even when things get tough, you want to ensure that your clients come out of the coaching session believing in themselves and their ability to overcome any challenge they might have to face.
  • Set Expectations & Follow Up. Finally, you should make sure your clients can hold themselves accountable to taking the necessary steps and set clear expectations for what they need to do if they want to succeed. Also, you should follow up on the progress they are making and guide them through any roadblocks that might appear along the way. 

Bottom Line

Conducting a coaching session is a challenge, but it’s also one of the most rewarding parts of being a coach. But to ensure your clients are happy and that you deliver the results they expect, having a structure and a plan you can fall back on is essential.

Using the 3-step coaching session structure outlined above, you will always have a proven method to rely on whenever you need to fit as much value as possible in a single session. And your clients will walk away happy, knowing that the value you provide is something they need to succeed and move forward.

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