How to Nail Your Initial Coaching Session and Foster Lasting Success

How to Nail Your Initial Coaching Session and Foster Lasting Success

First impressions make or break any relationship. That’s why the initial coaching session with a new client has to hit all the marks. If you plan everything right and execute, you can rest assured that you will set the tone for the rest of your sessions.

But let’s be real—many new coaches stumble into some common pitfalls and fail to make that initial coaching session a memorable one. So let’s make sure that does not happen to you.

Build Rapport First

As a coach, you can be quick to assume the role of a problem solver.

However, you are best off playing the waiting game for a while and allowing your client to speak. The more you listen, the better you can understand how both you and your client can land on the same page. Spend time understanding their background, their aspirations, and what makes them tick.

A little empathy goes a long way. Share a bit about yourself too—just enough to build trust but not so much that it overshadows your client’s needs. This initial bonding sets the stage for deeper work.

During this session, if you do it right, you will be able to establish how often you and your client will meet, which skills will take priority, and how you will motivate them to achieve all of their goals. And all that from the initial coaching session.

Put the Client in the Spotlight

Put the Client in the Spotlight During Your Initial Coaching Session

Your initial coaching session is not there to showcase your expertise but to discover your client’s goals and challenges. Think of it as being a detective—your job is to gather clues and understand the whole picture before jumping to conclusions.

What you will need here are open-ended initial coaching session questions. The right questions invite clients to reflect deeply and share their thoughts and feelings without being confined to a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Here are some examples:

  • What are your long-term goals for this coaching engagement?
  • Can you describe what success looks like for you?
  • What motivated you to seek coaching at this point in your life?

Remember that curiosity is a coach’s best friend. When you approach your client with genuine curiosity, you signal that you value their opinion and are eager to understand their point of view. This is especially important during the goals of the initial coaching session. Instead of steering the conversation toward what you think might be relevant, allow your client to guide you toward the key to successful coaching sessions.

Don’t Overwhelm with Information

It’s tempting to share all your knowledge in one go and how your coaching sessions can improve the life of your client. But it’s sufficient to just share a few success stories of your previous clients.

Talking about the future and how you expect things to pan out can be counterproductive and even put some pressure on your client. Therefore, take it easy and use the initial coaching session to build trust and a good relationship.

Learn How To Establish The Right Approach

Learn How To Establish The Right Approach During Your Initial Coachign Session

Every client is unique, and your coaching should reflect that. The fact is that you won’t know what works for your client if you don’t carry out the initial coaching session the right way. Ask your client whether they have had experience with training or coaching before and what they liked the most during those sessions.

Pay attention to their learning style and preferences. Some might like detailed explanations, while others prefer a more hands-on approach. During the initial phases, you can try to be more flexible and as you both get accustomed to each other, you can better tailor your strategies and hit the goals the clients have outlined in their minds.

An Initial Coaching Session That’s Focused on Instant Wins

Early victories can build momentum and boost your client’s confidence and you can do that right from the get-go.

Identify small, achievable goals that can be tackled right away. For instance, If your client’s ultimate goal is to improve their public speaking skills, start with a manageable task like presenting a short topic to a small group of friends or family and have it recorded. Then when the client comes back, you can both analyze and tackle different fields such as body language, articulation, and so on.

An instant win is still a win and a setup for long-term growth!

Create a Safe Space For Feedback

Encourage your client to give feedback and be open about their thoughts and concerns. This creates a safe space where they feel valued and heard.

Use their feedback to refine your approach and make adjustments as needed. This not only improves your sessions but also strengthens the trust and collaboration in your coaching relationship.

Manage It Well

Manage It Well

While you might feel that your initial coaching session should be relaxed, you don’t want to steer far from what both you and the client are there for. Plan your sessions with a clear agenda and avoid getting sidetracked. This kind of session will help your client adjust and be assured that they are in the right hands. 

It might also be a good time to establish expectations. While setting long-term goals can feel overwhelming, you can establish some things you expect your clients to do – prepare material, do research, and work on certain challenges they have themselves. Also, it’s a good time for them to learn what they can expect of you, such as your coaching style and how you respond to progress and setbacks.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Avoid jumping to conclusions about your client’s needs or solutions. Gather as much information as possible and approach each session with an open mind.

Be curious and explore the client’s experiences and perspectives without bias. This approach helps create a coaching plan that’s truly tailored to the client’s unique situation.

Avoid the ‘Expert’ Trap

As a coach, your expertise is undoubtedly valuable, but it’s important to remember that coaching is a partnership. Your role is to facilitate your client’s growth and help them find their own solutions. 

Here’s how to empower your clients and push toward a collaborative coaching relationship:

  • Encourage Client Ownership:
    • Promote Self-Discovery: Instead of providing all the answers, guide your clients to discover their own solutions. Ask probing questions like “What do you think could be a possible next step?” or “How would you approach this problem if you were advising a friend?”
    • Celebrate Their Successes: Recognize and celebrate when clients achieve breakthroughs on their own. This reinforces their confidence and independence. Phrases like “You did a fantastic job figuring that out on your own!” can be very empowering.
  • Facilitate Rather Than Direct:
    • Guide the Process: Your role is to provide a framework and tools for your clients to explore their challenges. Use techniques like brainstorming or scenario analysis to help them see different perspectives and options.
    • Support Their Journey: Be there to support and encourage, but resist the urge to take over. Allow clients to take the lead in their own development. For example, “What do you think should be our focus for the next session?” gives them a sense of control over their progress.

Establish Clear Next Steps

Establish Clear Next Steps

Always wrap up your sessions with clear actions and next steps. This gives your client a sense of direction and purpose moving forward.

Discuss what they need to work on before the next session and outline the agenda for future meetings. This keeps both parties aligned and focused on continuous progress.

Create a Tailored Coaching Plan

Once you’ve gathered comprehensive information and explored your client’s perspectives with an open mind, you’re in a position to craft a coaching plan that truly meets their needs. The goals of the initial coaching session should include establishing a clear understanding of the client’s objectives and challenges. With this foundation, you can develop strategies and set goals that align with your unique journey.

For example, if a client expresses a desire to improve their work-life balance, but also highlights their passion for their job, your plan might include steps to manage time more effectively without sacrificing their engagement with their work.

This custom approach is far more effective than applying a generic solution, as it takes into account the client’s specific context and aspirations. It demonstrates your commitment to their success and reinforces the collaborative nature of the coaching relationship.


Starting strong with a new client sets the stage for a successful coaching relationship. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can create a positive and productive environment that promotes growth and achievement.

Keep learning, stay flexible, and always put your client’s needs at the forefront of your coaching practice. Here’s to setting the right tone and achieving great results together!

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