coaching process

A Proven Coaching Process (Used With CEOs and Olympians)

Before I sat down with world-class coach Todd Herman, I thought that a good coaching process looks something like this:

  • You set SMART goals with the client
  • You get on a weekly coaching call, ask them what’s going on, and fix the issues mentioned.
  • Throughout the process, you offer encouragement

When I got off the call with Todd, I realized that this is not the coaching process that the top 1% of coaches use.

He dove into the intricate details of the proven coaching process he uses on everyone (from top CEOs to Olympic athletes), and it’s not what you might expect. 

So if you’ve ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at the coaching process the top 1% of coaches use, this post will show you Todd’s exact blueprint and provide actionable steps to level up your coaching process. 

The Three Pillars of Coaching

Before jumping into the step-by-step coaching process, there’s a theme that Todd emphasized throughout the interview:

At its core, great coaching is just these three things; encouragement, accountability, and progress.

Here’s a detailed look at these three legs.


Encouragement is important because if the coachee doesn’t believe they can accomplish the goal, they probably won’t. In fact, that’s probably the mindset pattern they have been in for some time, and you have to shift it before the coachee can make progress.

So how do you effectively encourage a client?

First, the client came to you because they wanted a process to help them solve a particular problem. So let them know that:

  1. They are not alone in the struggle because you will go through it with them.
  2. Your process has helped hundreds of others solve the same problem, so they just need to show up every day and this pain won’t exist for much longer.

Notice that encouragement isn’t just saying, “you can do this.” Instead, it’s giving them a reason to believe why they can do it.


Encouragement is important, but it’s not enough to help your clients achieve their goals.

If you think of a hot air balloon, it needs hot air to take off, but it won’t go anywhere unless you cut the ties holding it to the ground.

In this analogy, the hot air is the encouragement, but the ties holding your client back are certain mindsets, beliefs, or habits that need to change.

While goal setting is the first step to change, taking action is the hardest aspect of change. In fact, your clients probably wouldn’t have hired you if they could hold themselves accountable.

Todd says, “Most coaches don’t want to be a bother. However, I want to be a massive bother. I want to be a thorn in my client’s side until they accomplish that task.”

So how can you effectively hold your clients accountable?

First, look at the milestones the client wants to accomplish. Then, set a handful of tasks to be completed throughout the week. Once you’ve both established those tasks, reach out to the client on the day that task should be completed and ask if it’s done.

Great coachees hire professional coaches to help them get through the hard aspects of the journey, so failing to hold them accountable is actually a massive disservice to your clients.


The final pillar of effective coaching is showing the client that they are making progress. Todd mentioned that a major problem many beginner coaches make is only rewarding physical wins. 

He says that physical wins are usually the last to materialize, so track mental and emotional wins as well.

For example, you might tell the student, “Your questions are much higher quality. You used to ask questions like, ‘how do I get more customers?’ whereas now you ask questions like, ‘how can I hire a good SEO agency?'”

That’s a mental win that will eventually lead to a physical win.

Highlighting these wins in your coaching sessions is important because humans are wired for negativity bias against themselves. So they might dismiss away progress to good luck.

Keep these key themes in mind as we dive into the tactical, five-step process Todd uses with all of his clients. 

Step 1: Set Expectations For The Coaching Relationship

Todd spent a significant portion of the call emphasizing that setting expectations is critical to a successful coaching engagement.

So how do you set expectations effectively?

First, create a constitution of what they can expect from you and what you expect from them.

For example, clients can expect you to show up with their undivided attention and never judge them.

Similarly, you expect clients to be coachable, open to change, and invested in the process.

In addition, give them some information on what they can do to make the most of this coaching relationship. For example, you might put together a resource of five things the most successful clients do (e.g., “reach out immediately when you hit a roadblock”).

Step 2: Building Leverage Into Your Coaching Program

One of the easiest ways to make your coaching more valuable and effective is to build leverage by creating a library of resources. Without a library of resources, it’s difficult to create a process that is repeatable and therefore makes it nearly impossible to promise your clients that you have a proven process to solve their problem.

Here are a few specific resources that you should build into your coaching program:

  • An onboarding course
  • A course with lessons for each week
  • Worksheets/handouts to solve specific problems

Let’s discuss each of these resources in detail.

Offer an Onboarding Course

The onboarding course contains all of the expectation-setting material. Todd’s onboarding course includes videos on:

  • What he expects of his clients
  • What clients can expect from him
  • Tips on how to make the most of the coaching program

Once clients finish the onboarding course, they can schedule the first coaching session. He uses upcoach for all his coaching programs, and it offers a feature that makes the coaching schedule available after clients complete the final onboarding video.

This way, they walk into the first coaching session prepared and don’t waste any precious time discussing housekeeping items.

Create a Course to House Material

Even though you have a coaching program (not an online course), it’s still wise to create videos that teach the basic material for each week. This way, you can focus on advanced questions during coaching calls rather than teaching new material.

This way, clients get more out of your coaching sessions and have a library of videos they can always refer back to in case they need help executing a particular process.

A library of resources also makes it easier to scale your program as you don’t have to create individual videos for clients each time they have a question.

So if you use upcoach, you can create a course with new lessons for each week.

You can also schedule lesson availability so that they are only available at a set date (say, each week), or after a client completes a previous lesson. 

You can also add assignments or habits to each lesson for clients to complete or add to their Task list. 

Coaching habits

Create Worksheets/Handouts 

Many people are visual learners, and having a handout or resource explaining a certain concept is often helpful. You may also want to create worksheets to help your clients think through an idea or internalize a concept.

Previously, most coaches did this inside Google Docs, though this can be a pain for coaches as you don’t always have visibility into client completion (which makes it difficult to do your job as a coach and hold them accountable).

To solve this problem, upcoach offers Smart Docs, which are editable worksheets that track completion for you and show that percentage in the main to-do list.

So you can glance at the to-do list and quickly see which clients are falling behind and reach out to offer additional support.

Here’s an example of a Smart Doc:

coaching habits

Step 3: Create a Framework Coaching Conversations

Now that you’ve developed a library of resources that clients can use to consume material, you can use the coaching sessions to focus on advanced questions.

Here is a framework you can use to guide your coaching conversations.

The Pre-Call Questionnaire

Todd says that most coaches’ mistake at this stage is that they get on the call and say, “What’s on your mind today?”

He admits that he used to do this, and it created a few major problems.

First, your client might not have prepared any questions

Sure, they might know they have a problem, but if they didn’t sit down and think it through, they won’t be able to ask actionable questions.

For example, let’s say the assignment was to get two new clients that week. 

If they don’t have to prepare for the call, the client might say, “Well, the problem is that I didn’t get the two clients.”

However, if they sit down and reflect on why they didn’t get two more clients, they can identify a much more specific, actionable problem.

For example, they might realize they were doing cold email outreach, yet only 2% of their emails were getting opened.

Fixing their email open rate is a much more actionable question you can tackle on the call.

The second reason it’s important to have a framework for the call is that you won’t have an opportunity to do any research on their challenge and provide the best answer possible

Sure, you might be able to give an actionable answer on the fly, but you could probably give a better answer (or point them towards another resource) if you had time to prepare.

Here’s the exact pre-coaching call questionnaire that Todd uses:

  1. What were some of your wins this week?
  2. What is the goal of this coaching call (issues, challenges, problems, opportunities)?
  3. What are three options to solve this issue?

You can have clients fill this out inside upcoach!

Todd emphasizes that it’s important to always bring the client to transformation at every single interaction. So at the end of every call, the client should either feel transformed or at least be in the process of transformation (i.e., you’ve given them an action item that will solve the problem discussed). 

Using a Bank of Questions

Once you’re on the call, you might already have the answer to their problem and be ready to give it to them.

However, Todd says that jumping to the answer is actually a mistake. 

Great coaches know that there are often layers to a problem. If you give clients the answer to the symptomatic problem, it might not fix the root of the problem.

Many clients won’t even take action on your advice because they know deep down that solving the symptomatic problem won’t solve the real issue.

To ask better questions and uncover the root cause of an issue, here are just a few that Todd uses:

Outcome Based Questions

  • What’s your desired outcome?
  • How do you know that you’ve reached the outcome?

Perspective Based Questions

  • What would you think about this five years from now?
  • How does this relate to your life’s purpose?

Planning Based Questions

  • What is your game plan?
  • What are you planning to do about it?

Learning Based Questions

  • If your life depended on taking action, what would you do?
  • If you had to do it over again, what would you do?

So as you’re coaching clients, remember to be patient and take your time asking these questions. Once you get to the root problem, you can relieve a lot of stress and anxiety for your clients. Clients will also have more conviction to take action knowing that the task of the week is a needle-mover.

Step 4: Accountability

Now that you’ve defined a list of action items that will really move the needle, the only thing that’s holding the client back from achieving their goals is executing those action items. 

As we mentioned earlier, accountability is one of the three pillars of coaching, so here’s how you can hold your clients accountable:

  • Check in regularly on to-do progress
  • Track their habits 

Let’s discuss how you can do both of these things from a tactical standpoint.

Checking in On Tasks

Inside upcoach, Todd assigns task lists and homework assignments on Smart Docs. The SmartDocs automatically tracks the percentage of the worksheet that has been completed, which makes it easy for Todd to glance at the dashboard and immediately know if he needs to reach out to the client.

He also emphasized that reaching out to clients is incredibly important to ensure they don’t fall behind.     


Using a Habit Tracker

Permanent change doesn’t usually come from executing a single action – it’s often a buildup of small habits executed daily.

So, in addition to assigning to-dos, it’s also important to define key habits and track them.

Upcoach offers a native habit tracker that you can customize by defining keystone habits, habit frequency (3x per week, daily, etc.), and even a habit schedule (morning, evening, etc.). 

habit tracker

If you’d like to see if upcoach is a good fit for you, sign up for a demo or jump into the platform today!

Step 5: Asking For Renewals Tactfully

If you accurately identified the key problems that the person was facing, and they executed the right action items, it’s quite likely that they achieved their goals.

So asking for a renewal or referral becomes easy because you’ve already proved your value. 

To make it even more of a no-brainer to renew, you can log into the upcoach CRM and show them everything they have accomplished.

Revamp Your Coaching Process Today

Whether you’re an executive coach, leadership coach, life coach, or business coach, this process can help you improve your coaching skill set and deliver transformational results to all of your clients.

If you want an all-in-one platform that supports this coaching process, consider signing up for upcoach today. It makes it easy to create effective action plans, assign tasks, and follow-up with clients when they get stuck.
You can sign up for a demo or jump into the platform now.

Picture of Megan Mahoney
Megan Mahoney
Megan writes content for SaaS companies and digital marketing agencies to increase traffic and conversions. She's worked with brands like Chatfuel, Single Grain, Copyblogger, and others and have also been featured in leading publications like the Content Marketing Institute.
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