In truth the period before the coaching begins is also highly relevant for the coach. This is the time when good preparation should be undertaken in order to get the best possible results out of the session itself.
The potential downfall of not preparing for the forthcoming session.
Let's consider what might happen if the preparation doesn't occur. Your coachee will come in to begin the session and the two of you may talk for a while in general about the situation they are currently in. You may glean some useful information from them but since you have not prepared you won't have a specific game plan to follow.
Without any set goals for the session you may arrive at the end of the coaching time having achieved very little at all. You may not even have isolated anything worthwhile to think about before the next session takes place.
Preparation puts you, the coach, into a stronger position.
As you gain more experience in coaching you will get an idea of how long it will take you to adequately plan for the session ahead. But until then always allow more time than you think you will need.
A good way to begin is to create a purpose for the forthcoming session. What do you hope to gain from the coaching session that will put your coachee in a better position for the future? Having a specific purpose gives you a framework to adhere to, and it will be enormously useful for you and the coachee.
The purpose will probably change from session to session as your coachee starts to achieve more and work towards their goals. For example your purpose for the very first session with a new coachee might simply be to find out where their problem areas are. You may also discover what their motivations are and how they will best respond to certain situations.
Later on, as you discover more about that person, you may be able to narrow down the focus and the purpose a little. For instance the coachee may have a severe lack of confidence in their job position. This has resulted from a lack of training, leaving them lacking in skills. So the purpose of the next session might be to coach the client into a place where they feel confident enough to find out more about furthering their skills in some way.
The advantages of having a session plan.
Obviously the main advantage is that you can identify a purpose for the session ahead. As such you can set a goal and hopefully work with the coachee to achieve it in that session. If the goal or purpose is achieved you will know the session went well and you are making progress.
But suppose the purpose you set out for the session is not achieved? Does this mean the planning and preparation wasn't properly completed?
Not necessarily. Even if you don't get the results you were aiming for, you can still benefit from having gone through the preparation stages. You can sit down afterwards and try to identify why the coachee was unable to reach the stage you were hoping to reach with them. This will lead to a better understanding of your coachee. It may even unearth other issues or problems they may have that they - and you - were not previously aware of.
Remember too that your purpose should be a reasonable one. In the above illustration (where the coachee was afflicted with a major lack of confidence) it would not be realistic or reasonable to expect them to completely change the way they work in a short amount of time. They would not be able to go from having no confidence to conquering that and being hugely self-confident in the space of a week, let alone an hour.
So think of a small step forward - something that can reasonably be achieved by the end of the session. You may want them simply to accept that they are capable of achieving more and improving on their confidence levels in the days and weeks ahead. For some people, simply acknowledging the fact would be a major step forward and a good goal or purpose to have.
Suggestions for times when you cannot create a purpose for the session.
As strange as it may seem, it would be ideal to get some input from the coachee at this point. It should be done at the end of the session however, so ensure you leave time to sum up the session and get their feedback on it.
This is probably more likely to happen with a new coachee. As you coach people over longer periods of time you will gather more information about their situation. You can then use that information to help you plan for the next session.
Always listen out for input from your coachee as well. They may mention things that could inspire you to create a purpose for one or two sessions along the road. Remember that the secret of successful coaching is to draw the information out of the coachee. They will be able to tell you (albeit sometimes subconsciously) what they are able to achieve and when they will be in a position to achieve it.
Adequate preparation should also take into account that different people will reach their goals in different time frames. One coachee may require very small steps to make progress, whereas the next person may be able to achieve a lot more in a short space of time. Always remember the person when you are planning for forthcoming coaching sessions. It will enable you to create solid coaching plans with a purpose that will lead to better quality coaching sessions, both for the coachee and for you.
Rapid Results Limited