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What happens in a coaching session

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

The curse of knowledge they call that.

When you believe that someone already knows what you know.

And it IS a curse. Because it means that you never explain something to someone.

It means you believe that someone already knows, or should know. It means that that person might feel uncomfortable asking for an explanation. It means that that person remains unaware. Even the person who could really benefit from that explanation.

All this sounds really cryptic, doesn't it?

What I mean is this.

Us coaches live in a world of coaches. We believe coaching is everywhere. That there are coaches all over the world. And that everyone must have been on the receiving end of coaching at least once in their life. We live and breathe it. We practice it. We know the benefits. We know how your world can change as a result of coaching. We know how you can achieve results beyond what you ever thought possible with the help of coaching.

Turns out, however, that YOU have lived your life totally unaware.

You've never considered coaching.

You don't really know what it is (beyond a vague idea of a screaming man on a football field). You certainly don't know what it can do for you

All YOU know is that you have this sense of restlessness. This idea of 'there has to be more to life than this'. And that you're not really sure where to go with that.

You've heard of coaching, but have never experienced it.

So you're nervous. A bit apprehensive. Not knowing what to expect. And you don't really want to sign up to a 'free' session. Because it's never free, now is it? The idea that you're being sold to puts you off. Big time.

I totally understand.

So, I'm going to help you.

I'm going to help you decide if coaching is for you.

By explaining what coaching is all about. To take away some of the mystery surrounding coaching. What it is that you can expect in a coaching session or programme. What to expect from your coach. And how to best prepare for making steps to transform your life and work.

What coaching isn't

It's funny that, isn't it? To start explaining it by explaining what it is not.

Coaching is not:

  • Consulting - Consultants are hired to come up with a solution to a problem, and then often implement that solution as well. They're the experts. They're paid a s**tload of money to sweep in, diagnose what's wrong and fix it. That's not what a coach does.

  • Counselling - You hire a counsellor if you are stuck in a certain situation, are looking too much to the past, can't get over something that has happened to you and it's affecting your mental health. Coaches believe that their clients are healthy and whole. If we believe that you would be better off with a counsellor we'll refer you.

What IS coaching?

Coaching is a partnership. For a limited time coaches will partner with you to help you achieve results, move yourself through a period of change, help you achieve the goals you set for yourself. A coaching relationship is always about the future. How to move you from where you are today to where you'd like to go.

We won't dig around in your past. We'll only touch on that if we can uproot some of the beliefs you formed earlier in life that are no longer helpful to you.

OK, so, what IS coaching?

Coaching is having meaningful conversations. When you speak to a coach he or she will be focused solely on you. On your goals, on what you believe about yourself and the world, on what is keeping you stuck.

With the aim of getting you to really seeing what's in your way. To help you move forward.

Because sometimes we are just stuck in our own heads. We go round and round and round, and end up in the same place.

Coaches are trained to disrupt your thoughts. To get you out of that endless cycle. To ask you questions that you're not expecting. That you would never have asked yourself. Sometimes - full disclosure - these questions can be uncomfortable. Sometimes these questions go to the core of who you are, and hit you right in the stomach.

And THAT's where the magic happens.

Because you don't know what you don't know. You don't know how to get out of that endless cycle. You don't know what your thinking is. Because everyone has their own life to live and might not have the time to help you, to support you, to challenge you, to let you SEE your own thinking.

That's what coaching is.

What us coaches believe

We believe that - when you come to us - you already know the answer. You already know what it is that you want to achieve and how to do it.

Coaches believe that you are a complete, healthy, intelligent, whole human being. Who is perfectly capable of solving her own problems.

The problem is that you don't KNOW you are. Or you have got yourself stuck because of your own beliefs, your own thinking and need dedicated time to break through this. Or you just need some tactics to deal with situations you find yourself in (office politics or redundancy anyone?). So that you can move forward and make your goals happen.

What coaching will do for you

One of my clients said it best. She said 'it has given me permission to think'. Because that's - first and foremost - what coaching is. Coaching allows you time to think. Within the hecticness (is that a word - hectic-ity?) of everyday life it gives you an opportunity to breathe, talk and think out loud.

But that's not all. Because your coach is trained to support you in moving forward she will continually move your conversation forward. Challenging you. Reflecting back to you what you're saying. Making you think about your thoughts (are you still with me?).

That is why the 'holy grail' of coaching is the 'aha' moment. That moment when you come to an insight. When you realise that there is a different way forward. That there is a way forward at all.

What happens in an Introduction Call

I get it. Introduction Calls are a bit scary. Because - actually - it is a great big step for you. To admit that you want to know more about coaching. To contact someone and say 'yes, I think I'd like to know more'. To then turn up on a call, not knowing exactly what to expect. Hoping that someone will be able to support you. But also in the full knowledge that you're going to be 'sold to'.

It's an enormous step. I get it.

Which is why I wanted to say a little bit about the Introduction Call.

That's what I call it. Others have different names. Power Hour. Strategy Call. Chemistry call.

It doesn't matter. It's all the same thing: a sales call.

But a sales call - or Introduction Call - doesn't have to be this big awkward thing.

What it SHOULD be is this:

  • A call in which both you and the coach turn up - That sounds simple enough, doesn't it? It's surprisingly difficult. Because booking yourself on an Introduction Call is a big thing. That you might regret the moment you've done it. Because booking an Introduction Call means that you want that help. That you want that support to help you through this period of change. It means admitting to yourself that this is actually happening. Change can feel difficult. Even if you really - really - want it. I want you to be sure that this change is what you want BEFORE you book a call. That's why I'm writing this blog. So you know what to expect. And are 100% sure you want - and need - support.

  • A nice two-way conversation - Remember I told you that coaching is a partnership? That's how you should look at that first conversation. As a conversation. Meeting a new person. Being able to talk about yourself. About where you're finding yourself in your career, in your life. So that your coach has all the information she needs to offer you her solutions to helping you move forward. But it is also an opportunity for you to get to know your coach. Coaching is a relationship. One built on trust. You're going on a journey together, an Introduction Call is your opportunity to find out if you trust your coach enough to want to take that journey together.

  • A solution - You've got an issue you're dealing with. You feel on a crossroads in your career, in your life. You want support to make some key decisions. You're looking for solutions. Coaching might be one of them. An Introduction Call is a way of gauging if coaching is for you. Do you and your coach 'click'? Does your coach ask the right questions? Do you feel 'safe' in this partnership? Do you feel empowered? Do you believe this person understands you? And knows how to help you move forward? If you say 'yes' to these questions, then you might well have found your solution!

  • An experience - A good coach will ask you questions. The aim of this is to get enough information to provide you with the right solution for you. It will be your first 'taster' of what working with that coach will be like. See if you like the questions that are being asked. Not like like. But like as in - are they giving you more insight about yourself? Are they making you think? A coach will never coach you without your permission, however they will need to ask you questions to understand more about you. This is your opportunity to gauge what you think.

What an Introduction Call shouldn't be is awkward. It shouldn't feel as if you're being 'sold to'. As if you're pushed into buying something. That's never much fun for anyone.

You're there because you want to be there and because you want a solution to a problem. Your coach is there because she might have the solution for your problem. You're both there to make that happen, in partnership. That's it! No awkwardness involved!

What happens before your Introduction Call

Say you have decided to book an Introduction Call. How did you come to that conclusion? You may have:

  • Read someone's social media posts and really liked what they had to say

  • Gone on their website and had a good look around

  • Signed up to their newsletter

  • Sent her an email or a DM or booked a session on the coach's website

And then what? You've started the conversation, but now you're getting a bit nervous. Because, you know - what have you DONE? It's all a bit real now. Change IS going to happen.

Well, here's what I think you should do:

  • Research as much as possible about the coach and her methods. Remind yourself why you were interested in working with this coach in the first place. Does she have some interesting blogs you might be able to read? Can you have a look at her testimonials? Is she an ICF accredited coach? What does it say on her LinkedIn profile? How does she work?

  • Keep your focus. It's so easy, isn't it? To lose focus on what you're trying to achieve. In the daily hubbub of life. But there was a reason why you signed up for a call. Remind yourself of that reason. Have a post-it note on your computer if you have to. You have a vision, for your work, for your life. Keep it front of mind.

  • Prepare for your call - Think about what you want out of this call. What do you want to come away with? More information about a coaching programme? Something you can't read on that person's website? Do you want to be convinced that your coach is the right one for you? Something else? Also, be prepared to talk about the issue you want to solve. About where you're finding yourself in your career and your life. So that, together, you can come up with a coaching solution that's right for you.

Finally, be prepared for the coach to say 'no'. Remember? Coaching is a partnership. One that both partners need to say 'yes' to. Sometimes coaches believe that coaching is not the right solution for you. Or not the right solution for you right now. Or that someone else is better placed to work with you. At which point they will say 'no'. That's the sign of a good coach. Someone who wants the right solution for you. Even if that means referring you to someone else.

Also be prepared for the coach to want to help you move forward. Even if that isn't with her as the coach. So, if coaching is not for you, what are you going to do instead? How are you going to move beyond that 'stuck' feeling? You see, THAT is what we as coaches want. For you to find a solution to your problem. NOT to sell our coaching to you at all cost.

Before your first coaching session

You had the call. It was amazing! Not only were you able to talk about yourself, about who you are, what you do and where you'd like to go next, you also were totally sold on the coaching programme your coach suggested.

You said YES! And you're so excited to get started!

So now what?

Well, you will be sent an invoice, and an agreement, and some other materials to get you started. You will book your first coaching session. And then you wait. Until it's time for your coaching session.

Or are you? No, of course you're not. Because, your thoughts won't stop, just because there is a couple of days or even weeks in between.

What you can do to prepare:

  • Pre-work - Your coach may have sent you some pre-coaching work. A questionnaire to complete. Some pre-work. Make sure you complete it and share - as appropriate, with your coach. Your thoughts are not going to wait for you. Get prepared and share it with your coach. So that she has all the most up to date information about you and you can start with where you find yourself.

  • Start a journal - Not the writing kind? Yes, that's what I always thought about myself too. But journaling has proven to reduce stress, calm your emotions and give you some real insight into your thoughts. If nothing else, prepare by starting a journal (besides, who DOESN'T like buying a new notebook and some new pens).

  • Minimise distractions - You've just bought yourself the time to think. Do yourself a favour and create the circumstances in which you can do your best thinking. Minimise distractions. Unsubscribe from newsletters. Remove Facebook and Instagram from your phone's home page. See what else you can do to focus your mind.

What happens IN a coaching session

And then the day comes. Your first coaching session. It's been at least a couple of days - if not more - since you've spoken to your coach. You're a bit nervous.

What will happen is this:

  • First of all your coach will make you feel comfortable. I once did a course on facilitation. The course leader called it 'getting people out of animal mode'. It's important for you to feel comfortable. That you know the technology works, you're sitting comfortably, you have something to drink, pen and paper to hand, your phone off and distractions minimised, you can hear your coach properly and she can hear you. It's important, because you are taking a journey with your coach, and for this you need to trust each other.

  • In your first coaching session - Your coach is likely to go through some of your documentation. Your coaching agreement. Any pre-work you may have done. This is to clarify from the start what you're going to do. So that you both have the correct expectations. Your coach may even agree all future coaching sessions with you, so that you have peace of mind and know when you'll see each other.

  • Your goals - An important element of coaching is your goals. What is it that you want out of coaching? What is it that you want to come away with? You will have spoken about this in your Introduction Call, or you will have written it in your questionnaire. You'll talk about your goals up front. So that your coach is clear, you are clear, and you can both work towards achieving them.

  • Coaching - And then the real coaching begins! Every session is likely to be made up of:

    • 'Homework' from previous sessions - A coaching session will start with where you left off last time. Did you take any actions? Did you have any 'homework'? That's where we'll start.

    • Your goal for the session - With the bigger goal for coaching in mind, your coach is likely to work with you on determining your goal for the session. Sometimes it's obvious that you'll be talking about - say - your strengths, or what your values are. Sometimes it's about what has been coming up for you, what is happening in your life outside the coaching sessions, about what is forefront of your mind and is in your way to making your goals happen.

    • Questions and conversation - Questions are always aimed at moving you towards your goal for the session.

    • Actions - Once the session comes to a natural conclusion, your coach will ask you to summarise your actions (remember that notebook and pen?).

    • Support - Your coach will ask you what support you need, after which a coaching session will close.

What happens in between coaching sessions

In between sessions - that's when the real coaching happens. Because the insights you've had from your coaching will only then start 'percolating' through your brain. You may want to sit with that new found knowledge and think about what that means.

You will have taken away some actions. And before you think it, actions are not always things TO DO. Actions can also be things to think about. Remember your journal? Your journal is the ideal vehicle to verbalise some of your thoughts. To think out loud, so to speak.

You may even have access to your coach in between sessions. Some of my clients like to write out their thoughts in War and Peace-like emails. If that is your thing then discuss that with your coach. To see if that is part of the service.

Making your mind up

There you have it!

Coaching, demystified!

What you've been reading over the last 10 minutes or so is what you can expect in a coaching session.

But, of course, this is not everything. It explains the nuts and bolts of coaching. The practical things.

What it doesn't explain is the 'magic'. Or rather, how coaching can do what you can't do on your own.

Coaching has the power to move you to tears (don't worry - we're trained to deal with strong emotions. And as an ex-Business Change Manager I've dealt with plenty of tears from people affected by change over the years too!)

Coaching allows you to 'see' your thoughts, your barriers to change and your dreams. Perhaps for the first time ever.

Coaching enables you to access the 'whole' you. The person who already knows the answer to questions you're grappling with. Who already has the resources, the intelligence and intuition to reach beyond where you're finding yourself now.

But in a lot less time than if you did it all by yourself.

That's what coaching is. That's what you can expect.

But don't take my word for it, come and experience it!

What do you say?


Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

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