The 3-Step Coaching Session Structure


The 3-Step
Coaching Session Structure

The 3-Step Coaching Session Structure

Step #1

The Lead Up

Most coaches are so eager to dive in and start helping their client, they totally forget about the very first power-packed feature of a transformational coaching session structure -- the Lead Up.

Whether you're working with a brand, new client or someone who's been with you for months or even years, always dedicate the start of your session to the Lead Up which is essentially a check-in on where they are, how they feel and what they're thinking.

The 3-Step Coaching Session Structure

Think of the Lead Up as a gentle warm up that allows your client to relax and feel ready for the tougher conversations and questions that are likely to come up as you both move deeper into the coaching conversation.

As a coach, the Lead Up gives you time to establish a connection and rapport with your client, and discover their state of mind as you begin the session.

The Lead Up also gives your clients time to get present and bring focus and clarity into the session. 

A great way to kick off this first part of the coaching framework is to practice breath work, a short meditation, or journaling to help your clients push everything that is still running through their minds aside, and so they can be fully present in the session with you.  

Here's another major plus point...

The Lead Up lets you direct your client's mind and attention to their current core issue.

step 1 coaching session structure

So, what's a core issue?

In a nutshell, it's the key obstacle, challenge or problem that's holding your client back from getting what they want.

Most clients already have a core issue in mind when they show up for a session but it's crucial that you take time to ask what it is.

Let them communicate it to you in their own words so you can gain insight and get clear on how you are going to direct the session.

If you fail to kickstart a session with the Lead Up, you're likely to take the conversation down one direction and then another and another as you desperately try to figure out how to help your clients.

This could go on for the entire session without you ever getting close to the current core issue that needs to be resolved.

Coaching sessions like this leave both the coach and the client feeling lost and confused.

Your client will probably lose their drive as the session progresses and no tangible outcome will be achieved.

If you keep delivering unfocused coaching sessions like this, you're guaranteed to develop a less-than-awesome reputation as a coach...

And that's definitely something you don't want! 

So, commit to starting your sessions with the Lead Up. Feel free to experiment with your own style but try not to skip it. 

Following a coaching session structure with zero Lead Up is like a song without a clear melody...

Nobody wants to stick around to listen to the end!

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Here are some go-to questions you can use to create a great Lead Up for your sessions. These questions are simple but they're powerful.

They'll help you establish rapport, set expectations, start to uncover your client's current core issue, and discover their state of mind as you direct them deeper into the session:

Question #1

How are you doing and what's been going on in your life/business/relationships?

Question #2

How are you feeling right now?

Question #3

What's been on your mind lately?

Question #4

How would you like this session to end? What's the outcome you're looking for?

Question #5

What would make this a great conversation for you?

step 2 coaching session structure

Step #2

The Breakthrough

The Breakthrough is essentially "the breakthrough conversation" you'll have with your clients to create the outcomes and results they're looking for.

The Breakthrough is where you get to bring out the "big guns" and work with the entire range of what you know as a coach.

step 2 coaching session structure

Just about every coach on the planet loves the Breakthrough phase in a session because they get to work with the coaching methodologies, ideas, guidelines, and coaching techniques they have in their toolkit...

It's where their coaching skills really come into play to create that lasting shifts and transformation for their clients.

But it's also where so many coaches get stuck. 

Most of them are so excited about squeezing everything they know into a client session, they end up overcomplicating the experience. 

So, what can you do to avoid this?

How can you create a truly transformational coaching session structure for your client?

The answer is simple... simplify! 

Always remember that your coaching sessions are about creating results for your clients.

It's not about sharing everything you learned or showing off your coaching skills and techniques... 

It's about simplifying things in a way that will lead to creative ideas and solutions to issues and challenges your client is facing.

Master coaches are always focused on what their client needs and wants at every single moment during a session and this usually means setting aside complex coaching techniques and working with just 2 elements...

how to deliver a transformational coaching session

Both these elements are connected to one another.

Let's start with the first one...

powerful questions

POWERFUL QUESTIONS help open your clients' minds and challenge their views so they can step out of their comfort zone.

Powerful questions can also trigger instant clarity and invite your clients to go deep and reflect on who they are and what they want so they can create the shifts and transformations they need to reach their goals.

It's good to keep in mind that most powerful questions are also open-ended and you know you're asking an open-ended question if it cannot be answered with a simple yes or a no.

A great guideline is to ask open-ended questions is to start each question with one of the following:

  1. "Why"
  2. "How"
  3. "What do you think about"
  4. "Tell me more about"
a man wearing glasses
a man wearing glasses
a man wearing glasses
a man wearing glasses

Okay, let's move on to element #2...

stay present

STAYING PRESENT is about bringing your focus to what the client is saying and what they're NOT saying.

That may sound strange but a lot can happen in the silence between your client's words.

When you're fully present, you'll tune into your client's overall energy and you can easily start to feel into what's buried in their heart and mind - the challenges, ideas and beliefs, they find hard to share with you and even with themselves because a lot of these issues are hidden in their subconscious. 

When you bring all of your attention and awareness to your client through presence and powerful questions, something kind of magical starts to happen... 

You'll have transformational insights pop into your mind -- the kind that can create "a-ha" moments for your client.

Some coaches are skilled at both of these techniques - staying present and asking powerful questions - but they struggle with another important aspect of the Breakthrough...

The topic. 

If you're not sure what to focus on during the Breakthrough segment of your session, don't be afraid to ask your client what they want to talk about and then go from there. 

This works well with the Lead Up (from Chapter 1) because you've already identified their state of mind and their overall focus and energy at the start of your session. 

Now, all you have to do is follow up with something like,

how to start a coaching session

Letting them choose the topic is empowering to your client as they will be fully involved in the direction and progress of their coaching session.

If your client is uncertain about what they want to talk about, then you can go ahead and choose a topic for the session.

A great coaching technique to use with new clients who are not sure what they want to work on is The Wheel of Life. It's a great activity to build rapport and bring awareness into the client's life. They will be able to assess their level of satisfaction in each area of their life and identify which areas they want to focus on and how can you, the coach, support their journey.

If you're coaching a returning client, you could choose something based on your past work with them or if it's the first session with the client, you could pick a topic based on your observations and thoughts from the Lead Up.

The Breakthrough segment in your coaching session structure is about guiding your clients to explore a new way of thinking and being.

It's about breaking away from behavior and thought patterns that don't serve them and helping them work with new perspectives, beliefs and ideas that will help them achieve their goals.

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Asking powerful questions is possibly the most important skill a coach can have. Transformational coaching sessions often happen because the coach asked just one powerful question so make it your goal to master the art of asking powerful questions.  

You can check out The Book of Coaching and other great coaching books, and courses to learn more about how to do this.

For now, here are 3 powerful, transformational questions you can turn to in your next coaching session:

Question #1

What does this <insert topic, challenge, problem, etc> mean to you?

Question #2

What do you need to be, do or have so you can get to the outcome you want?

Question #3

What is one thing you have not tried - an approach, a method, a skill, a tool, a technique, a strategy - to you achieve your goal?