Coaching Stages (The Complete Guide 2019)

Coaching Stages

Coaching Stages 

A coach may able to support a client in various stages of coaching sessions. This guide explains complete 5 Coaching Stages with best examples. The characteristics people exhibit at each stage are distinct and recognizable.

 

It is important to note that a client is not a stage but rather a client is in a particular stage related to a particular behavior or domain of change such as nutrition or physical activity.

The five stages of change are:

  • Precontemplation (not ready for change)
  • Contemplation (thinking about change)
  • Preparation (preparing for action)
  • Action (taking action)
  • Maintenance (maintaining a positive behavior)

 

Precontemplation

Precontemplation

When someone is not yet thinking about adopting a positive or healthy behavior, it’s usually because they fall into one of two categories of the pre-contemplation stage; these are the clients who say “I won’t” or “I can’t.” Those who say “I won’t” are not interested in changing because they do not believe that they have a problem.

 

Family and friends may feel otherwise and may be nagging them about it, but clients themselves fail or refuse to acknowledge a need to change, or perhaps more accurately, they may resist being changed by others. Those who say “I can’t” would like to change, but they don’t believe it’s possible.

 

For different reasons, both kinds of clients are not even contemplating let alone working on making a change in a particular area. Clients in the “I won’t” category need to hear messages that communicate an understanding of their stage of readiness and an appreciation of their full autonomy and control over their choices. It is important that they are not made to feel judged or inadequate.

 

Coaches should validate, with sincerity, the good reasons for the unhealthy behaviors, the needs these behaviors meet, and how they help clients cope with the demands of their lives.

 

Clients in the “I can’t” category are aware that there are issues to be addressed and there is a need to change, but they believe change is too complicated or difficult. They may have tried and failed over and over in the past.

 

These people may be acutely aware of their barriers and need help to look at the barriers in a positive and possibility-minded way so that they can learn from them rather than being overwhelmed by the negative emotions and low confidence generated by past failures or large roadblocks today.

 

Most clients will be in the contemplation and/ or preparation stage for at least one area (fitness, weight, nutrition, stress, mental, or physical health), and coaching can support them in reaching the maintenance phase (sustaining one or more new behaviors consistently week to week) within three to six months.

 

Many clients are dealing with significant life stressors that are depleting their abilities to change, and these may be areas suited to a coaching partnership before addressing health behaviors.

 

A coach may also be able to support a client in moving forward later in areas where they are in pre-contemplation when openings emerge in coaching sessions. Also, when clients progress in one area, their confidence in self-change grows and they may become ready to move forward in another area where their previous readiness was minimal.

 

To move forward, a client in the pre-contemplation stage first needs to experience genuine empathy and unconditional acceptance. This is the time to use reflections to demonstrate understanding and respect for a client’s emotions and needs. A coach’s ability to recognize and accept that a client does not intend to change a particular behavior is the key to building trust and future possibilities.

 

A coach steps on a client’s autonomy by encouraging him or her to move forward in making a behavior change when he or she is not ready to do so. Instead, focusing on understanding a client at a deeper level without judgment or fear supports a client’s self-determination.

 

With a coach, clients can sort their barriers into those that are real, feel large, and need to be put to the side right now; those that are excuses and can be reframed in new, positive ways; and those that can be overcome by tapping into the energy of deep autonomous motivation.

 

Taking large barriers off the table in the immediate term can lower a client’s resistance level in discussing any change; time may have to elapse before clients can perceive these barriers as manageable.

 

A client doesn’t have to convince a coach that the barrier feels insurmountable. This acceptance shows your clients that you are on their side. When clients are readier to work with you, find a strong positive source of self-motivation and identify other behaviors they are ready to change.

 

When clients connect to something they really want, such as being a role model for their children by not smoking, they are far more motivated to work on other healthy changes in addition to smoking.

 

For example, other healthy changes may include a walking program, yoga for relaxation, more fruits, and vegetables, or getting in control of a large life stressor such as caring for an ill family member.

 

Contemplation: “I May”

Contemplation

Another term for the contemplation stage is the “I may” stage. At this stage, clients are thinking about changing unhealthy behaviors or adopting healthy behaviors and are considering taking action within the next six months.

 

They are more aware of the benefits inherent in changing and are less satisfied with their present health and well-being than are those in pre-contemplation around a specific behavior but still feel a sense of doubt and will delay the change.

 

Clients may express a fair amount of ambivalence about change, feeling that change will be difficult or even impossible to achieve. People often remain in the contemplation stage for a long time and could be considered chronic contemplators, because they cannot imagine themselves behaving differently and/or they do not know how to change.

 

They are still weighing the benefits of change against the effort it will take, and the balance is pretty even between the reasons to change and the reasons to stay the same. It is not until the reasons for making the changes (the “pros”) have more weight than the reasons for staying the same (the “cons”) that a client becomes ready to change.

 

When openings emerge, those who are thinking “I may” might be willing to explore their best experiences with change in the past as well as the positive reasons for behaving in a particular way in the future. By focusing on their past accomplishments, values, and vision, they may come to appreciate how the change would improve their lives.

 

Assist these clients in connecting the dots between the changes they seek and the values and hopes for the future that they hold. Setting behavior change in this larger context makes the change more meaningful and significant.

 

If clients have not sufficiently identified their personally compelling motivators to change, including new supportive relationships and new reasons to change, a coach can support them in thinking this through. A clear vision of what they want (not just what they don’t want) is essential.

 

These clients need to examine not only the upside but also the downside of giving up old behaviors for new healthier behaviors. Identify which barriers are immovable for now and which can be navigated. Normalize, don’t catastrophize. Most everyone is stuck in at least one life domain.

 

Support contemplating clients in identifying and accomplishing small, realistic investigating and thinking goals at first to enhance motivation and/or confidence, thereby empowering them to be more confident in their ability to change.

 

Clients can move beyond the contemplation stage by connecting to their strengths and getting excited about the possibilities that would emerge with change.

 

The discovery work alone may be enough to move them to the next stage of change. Increasing their awareness of compelling reasons to change and getting them to connect with people who have successfully made similar changes are key change strategies.

 

When appropriate, coaches can ask whether clients want them to share important scientific facts about the benefits of a behavior. Coaches can assist clients with discovering and sorting through the benefits of change, and these can become positive and even powerful motivators.

 

In the contemplation stage, stage-appropriate goals include mindset shifts through reading, thinking, talking, listening, discovering, and deciding— often not actually doing the particular behavior.

 

Or sometimes, a client might also adopt the Nike “just do it” mantra and take tiny behavioral steps like five-minute walks, 10 minutes of yoga poses, or an apple a day while sorting through ambivalence. A series of small successes without a larger commitment can also build self-efficacy and improve readiness.

 

Preparation: “I Will”

Preparation

The preparation stage is also known as the “I will” stage. In the preparation stage, ambivalent feelings have been largely overcome. Clients have strengthened their motivation, and they are planning to take some action within the next month. These clients have one or more strong motivators.

 

They know what their barriers are, and they have come up with some possible solutions that provide some hope for success. If these thinking tasks, developing strategies to navigate barriers, are not accomplished, then clients will likely remain in the contemplation stage.

 

During preparation, clients experiment with their possible solutions, discard the ones that do not work, and think up new approaches. In this stage, a coach can support clients in solidifying plans for change.

 

For example, a client could write down a formal statement of what they are committing themselves to do, containing specific details of what, when, and how. Additionally, with a coach, a client could brainstorm to identify the many small steps that could be taken as long as they are realistic.

 

If clients exhibit ambivalence, resistance, or fear of failure, it is important to explore the challenges and identify new ways to navigate around their challenges. However, a coach must be cautious not to add to the resistance by telling a client what to do. Honor a client’s competence, and fears, by asking the client to take the lead in co-creating solutions and strategies.

 

Discuss situations clients think could be problematic when they actually start the behavior and have them develop multiple possible strategies before they begin.

 

Action: “I Am”

During the next stage, which lasts six months or longer, clients are working on building new relationships, practicing new behaviors, and establishing new habits. The action stage is also known as the “I am” stage.

 

Here, clients may have to concentrate hard while practicing fledgling new behaviors and refining their lifestyles. In this stage, clients have identified one or more new behaviors they want to establish and are doing them consistently, building up week by week, month by month, to a target level.

 

For example, a client may be working toward more cardiovascular exercise, for instance, three to four times a week for 15–60 minutes at a time at a moderate to high level of intensity, or he or she may be meeting a specific set of nutrition criteria he or she has agreed on with a physician.

 

A client may also be striving toward a goal that will provide some relief from a life overflowing with stress.

 

When clients are in the “I am” stage for a particular behavior, it is important that they keep their strengths and values at the top of their minds to get on and stay on track.

 

It’s also valuable for them to engage in social connections or develop new relationships with people who share their interests and behavioral goals. The more modes of support they can identify, the better.

 

Through gradual changes and small achievable steps, clients can feel successful early. It’s important to anticipate situations that could be problematic and encourage clients to develop multiple possible strategies to handle these situations before they come up.

 

Coaches should anticipate and be prepared for lapses in behavior and support clients in reframing lapses as temporary setbacks. These incidents are best perceived as important learning opportunities rather than failures. An all-or-nothing mentality about goals can lead to guilt, self-blame, and reasons to quit.

 

A client could even benefit from conducting a safe, planned lapse, such as a day without exercise or a meal during which he or she can eat anything, to develop new mental skills, perspective, and resilience under a controlled situation.

 

Because there is a high risk of a return to the preparation stage, discussions to process the learning from setbacks and reframe them as sources of valuable learning are important. A client may lapse once in his or her execution of the desired behavior or may cease to engage in the desired behaviors all together for a week or more.

 

These situations provide an opportunity to explore a client’s response to the situation, the perceived loss of control, and the help or hindrance of social connections. A coach can support clients in exploring their challenging situations and to learn from them in the future.

 

Assisting clients in developing new relationships with people who share their interests and behavioral goals can make significant differences. With the right modeling and supportive environment, clients will be more likely to make progress in the action stage of change.

 

Maintenance: “I Still Am”

Maintenance

When a client is in the maintenance stage for a behavior, s/he is in the“I still am” stage. This stage begins when the new behavior change has become a habit and is done automatically—usually at least six months after the initial behavior has changed.

 

Clients are now confident that they can maintain the new behavior, and they would rate their confidence to maintain the new behavior at a level of 8 or 9 out of 10. In this stage, their self-efficacy is both high and self-reinforcing.

 

Just because clients progress to the maintenance level does not mean they don’t need to continue working diligently to maintain a new behavior and prevent relapse. (Nor does it necessarily mean that they will no longer need or want a coach.) There are different sets of risks in maintenance, including boredom and the danger of gradually slipping back into old, less healthful habits.

 

Lapses, in which people temporarily abandon new behaviors, can occur during the maintenance period just as easily as it can during the action stage. If and when this happens, clients often need assistance to set new goals and get refocused.

 

For example, they may benefit from signing up for an event related to the goal, taking up a new type of exercise, trying a new but related skill, or helping others who are just getting started.

 

This can be easier in maintenance than in action because the clients have already come to experience the value and benefits of their new behavioral patterns.

 

Lapses in this stage don’t usually produce any significant alteration in the health and fitness benefits of the behavior change, which means people can more easily and quickly get back on track. Learning to make such adjustments is indeed a sign of being in the maintenance stage of change.

 

Relapses can be more challenging in any stage of change. As extended abandonments of new behaviors, relapses lead to the reduction or even to the disappearance of benefits. To reverse a relapse, it is important to revisit, revise, and reconnect clients with their strengths, values, resources, visions, goals, and motivators.

 

In addition to exploring lessons learned, it is important to go back and restart the preparation and action process with judgment-free listening, inquiries, and reflections.

 

The more vividly clients can remember and reconnect with their capacity to put their strengths to work, the more they will develop the self-efficacy and regain their sense of control.

 

Common sources of ambivalence include:

 ambivalence

  • I don’t really want to do this (I don’t have a good enough reason).
  • I can’t do this.
  • I have never done this.
  • I don’t have the time.
  • I can’t get started.
  • It’s too hard.
  • I won’t be able to . . . (drink beer with my friends, enjoy parties, eat what my family eats, etc.)

 

At the conclusion of a coaching session, a coach should consider: “Is this client really in the stage I think they are in or have they moved back into an earlier stage, and I need to help them set more thinking/feeling goals instead of behavioral goals?” When the coach is not on the same page as the client, the dynamic dialogue can disappear, leaving a sense of disconnection.

 

If clients have not made significant progress on chosen goals over 3–4 weeks and the goals are not unrealistic, it may be time to honestly question whether they are truly committed to those goals. They may want to change their goals or even their approach.

 

For example, a client may benefit from a different intervention, such as a dietitian, personal trainer, or psychotherapist, or a more prescriptive or structured program with a lot of education. Often, clients receive such honest questions as a “wakeup call” that renews their commitment to change.

 

The breakthrough comes when clients take control and responsibility for their own well-being and health, the change process, and becoming connected with their own motivators. This will unleash their inner resources to navigate the obstacle course of change.

 

The Value of Assessments

Assessments

Client assessments are valuable tools in the coach’s toolbox and offer a variety of benefits to the coaching partnership.

 

In the corporate environment, an executive or business coach might measure behaviors and ways of being using assessments of emotional intelligence (EI) or personality type. Coaches of various niches may use a variety of assessments focused on life balance or wellness. A common example is the “wheel of life,” which is focused on self-care and balance.

 

Assessments of character strengths or talents provide an excellent springboard for new directions in coaching sessions. Many coaches and clinical groups value the positivity ratio. The higher the ratio, the more resources available for change, and increasing the ratio is a valuable goal.

 

Assessments stimulate reflection and self-awareness. Assessments can be helpful at the beginning of a coaching relationship because they not only inform coaches, they also help clients gain self-awareness, insights, and a sense of their priorities for a coaching program. Assessments are also efficient because precious coaching time isn’t used to gather a lot of data; that can feel like an interrogation.

 

Other benefits of having clients complete an assessment include:

benefits

Trust and rapport: When building trust with a new client, an online or paper assessment provides him or her with a safe space in which to first tell his or her “story.”

 

Honoring personality preferences: Clients with a preference for introversion will tend to be more comfortable communicating personal information in writing, at least initially, than those with a more extroverted preference.

 

The written word: There is power in providing clients with an opportunity to see a qualitative and quantitative summary of their state of well-being. For the same reasons that writing down goals is important, seeing the information collected can be both affirming and a powerful motivator for action.

 

Developing discrepancy: An assessment can help a client more clearly see the difference between where they are and where they are not in terms of behaviors and outcomes.

 

Progress depends on clients expanding their awareness of what is possible. This cannot be done for them without provoking resistance. They must do it for themselves, and assessments are an excellent way to get the conversation started.

 

Through listening, inquiry, and reflections, coaches can then expand client awareness even further in the process of assisting clients in climbing Mount Lasting Change. At its best, ever-expanding awareness generates an upward spiral of continuous learning, growth, and development.

 

When coaches are integrated into healthcare, corporate wellness, or health promotion programs, tracking health behavioral and biometric data through assessments is vital for program outcomes measurement. 

 

Health risk assessments (HRAs), such as the one provided at Vector Wellness Corporate Wellness Programs & Employee Wellness Programs, are now widely validated and used as tools by health plans and employers to measure health and lifestyle status as well as change readiness. These also may identify “red flags” with respect to mental health status or medical care gaps.

 

Assessments are invaluable to coaches in the health and wellness fields because they can provide:

An overall picture of the client’s present state of being including physical health, lifestyle habits, strengths, life satisfaction, and readiness to make changes

 

A snapshot to better understand and appreciate the client’s life context; the coaching questions and approach for a client who has significant health issues such as obesity, hypertension, back injury, or cancer is different than the approach for a highly motivated, fit client. Awareness of situations, such as a major loss or recent diagnosis.

 

An early indication of the client’s strengths and healthy habits as well as health risks and areas of challenge

 

Identification of red flags related to physical health issues (e.g., medical care gaps, injury, or contraindications to exercise) or mental health issues (depression or other mental health concerns) for which a referral may be important or even critical

 

Caution in the Use of Assessments

Assessments

Although assessments are valuable when used appropriately with the best of coaching skills, there are still a few potential dangers which we explore below.

 

Less Room for Collaboration and More Room for the Expert Hat

If a coach is not well-trained in using an appreciative approach to reviewing and debriefing results, assessments tend to shine the light on what is “wrong” in client behaviors and outcomes. It can be tempting to fall into old habits of looking for what needs to be fixed and donning the “expert hat” to do so right away.

 

Noticing biometric numbers that need to go up or down, for example, could shift a health coach into “fix it” mode, listing all of the dangers and “shoulds” for a client. Although being aware of health concerns and other concerns is vitally important, a masterful coach uses an assessment as a conduit for deeper conversations rather than as a mandate for prescribing change.

 

Evaluation Rather than Empathy

Evaluation

When an assessment reveals a client’s health or life choices are of concern, it can be tempting to experience pity or sympathy for the client. Frustration can emerge as the coach wonders how the client could have chosen a particular behavior, such as smoking, overeating, or overworking.

 

Instead of evaluation, assessments can provide an opportunity to show acceptance and express empathy. The review of and conversation surrounding an assessment can establish the foundation of trust between coach and client that lays the groundwork for the growth-promoting relationship.

 

Assessments Are Completed by Humans

Lastly, assessments are completed by people who get distracted, do them at the last minute, and/or mark responses to please or impress their coaches. Hence, assessments aren’t always accurate and don’t tell the whole story. The coaching session is the place for the assessment to come to life through reflection, inquiry, and listening.

 

Uncovering Motivation

This well-being assessment can provide initial information about a client’s:

Priorities: An assessment can be designed to calculate or allow clients to indicate their areas of highest priority.

 

For example, on a scale of 0–10 (10 being the highest), the client may indicate that focusing the coaching program on improving life satisfaction is a 10 (highest priority), whereas improving nutritional habits is a 5 (of average priority).

 

Confidence: Similarly, the assessment may include a method for clients to indicate the strength of their belief in their ability to make a behavioral change. This information enables the coach to more appropriately designing opportunities for the development of self-efficacy by working with the appropriate personnel, environmental, and behavioral factors.

 

Readiness for change: It is beneficial for an assessment to create an awareness of the client’s stage of change within the various areas. When it comes to moving a client forward, each of the five stages of change (pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance) requires a different approach for exploration.

 

Knowing where a client stands in terms of their readiness is critical for setting goals that are appropriate to the client’s stage of change and for building self-efficacy.

 

Explore Assessment Results

wellness

A protocol for the appreciative review and exploration of client assessments is described below. Although this protocol was developed for the review of wellness, well-being, health, and HRAs, the principles are relevant to other assessments too.

 

Read with an open mind. Prior to the first coaching session, take time to carefully review the client’s completed assessment. In review, the goal is not to evaluate but to consider the responses with curiosity, keeping in mind that an assessment provides only a partial story.

 

Open-minded curiosity will enable the coach to ask better questions during the assessment review, use intuition and sense what is unsaid, challenge the coach’s assumptions about the client, develop a strengths-based framework through which to appreciate the client, and be more open to new information and energy shifts during the first coaching session.

 

Seek out success. It is tempting to begin an assessment review with a search for all of the “problems” or areas to “fix.” Drawing on the lessons from the disciplines of appreciative inquiry and positive psychology, we know that “what we focus on grows” and that “our first questions are fateful.”

 

Therefore, if the coach begins the initial review of the client’s information with a focus on what’s “wrong,” an assessment is more likely to support that tendency within coaching relationships.

 

Starting with the assumption that all clients can tap into capacities and leverage strengths for positive change will enable the coach to better support clients in the building of self-efficacy.

 

Notice the client’s arousal. The next task in reviewing a client’s assessment is to look for the areas in which the client is feeling an emotional charge, either positive or negative.

 

Look for places in which the client indicates there is a concentrated energy, such as in his or her priorities for change and the importance he or she assigns to each of the well-being areas.

 

The role of the coach is to look for the client’s autonomous motivation—the areas in which the client is expressing an interest in growth and change—not the areas in which the coach believes the client should be interested.

 

Consider the stages of change. If the assessment includes indicators of the client’s stage(s) of change, consider how this might impact the coaching program and the client’s needs. Remember to prioritize the cognitive and emotional goals in the early stages of change and the planning and action goals in the later stages of change.

 

Question gaps. Due to design or user errors or incomplete answers, assessments will sometimes leave the coach with questions about inconsistencies in responses.

 

For example, a client may name improving nutrition as the “highest priority” while indicating a low score in terms of readiness to change. In these cases, the coach will want to take note and be prepared to inquire about the discrepancy in information during the coaching session.

 

Note concerns. Where appropriate, an assessment review should include an examination of any mental health or medical concerns indicated by the client. Be aware of any red flags such as health risks, injuries, or other health concerns that might require a physician’s release before engaging in regular exercise.

 

If a client wants to exercise to be a part of the coaching program, a physician release form can be provided to the client to give to his or her physician. This is a document the coach can create, asking the client’s doctor for any recommendations or restrictions in working with a coach.

 

Although coaches do not diagnose mental health risks, they need to know what to look for in order to make appropriate recommendations or referrals to a psychologist, therapist, or physician for consultation. The following indicators are examples and not all inclusive:

 

Depression: Clients who are not eating or sleeping in normal patterns, such as not sleeping or sleeping all of the time, appetite loss, or binge eating, may be showing signs of clinical depression and may need to be referred to their physicians.

 

Eating disorders: Clients who have lost a great deal of weight without surgery and/or medication and continue to do so when advised it will be harmful to their health (anorexia), exercise beyond their normal physical capacity, or continue to gain and/or lose 20–30 pounds without stabilizing, may be showing signs of an eating disorder and may need to be referred to their physicians.

 

Substance abuse: Clients who display unusual behaviors, such as acting out or violent outbursts, that are uncharacteristic of their usual behaviors may be showing signs of substance abuse, including steroid use, and may need to be referred to their physicians.

 

Anxiety disorders: Clients who suffer from panic attacks, claustrophobic behavior, or shortness of breath may be showing signs of anxiety disorder and may need to be referred to their physicians.

 

If a client shares a serious or life-threatening mental or physical health issue during an assessment or coaching session, advise him or her that the situation is outside of the scope of coaching and encourage and assist him or her to seek professional help as soon as possible.

 

Honor Intuition and the Client

If a coach has a sense that a client should seek further medical attention or needs resources outside the coach’s expertise, a coach must respectfully express that concern.

 

If the client then chooses not to engage with additional resources, it is recommended that the coaching relationship is terminated until the client has received the appropriate assistance.

 

Therefore, it is valuable to build relationships with highly respected health experts that could serve as sources for referrals. This may also lead to cross-referrals and business building. If a coach does not have connections to appropriate referrals, clients can also be encouraged to see their primary care physicians for referrals.

 

If a coach seeks advice about a client from another health professional, it is critical that the tenets of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are followed, taking full precautions not to share the client’s name or any revealing personal information (US Department of Health and Human Services).

 

  • Allowing clients to formulate and find their own answers
  • Honestly sharing observations
  • Under-promising and over-delivering
  • Being humble in sharing information and advice
  • Honoring confidentiality

 

Defining the Generative Moment

Generative moments can be thought of as the peak of a coaching session. A generative moment can be filled with the high energy that comes from being ready to do something new or the peaceful calm that comes with a new way of thinking.

 

Generative moments occur when clients are aroused along with the path of change and growth. They are the heart of coaching sessions that happen along the path to reaching or getting closer to the client’s vision. In these pivotal moments, client feelings, needs, and desires are investigated around the “topic du jour.”

 

During generative moments, coaches and clients explore the nature of the agreed topic, clarify desired outcomes, brainstorm strategies, and identify next steps.

 

In these moments, coaches and clients co-generate new perspectives and co-construct engaging designs for moving forward. Coaches often describe this collaboration as an intuitive dance.

 

We call these “generative” because they inspire clients to generate new ideas, perspectives, or insights. They may also uncover capacities, which can lead to bold actions that can positively alter a client’s future. Generative moments are mini transformations that energize both coach and client and catalyze the next stage of the client’s progress.

 

As a client’s emotions intensify—ranging from excited to ambivalent to fearful—coaches and clients have a unique opportunity to take risks, expand perspectives, and challenge assumptions.

 

The more clients can discover new perspectives, capacities, and actions that will meet their needs, the more progress they will make in moving toward their visions.

 

It’s important to allow time for the generative moment in most coaching sessions in order to focus on one topic that recharges the client’s batteries; this facilitates both the desire to change and the confidence to get there.

 

Working with a client to establish and revisit a vision can facilitate generative moments at the outset of a coaching program and whenever a session lags. It is good to revisit the vision in detail at least annually, even quarterly or monthly.

 

Although clients commit to change and grow through building visions, lots of old and new topics emerge for consideration in coaching sessions.

 

Many things may ignite a client’s interest in a topic that calls for a generative moment—whether clients are experiencing negative or positive energy. The energy and its underlying needs make a client ripe for exploring new ways to meet those needs.

 

One way to think about generative moments is that they emerge as things that clients want less of (aversive indicators), things that clients want more of (attractive indicators), or some combination of the two. The former is generally accompanied by increased resistance, whereas the latter by increased readiness to pursue transformational change.

 

Sometimes, generative moments emerge when clients are still considering change—for example, when they are in the pre-contemplation or contemplation stages around a particular behavior. This often happens in response to external events. Pain and bad news get people’s attention, such as the message of “change or die” from a doctor.

 

Hope and good news also have a way of getting people’s attention. For example, many women stop smoking the instant they learn they are pregnant. The desire for a healthy baby eclipses the craving to smoke. At times such as these, coaches and clients have a unique opportunity to shake things up and move things forward.

 

When Do Generative Moments Occur Within Coaching Sessions?

Coaching sessions tend to have a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the warm-up phase, which is about establishing a connection,  exploring and appreciating recent events and experience around client goals, and clarifying the topic on which the client would like to focus.

 

The end is about identifying goals and developing innovative strategies that will carry the client forward until the next coaching session (and beyond). The end can be considered a cool-down phase after some more energetic work in the middle.

 

In between lies the space for the generative moment—the energetic epicenter or workout of the session. One caveat: Although there are a specific place and time in the process of a coaching session for the “generative moment,” generativity is not limited to this time and place. Ideally, generativity is woven throughout the entire coaching session.

 

A good interpersonal connection and understanding of client experiences are crucial to setting in motion the first steps of the generative moment.

 

Understanding a client’s experience with his or her weekly goals, whatever the progress or lack thereof, can reveal topics around which clients have aroused energy.

 

Reviewing three-month goals can reconnect clients with their values, motivators, and inspiration. In the absence of judgment and in the presence of support for growth, these moments reveal what is alive in and important to clients.

 

Encouraging clients to share stories can shed light on their feelings, their met and unmet needs, and their hopes and desires. Such is the stuff that makes for generative moments.

 

What Generates Generative Moments?

Each time a client participates in a coaching session, what is important to him or she shows up for the session as well, although a warmup phase may be required to uncover what that is. To use the language of NVC, clients show up for coaching with something that is “alive” or stirring within them at that moment.

 

It’s the coach’s job to listen mindfully for that life force, reflect it back to the client, and inquire about where the client wants to go with that energy.

 

Client-driven generative moments represent a shift from traditional health education and the expert approach to change. It is not up to the coach to generate the moment. It is up to the client to show up with the energy to explore and the desire to learn. The client has that responsibility in every coaching session.

 

Coaches enable clients to move forward positively by following the client’s lead, paying careful attention to the client’s feelings, needs, and desires through the use of empathy, AI, and reflections.

 

Like a mid-wife supporting a mother through the transitional stages to delivery, it is not the coach’s job to have “the moment” but rather to support clients through the flow of the generative moment.

 

Once a generative moment has run its course, coaching sessions flow easily into the design and planning through the use of behavioral goals and action plans. Clients often require assistance to frame such plans as starting points for experimentation, discovery and learning rather than as blueprints for execution.

 

Static planning models (i.e., make the plan, implement the plan) do not reflect the dynamic of human development. Innovative planning models that include client-centered empathetic design empower clients to make real-time adjustments and improvisations, thus better supporting the client’s confidence in being successful.

 

Generative Moments Engage Every Coaching Skill

In order to leverage the full potential of generative moments, a coach needs to use every coaching skill and tool dynamically in the moment. At their best, generative moments spark the intuitive dance of coaching.

 

Handled poorly, generative moments are not only squandered but also can set clients back in both motivation and action. The following coaching skills, introduced in previous blogs, all need to be fully engaged to effectively move clients through generative moments.

 

Radiating Compassion

Generative moments require a judgment-free environment, characterized by trust and the “willingness to be vulnerable to another based on the confidence that the other is benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent”. Safety and a strong sense of support are preconditions for success in all coaching sessions.

 

This creates optimal conditions for generative moments in which clients are challenged to stretch to the edge of their abilities. Establishing such a compassionate environment enables clients to be open and authentic so that the important stuff can get said and considered.

 

Expressing Empathy

Defined as the “respectful understanding of another person’s experience,” empathy uses both emotional and cognitive awareness to connect with and give voice to what clients are feeling, needing and desiring.

 

Without receiving empathy, clients will often fail to move through and derive full benefits from generative moments. Empathy differs from pity and sympathy in that it is a coach’s reflection of the client’s perceived experience rather than a sharing in it.

 

Clients are aware of empathy and presence not just consciously but also unconsciously, perhaps through the influence of mirror neurons. the influence of mirror neurons.

 

When a coach—especially one who has developed a place of importance to the client—expresses discontent, it can send the client into a physical frenzy, increasing heart rates and spreading negative energy all around.

 

Mindful Listening

Defined as the “nonjudgmental awareness of what is happening in the present moment,” mindfulness is a way to break free from being on autopilot. There’s no way to identify generative moments apart from mindful listening.

 

By paying attention without judgment to what’s happening in oneself and in the client, coaches can help clients gain awareness of needs and choices. This is an essential component of the coaching presence required to maintain a trust-building and growth-promoting relationship.

 

Evocative Inquiry

If coaches ask too many leading questions with implied “right” answers, the generative moment can be lost. The true inquiry comes from the framework of “not assuming,” “not knowing” the answers, and having a beginner’s mind.

 

The more coaches navigate with open-minded curiosity, especially with regard to clients’ capacities and strengths, the more clients will discover about themselves and where they want to go.

 

When coaches linger in the discovery phase of AI, with engaging questions that connect clients to their own best selves, clients are better able to put their strengths to work.

 

“Without curiosity, we are unable to sustain our attention, we avoid risks, we abort challenging tasks, we compromise our intellectual development, we fail to achieve competencies and strengths, we limit our ability to form relationships with other people, and essentially stagnate”

 

Short or analytic answers. Open-ended inquiries that start with “what” or “how” are the keys to evoking such responses. Too many close-ended questions that require short “yes” or “no” answers tend to shut down this dynamic.

 

“Why” questions can feel judgmental or can lead to analysis paralysis. Full engagement follows most directly by encouraging clients to remember and fully verbalize the stories and images of their own best selves.

 

Perceptive Reflections

Perceptive Reflections

Asking the client too many questions in a row, even great questions can feel like an interrogation to the client and can then compromise a generative moment. Such inquiry often has more to do with the coach’s desire to propel clients forward than with clients’ desire to figure things out for themselves.

 

The five forms of reflections used in MI that are especially useful in the context of generative moments are simple, amplified, double-sided, shifted-focus, and empathy reflections. They communicate the full engagement of the coach and connect the client with the motivation to change.

 

Honoring Silence

In response to empathy, inquiry, and reflections, clients need to pause to think, feel, or connect with their truths.

 

This especially happens during generative moments. It is essential for coaches to honor this silence, be comfortable with pauses, and not intrude prematurely. Once the ball is in the client’s court, it is usually best to wait until the client hits it back.

 

Intervening too quickly prevents clients from maximizing their discoveries. Silence affirms the coach’s desire to hear what the client has to say and, even better, implies “I trust in your thoughts and ideas.”

 

It is a special gift to be with clients in silence, especially those who are introverted because silence gives them time to organize their thoughts, feelings, and desires before translating them into words.

 

Explore Decisional Balance and Develop Discrepancy

Decisional Balance

When the principles of AI do not uncover the heart of the matter and elevate clients’ readiness to move in the directions of their desires, MI tools can be useful to help them understand and dis-lodge their “stuckness,” resolve ambivalence and move forward.

 

Expressing empathy, developing discrepancy, rolling with resistance, and supporting self-efficacy are all designed to create a safe space for clients to explore their thoughts, feelings, needs, and intentions.

 

When space is right, clients can leave behind their uncertainty to change and open themselves to new possibilities. This is often a critical part of successfully coaching clients through their generative moments.

 

Inviting clients to describe their authentic reasons for changing (change talk), instead of telling and selling clients on why they “should” change, is a challenging shift for a new coach. “Get into fishing and out of sales,” says motivational interviewing trainer and psychologist Robert Rhode.

 

Keep in mind that clients are more likely to move in the direction of positive change when they have figured out and described in their own words what outcomes they really want and clarified what challenges may be getting in the way and what it will take to reach their goals (change talk).

 

After clients have been “sitting in the muck” for a while, struggling with the discrepancy or conflict between the needs to not change and the needs to change, they will gain motivational energy by a desire to resolve the discrepancy and get readier to take action to move forward.

 

Coaching tools will not work unless the coach starts with the intention of understanding the client’s experience. The more coaches try to manipulate behavior or force an outcome, the more these tools will increase rather than decrease resistance. When that happens, coaches are working against rather than supporting generativity.

 

Self-determination theory makes it clear that the human propensity for growth only happens when change is freely or autonomously chosen in the moment and supported by competence and relatedness.

 

Engage the Client in Creative Brainstorming of Pathways Forward

 Brainstorming

Once change talk has begun and client energy is higher, it’s helpful to engage clients in the light-hearted generation or brainstorming of ideas and approaches for moving forward. In brainstorming, possibilities are generated but not critiqued or evaluated. A good rule is the more the better when it comes to idea generation.

 

Coaches and clients can take turns in the generation of ideas and experiments. It can be challenging for coaches and clients to generate possibilities at the moment, but it is well worth the effort.

 

Sometimes, coaches come up with possibilities that clients would never have thought of on their own. When coaches take a turn, clients are given the space to think more deeply about or jump off from a possibility in a whole new direction suggested by the coach. Such brainstorming is valuable and usually fun during generative moments.

 

It is helpful to designate a particular time during the generative moment for brainstorming ideas, questions, or approaches. Brainstorming too early can overwhelm clients and provoke resistance.

 

However, failing to brainstorm at all can squander the potential of the moment, either because no possibilities are generated or because one possibility takes over before others are considered.

 

Running with the first idea that comes up is not only limiting but also may be dangerous. As French philosopher, Emile Chartier writes, “Nothing is as dangerous as an idea when it is the only one you have.” Basic protocols for successful brainstorming include the following:

  • Setting a time limit
  • Withholding judgment or evaluation of ideas
  • Encouraging wild, fun, and exaggerated ideas
  • Letting no idea go unsaid
  • Setting a minimum number of ideas or questions to generate
  • Building on the possibilities put forth by the other
  • Combining and expanding ideas
  • Asking permission to contribute ideas

 

With many compelling and relevant ideas in mind, the client will eagerly move with confidence and energy to designing action plans, the next step of the coaching session. With high self-efficacy, clients will be ready, willing, and able to commit to specific behaviors that will contribute to realizing their visions.

 

Express and Facilitate Confidence in the Client’s Ability to Move Forward

The transition to designing action plans at the end of the generative moment is made compelling when the coach champions and supports the client’s ability to move forward with one or more of the new ideas or approaches.

 

Forward movement is more appealing when clients believe they have the ability to turn the new ideas into action. Hence, coaches not only support self-efficacy throughout the entire coaching session; this is especially important as the generative moment comes to a close.

 

By acknowledging what clients brought to the generative moment, the good work they have done in brainstorming, and their capacity to see their dreams through to fruition, coaches enable clients to commit themselves and to take actions that will generate success.

 

Relational Flow in Generative Moments

The earlier process provides a framework for handling generative moments. Yet, in many respects, these moments are not “handled”; rather, they have a playful, surprising, improvisational, flowing quality that cannot be scripted.

 

The best generative moments move seamlessly and organically inflow—they feel like a dance—sometimes slow, sometimes quick, or more like a salsa dance.

 

Given their impact, new coaches can feel pressure to demonstrate great skill, wisdom, or technique. The most important thing to remember is that generative moments are about the client’s needs and desires. By following the client’s lead, coaches can ease their way into collaborative, co-creative conversations.

 

Coaches remember that they are in partnership rather than in charge, and they remain attentive to the client’s energy and insights rather than distracted by their own thoughts and inspired rather than inspirational. At their best, generative moments feel intense, exciting, deep, powerful, and moving, but not hard. Generative moments flow.

 

What Is Relational Flow?

Relational Flow

Relational flow, another way to define generative moments, happens when coaches and clients perceive themselves as being in sync and engaged in generative, interdependent, collaborative dialogue.

 

In reflecting on peak coaching experiences, coaches and clients often describe their best moments as like being in an intuitive dance: “a relational dynamic between coaches and clients when they enter a zone where they are fully challenged at a high level of skill and awareness.

 

This dynamic, conceptualized as ‘relational flow,’ may underpin how and when both coaches and clients make large steps forward in their work”

 

It is a challenge to create relational flow, let alone capture or measure it. That’s because it is an intuitive and synergistic dynamic that is created by the coach, the client, and the field between the two. Like learning to dance, the fundamental steps must be mastered before style, fluidity, and flow can be demonstrated.

 

Inflow, coaches aren’t married to a plan that determines what happens next or attached to a particular outcome. Instead, they are able to use what is happening at the moment to determine what will happen in the next moment, improvising with agility based on what is most important to the client in the present moment.

 

What Supports Relational Flow?

Although research into the dynamic continues, several bodies of knowledge illuminate and support the intuitive dance of coaching. These include the following:

 

Flow studies—Flow exists when one is engaged in a challenging situation that requires fully engaging and stretching one’s skills at a high level in response. Inflow, one becomes immersed in an activity with greater attention, less effort, and an altered sense of time.

 

Reflective practitioner—The ability to dance effortlessly also comes from practice. A coach with experience is “less tied to explicit rules, processes, and contextual clues in order to know how to act effectively—and yet does so with less effort”.

 

Experienced coaches rely more on intuitive thoughts and perceptions. They draw on previously successful experience—lots of it. The intuition of a master is powerful, whereas for novices, it’s limited.

 

Readiness to change—A client’s ability to engage in flow depends on his or her stage of change.

The coach must be cognizant of the client’s readiness to change and adjust the approach accordingly. Masterful coaches do not push clients through the stages of change; rather, they draw clients out by honoring the needs of the moment.

 

Emotional intelligence—emotional intelligence is the ability to “recognize our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”

 

In the coaching conversation, the competencies that contribute to emotional intelligence are necessary for intuition and use it for positive outcomes; this is an essential part of the empathy that contributes to relational flow.

 

Relational competence—In the generative moment, the dance is a collaboration between two connected people. From relational-cultural theory, we know that growth through connection, rather than separation, leads to healthy functioning. In deep connection with their coaches, clients feel more vital, empowered, clear, worthy, and driven toward more connection with others.

 

Hall and Duvall conclude:

The coach dances with a client to facilitate the unleashing of potentials and the experience of change. The dialogue dance creates motivation and energy in the player or the client. The dance creates readiness for change, the power to change, and the leverage for change.

 

In this dance, new frames of mind are co-created for facilitating that change. The dialogue is a dance around support, celebration, accountability, fun, and actualizing potential. It’s a dance for enabling dreams to come true. Do you want to dance?

 

Prepare for a Coaching Session

The most important moment of a coaching session is arguably the minute right before it starts. That’s when coaches relax and clear their minds, set their intentions, and get into a coaching mindset.

 

If growth and self-determination come from relationships, the coach must be attentive to the nurturing of that relationship at every opportunity, remembering the following:

 

Confidence is contagious. When coaches communicate their genuine confidence that clients can be successful, client confidence will also improve. What is appreciated appreciates. The more the coach focuses on what clients want rather than on what they don’t want, the more energy and ideas clients will have for moving forward.

 

To listen for the client’s needs. The more the coach sets aside his or her own agenda in favor of listening for the client’s agenda, the more clients will

 

Table Prepare for a Session

  • Prepare: Review client assessment results and client communication.
  • Get present: Practice mindfulness, set intention, and connect to purpose.
  • Get curious: Consider initial strengths-based inquiries.

 

Session Opening

time management

First, let’s address time management. In an ongoing coaching session, weekly, biweekly, or monthly, for example, the following percentages indicate how coaches may want to spend their time with clients.

 

The percentages indicate the number of minutes that coaches may want to spend with clients in each section during a 30-minute session.

  • Session opening—7% (two to three minutes)
  • Weekly goal review—20% (five to seven minutes)
  • Three-month goal review (monthly or so)— 7% (two to three minutes)
  • Generative moment—40% (10–12 minutes)
  • Goal setting—20% (five to seven minutes)
  • Session close—6% (two to three minutes)

 

This could be compared to a warmup, a workout, and a cool-down. For longer sessions of 40–60 minutes, more time becomes available for generative collaboration, a deeper dive into the journey of change, for example, shifting change-hindering mindsets to possibility-creating mindsets.

 

Thinking through time management before each session and making adjustments as situations come up will assist coaches and clients alike with being more successful and satisfied with the coaching experience.

 

Trust and rapport are not earned once and for all during the first coaching session. They are earned all over again, each time coaches and clients meet. Understanding this phenomenon, it is important to be prepared to start the session by asking about the client’s feelings and energy now in that moment and to listen mindfully to the response.

 

Next, explore the highlights rather than the problem areas since the last session. When clients show up with great discouragement or low energy, the focus on highlights may reconnect them with their own resourcefulness and potential.

 

When that does not happen directly, the coach should express empathy for the client’s feelings and needs. By understanding and supporting clients in these ways, coaches assist clients in rebooting and regaining their balance so they can consider anew the possibilities for change.

 

Session Opening

  • Asks how the client is right now “ at this moment”
  • Uses reflections to show an understanding of the client’s state
  • Asks the client to share the best thing that happened from the previous week(s)
  • Reflects something positive about the client (e.g., highlights, strengths, or emotions)
  • Asks the client to select the first weekly goal to be discussed

 

Goal/Experiment Review

 Goal/Experiment Review

Once a connection has been reestablished, it’s time for clients to select the first goal to be discussed. Don’t assume that this will turn out to be the most important goal for the client.

 

Rather, it is an opening for collaboration, an opportunity to get into the dynamic of coaching. Most clients will set two to five behavioral goals to work on between coaching sessions.

 

Each of these goals should be reviewed to discover client accomplishments, challenges, and lessons. Building on the principles of positive psychology and appreciative inquiry (AI), it is most effective, to begin with, a positive “best experience” question for each goal.

 

When reviewing goals, it’s best to start by asking about the things that went well and the lessons that were learned. Clients should first be directed to consider what they accomplished rather than start with what they did not accomplish.

 

For example, “Unfortunately, I put butter on my whole wheat toast for breakfast four times this week” can be reframed as: “I was successful in my goal of substituting peanut butter for butter on whole grain toast for breakfast five times 20% of the time this week.”

 

By reframing goal accomplishment in positive terms and by asking positive questions, coaches help clients find the confidence and energy to move forward.

 

Positive emotions create an upward spiral, leading to the creativity and openness needed for tackling the challenges of goals that weren’t achieved so easily or goals yet to be dreamed. Examples of inquiries for the review process include the following:

 

  • What was your best experience with your goals in the past week?
  • What percentage of achievement did you reach for this goal? What contributed to this level of success?
  • What kept it from being lower?
  • What could have made it higher?
  • What do you like about this goal?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • What challenges did you face along the way?
  • Do you think this goal is too ambitious, too cautious, or just right?
  • When you think about this goal, what feelings does it stimulate, and what needs does it meet?

 

Inquiries such as these honor the client’s autonomy and competence while enabling him or her to grow in partnership with a trusted collaborator, the coach.

 

Accountability in Coaching

Coaching

Accountability means monitoring and giving an account of what was done, what happened, what worked, what didn’t work, and what one wants to do differently in the future.

 

When such accountability comes from the coach-client collaboration, discussing what has been accomplished in an objective rather than judgmental terms, clients often become empowered to reach their goals more consistently and effectively.

 

When it comes to health and well-being, people are generally accountable only to themselves—and that often isn’t enough, especially in the early stages of change. With such isolation and anonymity, it’s easy for motivation, diligence, and follow-through to slip. Building in accountability helps ensure that clients remain on track.

 

Checking on a client’s experience with goals is not the same as pestering or nagging. It is rather a welcome conversation that includes reviewing a client’s best experiences with his or her goal design and the learning that arises from it. When appropriate, the coach can assist clients with reframing “failure talk” as “learning opportunities.”

 

In a complete absence of judgment, exploring progress as an accountability activity is an empowering conversation that provides structure, measurement, and support without being an unpleasant experience for a client.

 

The key is to keep it light without failing to raise important topics. To be effective, it’s important for coaches not to get attached to an outcome, remembering that a coach is not a client’s boss or parent.

 

Table Experiment/Goal Review

Goal Review

  • Explores full experience with a weekly goal, starting with the positive
  • Uses reflections to show listening and understanding of the jail experience
  • Expands inquiry into the client’s best experience with his or her weekly goal
  • Responds to client challenges with judgment-free reflections and inquiries
  • Asks what the client learned from his or her experience
  • Affirms the client’s strengths, choices, and/or situation
  • Inquires about the client’s percentage of success

 

Taking a design perspective once the goals (or experiments) have been tested, evaluation of their effectiveness is the next stage. It is important to explore both how clients feel about their progress as well as the factual aspects of progress.

 

Three-Month Goal Check-In

It is not necessary for a client to revisit his or her vision and three-month goals every week. It is important, however, to do so at least monthly in order for the weekly experiments and goals to stay connected to a client’s larger vision and purpose.

 

It is empowering to connect the dots between smaller incremental steps and larger motivating life goals.

 

Table Three-Month Goal Review

  • Validates the relevance of the client’s vision and connection to three-month goals
  • Asks about the client’s best learning or growth experience with his or her three-month goals
  • Asks about the client’s level of engagement commitment with his or her goals and whether he or she wants to revise them
  • Affirms the client’s strengths, abilities, or growth

 

Generate New Learning with the Generative Moment

After the goal progress has been reviewed, the area that clients are most stimulated by or struggling with typically becomes evident. Sometimes, it is success and excitement that carries them forward into a generative moment.

 

Other times, it is a challenge, ambivalence, anxiety, or uncertainty. Either way, coaches will want to spend extra time with clients around these areas. These are the big rocks around which clients want to move in generative moments.

 

Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Goal setting (or the design of experiments) emerges naturally on the tail of a generative moment. When clients have elevated their self-efficacy or belief in their ability to accomplish a task or goal, especially in an area that is important to them, they want to set new goals for the week ahead that will keep them moving forward.

 

It is important to be sure the goals are measurable, owned by the client, and reinforced by as many support structures as possible.

 

  • Asks the client to choose a goal that is important and that he or she is ready to pursue
  • Explores the support, structure, or environments needed to ensure success and handle challenges
  • Assists the client to refine goal to be a SMART behavioral goal
  • Uses confidence ruler to improve the client’s confidence in reaching that goal
  • Asks the client to restate goals
  • Affirms the client’s ability to achieve his or her goals

 

In addition to the goals that flow out of the generative moment collaboration, it is important to help clients set goals in all areas of interest or concern.

 

A written summary of goals is ideally exchanged between coaches and clients after every coaching session. This serves to facilitate the accountability process and to keep the forward momentum from week to week.

 

Initially, it may be helpful for the coach to write up the plan—vision, three-month goals, and the first week’s goals—in order to demonstrate how to summarize a succinct and compelling plan.

 

Generative Moment

Generative Moment

  • Collaborates with the client to identify the topic on which to work on, where he or she has aroused emotional energy and interest
  • Asks for permission to explore and work on the topic now
  • Encourages the client to describe what he or she really wants now in relation to the topic
  • Explores the strengths or values the client can leverage to move forward
  • Explores the environments the client can leverage to move forward
  • Explores decisional balance and develops discrepancy when the client demonstrates ambivalence
  • Engages the client in creative brainstorming of pathways forward
  • Expresses confidence in the client’s ability to move forward

 

Session Close

As with the session close for initial sessions, it is important to end on a positive note, expressing appreciation for the client’s work and capturing what the client learned.

 

The coach can also take the opportunity to ask for feedback on how to make the coaching session even more effective in promoting the client’s forward progress before scheduling the next session.

 

Handling Client Challenges

Although every client and every coaching inter-action is unique, there are some common challenges that can happen in the coaching process. It is valuable to be aware of some of the common situations clients might experience along the way and possible approaches that can be taken.

Situation: Clients may tend toward being over-zealous and unrealistic.

Approach: Carefully monitor goals to help clients keep them realistic.

Situation: Clients are slow to become motivated and do not make noticeable progress.

 

Approach: Address readiness to change or motivational problems through AI and motivational interviewing (MI). Discover strengths, build self-efficacy, weigh the pros and cons of change, modify environmental conditions, try new strategies to overcome roadblocks, and reconfirm or find new motivators.

 

Session Close

  • Communicates an appreciation of the client’s work in the session
  • Discovers and reflects what the client learned in the session
  • Asks for feedback on how future coaching sessions would best support the client’s path

 

Schedules next session

Situation: Clients are starting to get bored.

Approach: Add variety to generative moment discussions, offer a new assessment, and explore other domains for change and goals.

Situation: Clients are not making their change process a priority (maybe manifested in excuses as well as missed and/or late appointments).

 

Approach: Share your observations, express empathy, and inquire as to what could make their visions and goals more of a priority. Share with clients the value of taking small, incremental steps (e.g., how short bursts of exercise are beneficial).

Situation: Clients realize that coaches are not magicians, and they become disillusioned as to how much work it will take to make changes.

 

Approach: Normalize their experiences (everyone goes through this). Emphasize smaller steps. Share your confidence in the process with clients, and assist clients with creating action plans that they find engaging and can be successful in meeting weekly goals.

Situation: Clients are not attempting the behaviors they set for themselves as smart goals on a weekly basis.

 

Approach: Look for what is working in client behaviors in order to set new goals that clients will experience as a fresh start. Probe deeply for inspiring motivators. If the situation persists, discuss the matter with a mentor coach to determine next steps.

Situation: Client is not at the 50% point of their three-month goals at week 6.

 

Approach: Reassess three-month goals with your client to make sure they are realistic. Revisit the vision to reignite its power. Discuss the situation with a mentor coach for new ideas for generating success.

 

Situation: Clients get discouraged by not seeing results in several areas.

Approach: First, focus on what is working and on the client’s strengths. Then, spend extra time discussing the areas in which expectations have not been met, and create a plan for improvement. Try different tools and resources. Discuss options with a mentor coach.

 

Coaching Program Refresh or Close

The three-month point in coaching is a good time to review and renew the coaching program. It is a time to celebrate the achievement of milestones, consider developing a new three-month plan, modify coaching session frequency, and/or renew your client’s commitment to the coaching program.

 

When a coaching program comes to a close, it’s time to harvest and celebrate a client’s accomplishments and learning. A coaching session can be dedicated to deeper reflection, unpacking the full experience to learn from it.

 

What went well? What a sustainable mindset and behavior changes were made? What impact are the changes having on a client’s life? What’s next? How can the coach support a client in his or her next phase?

 

Perhaps the client wants to consolidate what he or she has learned and end the coaching partnership for now. Perhaps the client wants to continue the coaching program with a new focus.

 

Either way, it’s a good moment to have the client complete a coaching program evaluation survey. It may also be helpful to track post-coaching outcomes one or more years later to confirm the coaching impact and track record.

 

Coaches and clients often continue a connection for many years. A coach can send a birthday message or check in periodically on a client’s well-being. They may meet once in a while. A happy

 

Coaching Program Close

  • Explore reasons for client choosing to stop coaching program and/or ask the client to complete a brief survey.
  • Harvest and celebrate his or her learning, and explore what he or she may want to consider next.
  • Encourage client to keep making progress and to let you know how he or she is doing.
  • Ask if you may check in with him or her from time to time.
  • Express your gratitude for the privilege to work with the client.
  • the client is an excellent source of referrals and may even wish to restart a coaching program on a new domain at a later date.

 

Most of all, a coach can take time to reflect on what went well and consider what areas of coaching skills, processes, and impacts present opportunities for professional growth and development. The journey of learning and growth never ends for coaches and clients alike.

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