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Creating awareness, facilitating learning and results

Imagine you are led through a coaching session according to your needs and own terms. The coaching session is structured in a way that it effortlessly leads you to new insights, and you arrive at an action plan which you have confidently created for yourself?

Have you ever felt confused after a long conversation with no outcomes? Do you remember how it feels to have a short conversation but with tangible small steps to follow up on? Does this sound familiar to you?

Imagine you coming up with an action plan for yourself that you know will happen. With this mindset, you will know that you are not far away from achieving your desired outcomes.

Defining goals

What makes a coaching session successful? This always depends on the evaluation that the coachee does. To make it more shared and measurable, it is important to define coaching goals at the very beginning. Ideally, there should be one clear goal for the entire coaching process that might span over several months. Nevertheless, every coaching session should still have a specific goal.

The coachee brings a topic they want to untangle or something specific that they want to change with the help of a coach.

This could be :

  • A situation ‘I get the feedback that I am micromanaging my team, people are unhappy and fighting with me’.

  • A conflict pattern ‘every time that person acts superior I get angry and shout, and it is worsening my situation.

  • A feeling of boredom, sadness, or curiosity for something new ‘I am bored in my job, and I know people who did XYZ which is exciting, but I don’t know how I can change my work into something exciting, too’.

  • A search for purpose ‘we have been doing the same thing for 20 years, I want to innovate, but I don’t know how'.

  • Anything that the client brings and really wants to change. Maybe the coachee is not entirely clear about what exactly needs to change, but something needs to change for sure.

At the beginning of a coaching session, the coach helps the coachee to define a goal from these inputs. This is crucial because the success of a session, or a series of sessions – sometimes over a few months – can then be measured against this goal.

The formulation of the goal might change and get deeper and more refined, but it will always stay related to the insights and actions.

Making Action Plans

Every coaching session ends with an agreement on the actions to be taken by the coachee. These actions can be the behaviour the coachee agreed to observe or experiment with. It could be about observing one's own emotions and triggers, or about asking other people for support. Anything that the coach and coachee can agree on that will bring the coaching agenda towards the goal.

It needs to be Specific and Measurable so that we can evaluate it and know that it has been accomplished. It needs to be Attractive so the coachee is motivated to really do it. It needs to be Realistic so that the goals can be achieved in small steps, and it has to have a Timeframe that indicates when it will be achieved. It needs to be SMART. An action plan could be any of the following:

  • A logbook or diary to document feelings and needs that occurred in the light of the change that is envisioned ‘when I was in that conflict this is what I felt, this is what I needed.

  • A list of actions the coachee is committed to ‘I will complete this task, speak to that person, ask for support about something’.

  • An experiment to try out a new behaviour, for example, practicing better listening skills ‘I will put a card in front of me with the challenge to first listen, then confirm what I understood, getting confirmation that I understood correctly, only then speak up my mind’

  • Any action the coachee is motivated to do and brings the coachee towards the goal

Tracking the session

Having a goal, listening to the reality of the coachee, asking powerful questions and employing effective communication skills, as well as creating an action plan requires you to have a good orientation. It can be useful to take notes, just enough to give orientation, but not too detailed because you still want to be able to focus on the coachee and maintain constant eye contact.

If you are experienced you might be able to hold the themes in your own head and recall them immediately when needed. Most people find this too difficult. It really helps to note down the key points for two reasons: Firstly, it is easier for you to remember once they are written down. Secondly, you can agree on definitions together with the client.

You can note down on a whiteboard or on a paper sheet, putting the date and name, writing the coaching goal on top of the page, for example ‘stop micromanagement my staff’.

Below that, you can put the keywords related to the realities the coachee speaks about, circle feelings and needs that you hear. This will help you recap the main bullet points, the feelings, and the needs that you have noticed about the coachee. This awareness exercise is very useful to the client and helps them gain more clarity. It might be that ‘having more time for strategic thinking or ‘more inner calmness and less conflict’ or ‘seeing effective change and efficient use of resources could be important in our example.

The bottom right corner you might reserve for key actions, for instance,

‘noting down in my logbook every evening for 5 minutes what situations triggered me today, what I felt, what I might need, or what I wish I had done differently, what I did well.

Building Accountability

The coach is there for the coachee during the coaching session, and between the sessions, too, to lend support, to remind, to change the plan when something did not work out, and to celebrate successes. It only seems impossible until you do it – and the coach supports the coachee to get it done.

‘What would you want to do about it? What are the next small steps you would like to take?’ are good open questions to get out the points.

‘How will I see next week that you have done your action plan?’ is a good question to tune the actions to be SMART.

‘On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely is it that you will actually do the actions?’ helps you make it realistic and attractive. Don’t budge; don’t settle for anything less than 9 or 10 on the likelihood scale. Making the goal smaller, more enjoyable and letting the coachee ask for support from other people might help them to get there.

To make the reflection deeper and give the coachees the opportunity to summarize their learnings, you can ask ‘What was the most important learning for you today?’. Even if it might be different than you thought and understood earlier, it is still a good sign. Remember that it is about building ownership. It’s a good idea to interrupt and paraphrase what you hear, so you can write it down in the words of the coachee to add real commitment and bring clarity.

To finalize the session, prevent from going into pondering mode, and bring clarity instead, you can ask ‘What else needs to happen before we close the call’. You will get either a point that did not get the just attention and can rectify this, or you will get a ‘thank you, that’s it'.

With this clarity, you will leave the coaching session knowing what the next steps for the coachee are, what points to remind them, and when. All these steps will help you stay curious and positive about the impact your coaching is making and soon you will be able to see the positive effect on the coachee.

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About the Author:

Stefan Bannach is a Bali-based consultant, trainer, and coach with more than 15 years of experience working in Germany, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. He has extensive experience in moderating and facilitating multi-stakeholder processes in a participative way, as well as setting up training modules in the fields of communication, team development, conflict management, participatory planning, and moderation.


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