International Coaching Week Day 2: What can I expect from coaching?

As we continue celebrating International Coaching Week, let’s discuss another frequently asked question: what can clients expect from coaching? One of the fundamental tenets of professional coaching is to approach each engagement, session and question with “the beginner’s mind” – the assumption that the coach knows nothing and is listening with fresh ears every time. We combine this blank slate listening with a process designed to help clients create new awareness that translates into action. The process generally comprises five steps:

  1. Define the problem. What would success look like from an individual coaching session, or from a coaching engagement? What is stopping the client from achieving the goal(s)? That’s the problem. Once defined, the problem will be the core of the coaching. If a client consistently wants to discuss a topic other than the defined challenge, the coach will notice that desire and explore if a redefinition of the problem is needed.  One of my favorite coaches, Terry Humphrey, tells her clients, “I’m not your mama and I’m not your therapist.” You hire a coach to work on something specific, and our job is to keep you focused on the declared objective.
  2. Explore. The greatest compliment a client can give is “wow – I had never thought of it that way.” In the exploration process, the coach will ask and listen. As an ontological coach, I assess the three main elements of  humanity – body, emotion and language – and introduce distinctions to help you see yourself in a new way.
  3. Create awareness. Exploration inevitably gives rise to fresh awareness. Toward the end of each session, I usually ask for key takeaways or new understandings. This step is critical so I know what resonates most. 
  4. Make commitments. You’ll end your session making commitments to actions, which are one-time events such as having a tough conversation with someone or sending a resume to a ‘stretch’ job, and practices, which are ongoing commitments like scheduling regular employee check-in calls, or meditating daily for 10 minutes.  Commitments help translate awareness from the sessions into your life.
  5. Debrief and refine. In your next session we’ll start the process again, often checking to see how the commitments from the prior session went.

Most importantly, the client always sets the agenda for coaching sessions and engagements. The best agenda items have deep meaning for the client, and represent an area where they feel stuck. At its best, professional coaching is a true partnership between coach and client. 

If you have more questions or are ready to try coaching for yourself, get in touch by emailing me at

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