Life coaching can be transformational, but it does not come cheap. An experienced coach will charge anything between £100 and £500 per hour; some charge even more. As most coaches request a minimum commitment of at least 6 to 10 sessions, coaching becomes an investment in your life – a powerful one if you know how to show up in your sessions. In this article, I am going to tell you how to maximize the return on your investment.
Test drive your coach
The selection of your coach is a crucial part in making sure that your investment will be worthwhile. I recommend arranging a trial coaching session before you commit to buying a coaching package. Coaching is far from being a standardized service. You will find that each coach works differently. It’s important that you enjoy his or her approach and that the chemistry between the two of you is right.
I wrote a separate article about finding the perfect coach for you, which you can read here. It takes two to tango, though.
Some misconceptions about life coaching
Coaching requires your active participation. If you think that you can sit back and just enjoy the ride, you may be disappointed with the outcome of your journey. Here are some common misconceptions about coaching that are worth clarifying:
It’s not like therapy: If you have ever had therapy, you may be used to turning up to your sessions without preparation and simply talking about themes that are coming up for you in an unstructured way. You can approach coaching in the same way, but you won’t get your full value if you do. According to the core coaching competencies established by the International Coach Federation (ICF), a good coaching session involves you establishing specific goals and measures of success with your coach, both for the overall coaching journey and for each individual session. You will need to take ownership of deciding on those goals, although your coach will assist you with this.
It’s not training: Sometimes my clients expect to turn up and simply follow a template model of training content. Whilst some areas of coaching, like career coaching, may involve following certain standard processes, a good coach should never give you a template solution. A coaching journey should be bespoke, and this requires your active engagement and co-operation in creating each session.
It’s not a “done for you” service: Hand on heart, wouldn’t we all love it if our coach could do the work for us; if he or she could “fix” us, or somehow make us do what’s required to achieve our goals? Unfortunately, coaching does not work like this. Only you can create the changes you desire. Your coach will guide you to establish a vision, strategy and momentum for your life goals, but you will have to action them.
Sometimes clients ask me to “push” them into taking action. You may indeed find coaches who offer this kind of service, but it’s not coaching according to ICF competencies and it can create a dependency on your coach. Coaching is about you taking responsibility for your life and about improving your self-effectiveness. A good coach is not your mother who either nags you or does the work for you Instead, he or she coaches you to motivate yourself and draw on your own resources. If you are not motivated enough to pursue your own goals without someone pushing you, then I suggest you discuss with your coach whether those goals are indeed the right ones for you. There could also be subconscious barriers that need to be addressed first.
How to take charge of your life coaching sessions
I tell my clients that coaching is like going on a road trip with me. As your coach, I am your car and can take you wherever you want to go. I have a navigation system that will assist you in getting to your destination; but it only works if you get behind the steering wheel, give me directions and drive.
Here are 9 tips on how to do this:
1. Define goals and measures of success
You need to tell your coach where you want to go, both in terms of the journey generally and also for the road stops that you are going to take in each session. A good coach will initiate this by inviting you to define goals and measures of success. I ask my clients at the beginning of each session what they would like to be different by the end of it. Be prepared to answer this question each time you see your coach. A session outcome could be about creating clarity about a topic, creating a new strategy, feeling different or something else that is important to you.
If your coach does not ask you about your goals for a session, I suggest that you take charge by telling him or her what exactly you want to get out of each session.
2. Be prepared
I recommend preparing well for each of your coaching sessions. It starts by reflecting on your previous session, completing the actions that you agreed on with your coach and deciding what you want to get out of the next session.
If you are in doubt about how to prepare for a session, ask your coach for guidance. I give my clients a worksheet that they can use to prepare each time. It contains the following questions:
- What was my biggest insight from the last session?
- What actions did I complete since the last session?
- What actions did I not complete? What were my challenges?
- What do I want to focus on in the upcoming session?
- What support I need from my coach?
If my clients send me their completed form prior to their next coaching session, I can also prepare myself and we can make faster progress in the session and create more value for them. You can ask your coach whether he would be happy to work with you in a similar way.
3. Take notes
When you leave a coaching session, you may be buzzing with inspiration from new insights. Maybe you even had a major breakthrough. What can happen, though, is that we forget. It’s very human. What was that point your coach made? What actions did you agree on?
Taking notes will help you with this. When my clients see me face to face, it will be in a room where we sit at a table, rather than in soft chairs. There will be a notepad and pen in front of you. This set-up is designed to send a clear signal: this is work, not therapy. Taking notes not only helps you remember key insights from the session and the actions you decided on, but it can also deepen your thought processes during the session.
4. Consider recording your sessions
Sometimes my clients ask me whether they can audio record the sessions. I’m perfectly fine with that. The recording allows you to relive the coaching session and listen to the conversations from a different perspective. It’s quite likely that you will notice different aspects and gain new insights.
Only record your sessions if your coach has given you permission to do so. He or she may ask you not to share the recording with anybody else. Please respect that.
5. Give regular feedback
The “navigation system” of your coach that I mentioned earlier in this article will work best if you calibrate it through regular feedback. Tell your coach what is working for you or not in your sessions. This will help your coach make adjustments to match the sessions to your priorities, learning styles, and other preferences.
Clients can be a bit shy about this. You may be reluctant to speak up, as surely the coach knows what he or she is doing and you should just trust the process. However, the effectiveness of the process will depend on your input. Whilst your coach will always act with your best interests in mind, ultimately he or she will do this from their own perspective. Yours may be quite different. Tell your coach what approaches or themes in your sessions resonate with you or not, and where you would like your conversation to go. You are the expert on yourself and it’s up to you to decide what creates value in each session.
If you have questions, doubts or simply want to change the direction of your coaching sessions, do speak up. It’s part of the process of coaching. The better the communication from both sides, the better the outcome and the more powerful the results.
6. Make sure you do most of the talking
Your coach is not a guru. He or she is a normal human being with imperfections. As a coach, it’s easy to lean into what I call the “dark side” of coaching by talking too much. If you notice this, I recommend bringing it up with your coach. Your session is supposed to be a creative space for you to explore solutions for your goals and challenges. It’s not supposed to be a stage for your coach to show off his or her skills and worldviews.
I have been on the receiving end of this as a client. My very first coach was absolutely amazing during my first year of working with him, but in the second year his style changed and he became more like a preacher. A lot of the precious time in our sessions was filled by him telling me about his successes and his spiritual views of the universe. There was less and less space for me to explore my own thoughts and strategies. I brought this up several times and when he did not respond by changing his approach, I realized it was time to part and terminated our relationship. I recommend you do the same if you find yourself in a similar situation.
7. Be open and honest
The quality of your coaching session depends on the information you give your coach. The more open and honest you are, the deeper your coach can take you and the better the result you will create. Coaching is 100 percent confidential and there is nothing you can say that could shock your coach. We are trained to understand human behaviors, as irrational as they sometimes may seem on the surface. Whatever you may feel shy to talk about, it’s probably something that we have either experienced ourselves or seen in other people. As coaches, we don’t judge; we listen from a place of interest, like an engineer who is trying to detect what adjustments to a system can be made to create better outcomes.
8. Apply the learning
You may have amazing breakthroughs during your coaching sessions, but they won’t have much impact on your life if you don’t apply them. Coaching is not just about what happens during the sessions; it’s also very much about what you do between sessions. This one is on you. Take the actions you agreed on with your coach, review the session and further develop your thinking around the topics you discussed together. If you do this consistently, you will make much faster progress and cultivate a new way of being. Next time you meet your coach, you can then work with him or her from a new growth level.
9. Maintain the momentum whatever happens
Coaching is a little bit like working with a personal trainer. If you only have occasional sessions, you won’t make much progress. I recommend my clients to avoid breaks between sessions that are longer than a fortnight, otherwise, you will lose the momentum.
It’s likely that your coaching journey will have ups and downs. Not every session will be equally amazing. Sometimes you may feel frustrated by your sessions, impatient or even doubt the process. That’s natural and sometimes those feelings are triggered by subconscious barriers. Maybe there is a pattern of avoidance or fear. If you experience any of this, keep going. Do stick to your regular sessions and tell your coach whatever you are going through. There may be useful information in your experience. Review with your coach what is working and not working for you. Often it is in those moments when things are getting tough that we are on the verge of the next breakthrough.
It’s all about self-mastery
Coaching is a wonderful process that can be life-changing. I love it so much that I still work with my own coaches. If you follow the tips in this article, you will be well-positioned to create great results with your coach. The act of taking charge of your coaching sessions is already part of your growth journey. In the microenvironment of a coaching session, you practice skills of personal effectiveness that you can also apply to other areas of your life.
Whatever you do, whether in your professional or personal life, the clearer you are about the results you want to create before you commence a course of action and the more you tackle them proactively, the easier it will become for you to create the success you desire. Taking charge of your life is the first and most important step to personal effectiveness and self-mastery.
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