What happens in a coaching session?

Building on my June blog where I explored “How Does Coaching Work?” this month I want to look more closely at what happens in a coaching session or meeting. I usually recommend 90 minutes for a coaching meeting; one hour feels like not enough to get under the skin of the issue, but two hours can be too much. The client should be thinking hard throughout the session and many find the process tiring after a while.

So, beyond active listening, powerful questioning and the other ICF Core Competencies, what goes on in a coaching meeting? I like to think that what is at play are what Nancy Kline ( describes as the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment (copyright Nancy Kline, 2010) which are:

1. ATTENTION – Listening with palpable respect and without interruption

2. EQUALITY – Treating each other as thinking peers – Giving equal turns and attention – Keeping agreements and boundaries

3. EASE – Offering freedom from internal rush or urgency

4. APPRECIATION – Offering genuine acknowledgement of a person’s qualities – Practicing a 5:1 ratio of appreciation to criticism

5. ENCOURAGEMENT – Giving courage to go to the cutting edge of ideas by moving beyond internal competition

6. FEELINGS – Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking

7. INFORMATION – Supplying the facts – Dismantling denial

8. DIVERSITY – Welcoming divergent thinking and diverse group identities

9. INCISIVE QUESTIONS – Removing assumptions that limit our ability to think for ourselves clearly and creatively

10. PLACE – Creating a physical environment that says back to people, “You matter”.

Nancy Kline has identified that these elements are key to helping someone to think better, saying that “Everything we do begins with thinking. If our thinking is good, our decisions are good, our actions are good, our outcomes are good.”

When you look through the Ten Components, I’d encourage you to ask yourself, when did someone last give me the space for all of these elements? When was I encouraged and appreciated, and asked to express my true feelings? But equally when was I asked Incisive Questions which made me question what is and why?

For me coaching is about all of these factors, and the role of a coach is to create a space which enables these to happen. I have recently become part of a Bird Table Coaching group, which subscribes to the Nancy Kline approach and I truly value the opportunity that these sessions give me to work within a group where I feel safe yet challenged to explore questions I have about my business and my practice (not just fellow coaches, in the group is a Pilates Teacher and Will Writer, amongst others). So, if you’ve been wondering what happens in a coaching session, why not give one a try? After all, what have you got to lose (other than possibly 90 minutes of your life!) but you really could have everything to gain…