Tracy Playle

Coach. Public speaker. Consultant

What actually happens in a coaching session?

I usually write in this blog about recurring themes I see from my coaching clients, or even in my consultancy practice. My intention through those posts is to offer something that you can relate to or reflect on for yourself regardless of whether you work with a coach or not. But in a coaching conversation we’re able to turn these topics into breakthroughs. 

So, that begs the question, what actually happens in a coaching session that makes all the difference? In today’s post, I’m shifting the focus from the content of what comes up in coaching sessions or consultancy requests, to the structure of what a coaching session actually looks like.

It goes without saying that different coaches work in different ways. I’m speaking from my own practice which is ontological based, instead of purely facilitative. This means that in a coaching relationship with me:

  • We don’t just focus on what you are doing, but also on your being.

  • We work within the commitment of your stated life goals and projects (which we’d design together), not just on getting through the day-to-day grind.

  • We dig deep into meaning and purpose, looking at designing breakthroughs to support something greater in your life. 

To explain more clearly, let’s take an example that every coach hears on a frequent basis: “I have too much to do, I want to get better at managing my time.”

This is where some coaches will sweep in with conversations about diary management, delegation, saying no to people, prioritisation techniques, and so forth. And there’s nothing wrong with any of this. Except… it doesn’t address the reasons why you might have poor time management or feel overwhelmed. It’s like patching subsidence cracks with cosmetic filler. It might make things look better for a while, but the whole house remains in danger of falling down. 

In my style of coaching, then, we look for what’s really going on. You’re totally unique. You also probably won’t easily see for yourself what’s really going on. So, my job as a coach is to ask questions that helps you to really bottom out what’s going on. Poor time management could be a sign of:

  • A lack of love for the things that you are doing. If you were doing something you totally adored, poor time management or overwhelm may not even exist.

  • An inability to say “no” to everything being piled on you because your own self-worth and self-love is wholly dependent on trying to keep other people happy. If you shift your relationship with yourself, then your ability to say no will also shift. 

  • Perfectionism or control contexts, and an inability to let something go. If you work on letting go of control, then suddenly the overwhelm disappears too. 

  • Something else altogether…

By digging into the context underpinning the barriers or challenges, we can make once and for all transformations, not temporary “fixes”. 

So, what goes on in the coaching session itself to support you to get there?

It starts with the definition of your larger goals and dreams. We’d work to define those early in the coaching relationship, and they form the focus of future coaching sessions. In a session, you then bring a request for something that you want to discuss usually in service of those goals and dreams. This might be a barrier that you’re facing and want to overcome. We call this the coaching request. 

With the coaching request established, we get clear on where you want to get to by the end of the coaching conversation (mine usually last 60 minutes), what that means to you, and what it makes possible in service of your projects and goals. 

We then get to work on that. We explore to understand what’s underneath the request, and where to really look to create once-and-for-all transformation and movement towards your dreams. As coach, I’m there to reflect back to you and to ask the questions that help you uncover this for yourself. I’m not there to diagnose or to tell. 

With this new awareness now front and centre, we then work together to create action. We call these practices. What are the things that you’re willing to take on to really create the breakthrough that you seek and to give it momentum? We’ll co-create your practices, making sure that they’re in a style of action that really works for you, taking into account everything that makes you unique and playing to your motivations, and work styles. And we’ll also think about reliability and accountability structures to make sure that you’ll actually do the practices that you’ve agreed to take on. This is your life, after all. 

My sessions then close with reflections and acknowledgements, reviewing how we did against the request you came to the session with, and checking in to see what might still be missing for you. Acknowledgement is a powerful way to end the session and propel you into action. 

So, that’s broadly speaking what a coaching session looks like:

  • A request within a broader commitment, project or goal

  • Exploration of that request, creating new awareness around it

  • Designing actions and practices

  • Creating structure for reliability and accountability

  • Reflection and acknowledgement. 

Of course, the best way to really experience a coaching session is to have a go. Because many people don’t know what to expect, I offer free taster sessions. So, why not book in for one and see what it can be like to start creating real breakthroughs in your life?