Coaching Techniques

Coaching Conversation Techniques to Move Your Client Forward

Keep conversations with clients moving forward, including active listening, reflection, goal-setting with the SMART framework and other coaching techniques.

Keep the Conversation Cooking: Coaching Techniques to Move Clients Forward

As a coach, you enter your coaching relationships with curiosity and hope, prepared to be both the mirror and the flashlight that every client needs as they move from point A to point B. 

But what do you do when the conversation starts to cool?

If you’ve ever found yourself in a session where the progression feels slower than molasses, you’re not alone! Even the most experienced coaches have been in your shoes, and beyond the discomfort lies new conversational opportunities to learn and grow.

First, give yourself grace. Acknowledge that coaching is a client-directed process, and that you have been listening deeply and giving your client the space to express themselves. Give your client grace, too: self-directed change is hard!

Then, remind yourself of these frameworks and techniques to keep the conversation cooking.

Your Coaching Framework Toolkit

Just like the bumpers on a bowling lane, coaching frameworks provide the structure that coaching conversations need to keep clients moving toward their goals. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to coaching conversations, and that’s a good thing. 

Your clients are unique, and your practice is the perfect test kitchen to create personalized recipes for success. If you feel like you’re stuck using the same old cookie-cutter approach, try mixing it up with some of our favorite coaching frameworks to find the momentum that you need to propel your conversations forward!

Hallway Conversation

The no-bake cookie of coaching techniques, the Hallway Conversation is a simple framework that can be used to gain a foundational understanding of what it is that your client is trying to achieve. 

The recipe for the Hallway Conversation is short and sweet, only three questions! Because of its simple setup, it can also be an effective framework to use for discovery calls. 

Where are you now? Learn about the client and where they’re currently at in life.
Where do you want to be?
Allow the client to dream and imagine the version of themselves that they wish to be.
What’s getting in the way?
Understand the roadblocks that are keeping the client from achieving their goal.

5-Step Framework

If you’re looking for a recipe that kicks it up a notch, The 5-Step Framework will venture deeper into your client’s motivations and future. This framework can be used to guide the client through where they’re at, where they want to be, and how they’re going to get there, with space for planning and goal-setting.

Step 1: Set the agreement. Start the session by learning about your client’s goals and what they want to get out of today’s conversation.

Step 2: Future visioning. Create space and build positive motivation as your client explores what their goal would look like.

Step 3: Strategize. Set the stage to experiment and plan: how will the client get there? Strategies should be realistic and measurable – how will they know when they’ve achieved it?

Step 4: Clear the way of road blocks. Staying grounded in reality, allow the client to explore and anticipate what might get in their way.

Step 5: Recap. Toward the end of the session, review and discuss the future vision, the plan, and terms for personal accountability.

5D Cycle

Ready to give your client the chef’s hat and see what they can cook up? Try the 5D Cycle!

When a client comes to the coaching partnership from a space that seeks to bring order to chaos, the 5D Cycle is a valuable framework that draws on appreciative inquiry and a client’s existing strengths as they work toward future goals.

Define the coaching agreement to clearly identify what the client wants to accomplish.

Discover positive and exciting examples of their desired outcomes.  Create space for your client to share life-giving examples, images, and stories from past and present experiences to strengthen self-confidence and motivation as they plan to move toward change.

Discovery Question Examples

“Tell me about your hopes and dreams for the future. If you found a magic lamp and a genie were to grant you three wishes, what would they be?”

“Tell me about the things you value most deeply, things about yourself, your relationships, and your work. Without being modest, who are you when you are at your best?” 

Dream about their vision for the future. Guide your client through the process of crafting a realistic and provocative vision for their future. Encourage stories, narratives, and images that help them to make the dream come alive. 

Design the tangible action steps that your client can take to turn their dreams into reality. Use this space to set goals around how the dream would look in terms of habits, roles, resources, relationships, finances, structures, and the stakeholders in their lives. The client should consider all areas of impact and define, in detail, what would need to shift in each area to align with their dream.

Destiny: Assist the client in realizing their destiny by implementing their design plan. This is an active process that includes coach-driven accountability and continuous experimentation, learning, and innovation to ensure that the client is moving toward the destiny they have realized for themselves.

Setting Goals

Your client has dreamed up the perfect recipe, but do they have all the ingredients they need to get cooking? To keep your client grounded in reality with a clear path toward the goals they want to achieve, structured goal-setting is key.

SMART Goal Framework

The SMART goal framework can be used in any facet of your client’s life to bring realistic structure to achieving their goals.

A SMART goal is…

Specific: What is it that the client wants to accomplish?

Measurable: How can this goal be measured?

Attainable: Is this a goal that can be achieved?

Relevant: What makes this goal relevant?

Time Bound: When can this goal be achieved?

More Goal-Setting Resources:

Dynamic Goal Setting and Mantras

The Happy Energy of Goal Setting

Using Goal Setting Theory to Create Resolutions that Last

Your Coaching Technique Toolkit

In addition to coaching frameworks to guide your conversation, coaching techniques are the perfect complement to any test kitchen. Use these techniques to better understand your clients and create opportunities for new perspectives, keeping the conversation fresh.

Active Listening

Active listening is the slow, rolling boil that keeps coaching sessions cooking. To fully embody active listening, bring all of your senses into the conversation. Observe emotions, expressions, and body language to get a sense of what your client is truly saying. 

If a client is going into the details of a story or experience that is not in obvious alignment with the agreement set for the day, keep your senses open and stay curious. Active listening can help you identify a deeper emotional meaning or connection behind what is being shared, which may bring a newfound understanding to how that experience or theme could be relevant to the client’s goal.

Reflection & Clarification

Reflection and clarification are the ultimate taste-tests: do you understand what your client is cooking? Use your client’s language when you’re reflecting back to them and ask clarifying questions to ensure you’re in alignment with what they’re saying and feeling.

Reflection & Clarification Conversation Techniques

“What I’m hearing is…”

“It sounds like…”

“Did I get that right?”

Over the course of some coaching conversations, you might get the sense that you and your client are cooking from different recipes, especially if they begin to go in-depth on a topic that doesn’t align with the agreement that was set. If this happens, it’s okay! A temperature-check can clear the air.

During any coaching session, you should check in with the client midway to clarify the agreement and make sure you’re progressing in the right direction. If the client wants to maintain the agreement, this check-in can redirect their attention back to the original goal. If the client has realized that there is another more pressing goal on their plate, this opportunity for clarification could be the green light you both needed to set a new agreement before continuing the conversation further.

Getting Unstuck and Moving Forward

A successful coaching conversation is one that is client-directed as you move together in partnership to support the achievement of a specific and measurable goal.

There’s no single recipe of success for coaching, but with the right techniques in your toolkit, your test kitchen can become an exciting and experimental place of transformative client discovery. When your conversations start to cool, mix in different frameworks and keep your coaching techniques on-hand to regain momentum, and in no time you’ll help your clients create their recipe for success.

Ready to Move Forward With Your Coaching Education?

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Grounded in science, our International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited program includes robust curriculum and business instruction taught by a diverse and authentic group of instructors. Join our coaching community and learn alongside fellow students who are dedicated to becoming a collective force for good.

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