Here’s Exactly What to do During Your First Life Coaching Session

John Wooden

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.

This is the first of a four-part series of articles that walks you through the first couple of life coaching sessions with a client. All articles within this series include:

The Purpose of Life Coaching

As you go through life you will face many problems, fears, and setbacks. All of these things can be difficult to deal with and can very often lead you astray because it’s just too easy to get caught up in all the problems that life often throws our way. Getting caught up in these problems can put you on the back foot, which can lead to indecision and doubt. And when choices and decisions are ineffective, then the results you acquire are sub-par and life becomes somewhat of a struggle — lived through a state of desperation.

Life coaching is a self-help service designed to help you get out of a state of desperation while putting you into a state of inspiration. When you live in a state of inspiration, every decision you make and action you take supports your greater good and helps you reach your full potential in any field of endeavor.

Life coaching will, for instance, help you develop new skills; to capitalize on your strengths; to overcome weaknesses; to expand your comfort zone; to improve your thinking patterns; to eliminate limiting beliefs; to clarify your goals and priorities; to develop empowering habits and rituals; to strengthen your core values; to improve your ability to learn from mistakes and failure; and to potentially help you unlock your true life’s purpose. In a nutshell, life coaching is designed to help provide you with the support and guidance you need to excel in any area of your life.

The Purpose of Life Coaching

Life Coaching Roles

Within a professional coaching relationship, both the client and coach have certain roles that they must fulfill in order to ensure that the client receives the necessary support and feedback they need to excel through the coaching process.

During each and every session the life coach must fulfill the following roles:

  • They must direct the client by asking open and closed-ended questions in order to identify what it is the client needs and wants.
  • They must listen carefully to the client’s words while also observing the subtleties of their body language.
  • They must give proper feedback to help guide their client down a more optimal path.
  • They must work on raising a client’s self-confidence and self-belief to help empower them to make tough decisions and take positive action moving forward.
  • They must help the client improve how they think about their situation and circumstances.
  • They must provide the client with relevant feedback to help them make better decisions about their life, career, and relationships.
  • They must provide the client with effective techniques, strategies, and tools that will help them become more resourceful when dealing with difficulties.
  • They must provide encouragement and emotional support when the client is struggling to overcome certain life challenges.
  • They must provide the client with alternate perspectives and insights that can help introduce them to a world of new possibilities and opportunities.
  • They must help the client set goals and overcome potential roadblocks that stand between them and the life they desire to live.
  • They must challenge a client’s limiting beliefs, unhelpful thoughts, and attitudes while empowering them to make better choices and decisions.
  • They must encourage their client to develop certain strengths and to acquire specific skills that will help them to better manage their life and circumstances.
  • They must provide the client with new models of thinking about things that will help make them more resilient during times of great adversity.

The client also has a role to play during each coaching session. Their role is to:

  • Talk openly and honestly about their feelings, thoughts, life, and circumstances. The more open and honest they are, the more they will gain from each coaching session.
  • Participate proactively throughout the coaching session. In other words, they must work with the coach to explore their problems and circumstances.
  • Be willing to explore possible solutions that might help them overcome the problems they face.
  • Think optimistically yet realistically about their life and circumstances. In other words, the client must believe that anything is possible as long as there is a concrete plan in place.

This list of roles is certainly not comprehensive, however, it does at the very least provide some guidance that might help you better understand the roles and responsibilities of the coach and client throughout the life coaching process.

The Rules of a Life Coach and Client

Identifying Barriers to Effective Coaching

Whenever there is any form of communication between two people, there are always barriers that can potentially get in between this interaction. In a coach and client relationship, these barriers can either be environmental or physical. For instance, environmental barriers might include visual distractions, smells, sounds, temperature, and/or physical obstacles situated within the coaching environment that can potentially distract the senses.

All these environmental barriers can get in the way of effective communication because they will either cause some form of distraction or can potentially lead to some form of discomfort. Either way, these things get in the way of effective channels of communication between the coach and client, and as a result, the coaching environment isn’t optimized, which can very possibly lead to communication breakdowns.

From a coaching point of view, it’s absolutely paramount that you set up an environment that is free of any kind of distractions that might interfere with the channels of communication between you and your client. Likewise, if you’re the client, it’s also important to remove all possible distractions from the environment to ensure that you get the most from each coaching session.

Another barrier that is somewhat more difficult to work-around, is the physical barrier pertaining to an individual’s physiology and communication style. For instance, the facial expressions or the body language used by the coach or client can create visual distractions. The coach might, for instance, make some very strange facial gestures during the conversation that interfere with the client’s train of thought. Now, of course, the coach has very good intentions with these facial gestures, however, he/she must be very mindful of how their gestures are affecting their client. As a coach, in particular, it is probably, therefore, safer to keep your body language and facial gestures to a minimum in order to allow the client to focus on the most important issues at hand.

When it comes to physical barriers, personal presentation is also of paramount importance. A coach that is dressed the part and presents themselves in a professional manner naturally gains the respect of their client. Likewise, a client who presents themselves appropriately gains the respect of their coach.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that we make quick judgments about people based on the way they look or dress. However, it happens all the time and as a result, these judgments cloud our vision and thusly interfere with the communication process. This might, of course, be understandable in social settings, however when it comes to a coach and client relationship, the fewer barriers there are the less chance there is that communication breakdowns will occur.

One final barrier that’s also important to keep in mind comes down to the communication style you use. You might for instance use slang or technical terms as a coach that makes your client feel uncomfortable. Or you might be in the habit of using the same words over and over again to the extent that you start to sound like a broken record. These styles and methods of communication you use can become quite distracting very quickly and as a result, your client will not be as focused as they need to be on the issues at hand.

In order to avoid this pitfall, you must be very self-aware of the methods and styles of communication you use throughout your coaching sessions. The moment you spot something irregular, immediately alter your approach to ensure that nothing gets in the way of the open communication channels between you and your client.

Identifying Life Coaching Barriers

Establishing Rapport with Your Client

During your first coaching session, it’s absolutely paramount that you work on establishing a good level of rapport with your client. This rapport will help create trust between the two of you, thereby opening up the channels of communication.

Here is a four-step process you can use to help establish good levels of rapport with your client:

Step 1: Encourage Your Client to Talk

The best way to begin establishing rapport with your client is to encourage them to talk. And the best way to encourage your client to talk is to ask them some quick an easy questions to get the conversation going. Questions such as:

How has your day been? What did you get up to?

How are you feeling about coaching?

Can you tell me what has brought you here today?

How is this important to you right now?

How would you like me to help you out?

What are your expectations?

What are you hoping will change as a result of coaching?

It’s important to first ask these kinds of questions because they help set the scene for what’s to come. No longer will it be a mystery as to why your client has come to see you. Instead, you are now very clear about what it is they want and need, and as a result, this gives you clarity in your own mind about whether or not you might be able to assist them through these challenges.

Step 2: Ask Deeper and More Probing Questions

Having already established some rapport with your client, it’s now time to ask deeper questions that will provide you with a little more background on their life and circumstances. Depending on the concerns that your client raised a little earlier, you might, for instance, want to ask them questions about:

Do you have any role models or people you look up to in your life?

Why do you look up to these people?

What other people are important in your life at the moment?

How do these people support you? How do you support them?

Do you belong to any groups or organizations? Why are they important to you?

How do you typically go about making a decision? Why do you think this way?

Do you have any career aspirations?

Can I ask about your cultural background?

How do you spend your free time? Do you exercise? Do you have any hobbies?

How do you tend to spend your money?

Now, it’s important to note that some of these questions will be more relevant to some clients than to other clients. However, in one way or another, all these questions are relevant because they provide you with some fantastic insights into your client’s life, interests, influences, priorities, and circumstances. It’s, for instance, important to find out what specific people have the biggest influence on your client’s life because these are the people that probably have the biggest say in your client’s choices, decisions, and actions. It’s also important to identify how your client likes to spend their time. This will provide you with clear insights into their hobbies and interests that you can use at a later time to help motivate them to take action in a certain direction.

There are many possibilities here, however, your overall objective is to gain a “big picture” overview of your client’s life. This will provide you with those little seeds of information you need that will help you to direct your client in the right direction as you move through your coaching sessions. In fact, every question you ask here will provide you with the insights you need to explore relevant areas of the client’s life that might be related to their concerns.

It’s important to understand that at this stage it’s not about tackling the client’s concerns from the get-go. This is rather about getting to a point where you thoroughly understand the client’s life from all angles and perspectives because it’s within this information where you will often find the answers that can help you direct your client through their problems and concerns more readily. However, for this to become a possibility, you must be very vigilant to note down every detail that your client shares with you. It’s only once all these details have been clearly outlined, will you have the necessary information you need to connect all the dots to help your client work through their issues successfully.

Step 3: Explore Your Client’s Mindset and Psychology

The third step of this process requires you dig a little deeper into the client’s mindset and psychology. This might include exploring their strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, worldviews, perspectives, beliefs and core values.

The insights you gain here will provide you with the “whys” for the questions you asked within step two of this process. However, what’s most relevant at this stage is that you start making connections between the concerns/problems your client came to you with, and the mindset that they are bringing to these problems. It’s after all never really about the circumstances we find ourselves in, but rather about the mindset we bring to every circumstance.

For information about unlocking a client’s beliefs and values, please read How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs and How to Transform Personal Values. Please, however, note that these articles go into a lot of depth and detail into each process. You don’t necessarily need to go into so much depth during your first coaching session. It’s rather about getting a general overview of your client’s mindset to help provide a better direction for future coaching sessions.

You might, for instance, take your client’s concerns into consideration while asking the following questions:

What do you believe about your ability to handle this situation successfully?

What do you believe about others who are involved within this situation?

What do you believe about the situation? (identify assumptions)

Where do you think you are being let down?

Where specifically are you letting yourself down? (identify insecurities and perceived weaknesses)

What do you expect will happen here? Why?

What are you good at? How can you potentially use these strengths to your advantage?

There are a great many questions we could potentially ask here. However, what’s most important is that you ask relevant questions that will help you get a better understanding of the mindset that your client is bringing into each situation. That, in a nutshell, will essentially become the mindset you need to work with in order to help empower your client to overcome their personal limitations during upcoming coaching sessions.

Step 4: Address Any Anxieties Your Client Might Have

The final step of this process involves addressing any anxieties and/or fears your client might have about the coaching process.

During this time allow your client to ask you any relevant questions they might have about coaching:

Do you have any questions for me about these coaching sessions?

Are there any concerns you might have that you would like to discuss?

It’s only once your client’s fears have been successfully allayed will they then be in an optimal position to partner with you moving forward. On the other hand, failing to address these issues might lead to unexplained resistance as you move through subsequent coaching sessions.

Establishing Rapport During Life Coaching Session

Unlocking a Client’s Motivation

Your final task as a coach is to leave your client feeling motivated and inspired at the conclusion of your first coaching session. One way to do this is to share a personal story where you overcame similar odds or adversity. However, if you don’t have a personal story to share, then you can always share a story about one of your other clients who might have overcome similar odds/problems. Or, alternatively, you could recommend a relevant book or share some inspiring quotes with your client.

The key here is not to end your session on a “low” but to rather leave your client feeling excited and enthusiastic about this coaching journey that they are now on.

This might also be a good time to provide the client with your commitment, personal guarantee, while also informing them about your confidentiality agreement.

Once these technical administrative details are done, conclude your first session by asking your client to read out the following four statements:

I have unlimited potential…

All the answers lie within me…

Anything is possible to do and achieve…

I can do and be anything I choose…

Explain to your client that this is the kind of mindset that they must bring into every coaching session. It is, in fact, the kind of mindset that they must bring into every situation. That is after all the only way they will find the motivation they need to take the necessary steps to make positive changes in their life; which now leads us to the final order of business.

The final order of business is to identify whether or not the client is committed to making positive changes in their life. Ask them to rank the following set of questions from 0 to 10:

What is your level of desire towards making this change?

What is your willingness to follow through with making this change?

What is your level of commitment towards making this change?

Your client must be at a level seven or above when responding to these questions. And of course, the higher the level the better. However, if after asking them these set of questions, you find that their level of commitment is not where it should be, then you must help them strengthen this level of commitment before moving forward. To do this, please have a read of How to Develop Unwavering Commitment.

That’s basically it as far as the first coaching session goes. This is of course only one of many, many different ways you could conduct your first coaching session, but I hope that at least it can provide you with some direction that can help strengthen the initial bond you create with each of your clients.

Helping Your Client Find their Motivation

Final Thoughts

This initial life coaching session you have with your client builds the foundations for what’s to come. In fact, this coaching session is the beginning point of the MasterMind Matrix. From here onward you start digging ever so deeper into your client’s psyche as you work to Address Client Concerns, Identify their Current Reality and Evaluate their Current Reality.

These initial four stages of coaching are pre-planned stages where you work through specific areas that help you get an overall understanding of your client’s life, psyche, and circumstances. However, after you have successfully worked through these four stages, it comes time to delve deep into the MasterMind Matrix chart. Once here, you are no longer working in accordance with a specific plan, you are rather using the MasterMind Matrix chart to help further explore key areas of your client’s psyche that will help them achieve their desired outcomes successfully.

Once you’re working on the MasterMind Matrix, there are no set rules. Your task simply involves plowing in and out of the chart in an attempt to explore very specific areas that can help guide your client in the right direction. At times this will be a quick process, however, in other instances, it will take some time because as you work through the MasterMind Matrix and tackle one area, you may come to realize that other areas of your client’s psyche also need a little further exploration. And so you keep digging ever so deeper up until the moment all the pieces of the puzzle come together, which is typically when your client has a major “aha” moment.

To read a detailed account of the MasterMind Matrix, please join the free Pillars of Success email list. Once you sign up you will receive access to the MasterMind Matrix eBook within the first couple of weeks of your subscription.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

First Life Coaching Session

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.