I am convinced that trust and intimacy, which is the foundation of a successful coaching relationship, get first established in the chemistry session with the potential client (coachee). So, this becomes a critical prequel to the coaching journey and therefore a non-negotiable step!
What makes my chemistry session so fulfilling?
STEP 1) SHARING BY THE CLIENT
I invite the prospective client to share about own self. Mostly the client is forthcoming and open, thanks to the initial 2-3mts that I would have spent in making the client comfortable. If for some reason the client is not being open, I probe gently to bring forth their vulnerability. On the sharing, I ask one or two powerful questions that get the client to reflect, go a little deeper into the soul and share their realizations. This gives me an opportunity to listen for feelings and demonstrate that I’m mindful, empathic, and totally engaged.
Most importantly, it gives the client an opportunity to get a quick preview of a typical coaching conversation. This takes about 20-30mts of the total one hour that’s been scheduled for the chemistry session.
STEP 2) RECIPROCAL SHARING BY ME
I then share about myself in 5mts, as crisply as possible. I’m transparent and vulnerable…to reciprocate the same trust placed by the client in me. I share both professional and personal aspects of my life. I make it a point to find some common ground – either the tenure in the company or the way we deal with challenges or common values or common natural gifts and talents or common experiences. This helps in establishing a connection. This takes about 10mts with QnA.
Needless to say, I would have shared a one-pager bio via email before this first-time chat!
STEP 3) DE-MYSTIFYING COACHING
For the last 15mts, I try and to understand the client’s interpretation and knowledge of executive coaching. I get into details on explaining how executive or corporate coaching is different from training, mentoring, and counseling, the role of the coach, the role of the client, how coaching helps to cause needle movements, why is it primarily used for behavioural and leadership skills, what does the ICF certification and credentialing really mean, what exactly happens in a typical coaching conversation.
STEP 4) THE NEXT STEPS
In the last 5mts, I summarize and worked out the next steps. I always offer a 45-60 mts sample coaching session to enable experimental decision-making, promise to email a couple of videos on a typical coaching process for better clarity, and commit to sharing the ICF code of ethics to help build the initial trust and confidence of the client and finally address any gaps in the overall understanding of what the next few weeks and months will be all about.
STEP 5) ENSURING ALIGNMENT
I invite the client to share their expectations from the coaching journey and how exactly are they willing to move forward in their process of self-discovery and self-development. I also seek an understanding of how aligned is the client with their HR and their reporting manager on the objective of this intensive exercise. A few times, I see a gap in the alignment within the sponsor company. It is then that I make it a point to connect back with HR and the reporting manager to make sure that they connect up to ensure that all of them, especially the prospective client, are on the same page on the specific reason for the coaching intervention, expectations as a leadership coach in India and the expected outcome!
This 5-step process seems to work very well for me. And works for my clients as well because the ensuing coaching sessions, post this chemistry session, have always been intimate and very trusting?
What makes it more gratifying is that the client is here by their very own choice; just like as a coach, I was free to not accept him/her as a client, they are also free to reject me as a coach, post the chemistry session!
Would love to hear what works for my fellow coaches? What do you do to make your chemistry sessions meaningful for your client and yourself?What are the best practices that we can learn from each other? If any of my fellow linked in members have been coached, then what has worked for you as a client in the first chemistry session?