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The Most Important Thing A Coach Can Do! Session Contract.

Coaching without setting any sort of agenda is like driving a car with a blindfold on. You're liable to crash and burn.

Actually, it's worse than that.

It's like getting in a car as the passenger (the coach), and the driver (the client) both have blindfolds on, the driver wants the go-to "the store". Except neither one of you clarified the name of the store, what it looks like, or why you are going there.

Then once the two of you end up in a completely different location, the driver gets mad at you for not taking them to the store, even though they were driving.

Stay with us here. This trip to the store is going to come in handy later.

This week on CLCI Live we talk about why setting a session contract is the most important thing you can do as a coach and how you can keep your client on topic.

This week we are joined by Lisa Finck (A.C.C.), Brooke Adair Walters (M.C.P.C.), Jerome LeDuff Jr (M.C.L.C.), and Anthony Lopez (M.C.P.C). and we explore what happens when a contract isn't set and what to do if your client starts to veer off course. As it turns out, having a contract is non-negotiable.

The 5 Principles of Setting a Session Contract (Our hypothetical trip to the store).

#1. The Session Should Connect to the Overarching Goal

Why did the client start coaching with you in the first place? Very often, coaches take for granted the reason why a client is doing coaching at all and what the big picture looks like.

Your client paid you $8000 for 12 weeks because they want more fulfillment? Great! But are you and the client on the same page? Do you both know...

  • What fulfillment is for your client?

  • What it looks like, in real life, for your client?

  • If you would even know if the client was moving in that direction or achieving success? Would they know?

The very first session you have with a client should establish the why & what of coaching and should be the guiding post of every following session. You should be able to tell anyone, clearly:

  • What is the motivation for change is?

  • What is that change is and what will be different?

  • How will you and the client know progress is being made?

So now, the coach who has a client with "fulfillment" as their 12-week goal might be able to say something like this.

My client wants more fulfillment in their life. Fulfillment to them is having a better social life. A better social life looks like having a larger social circle, spending more time with friends & family, making new friends, and spending less time working.

What motivated my client was that they constantly feel left out and that they've said "no" to people so many times in favor of work that people have stopped bothering to include them.

My client will know when progress is made because they will:

  • Track the time spent working vs w/ friends & family and compare it to before they started coaching.

  • Increase the number of friends they have by the end of 12 weeks

  • Not work any more overtime at the office

  • Host their own events to meet new people

Okay, we have a very defined reason for coaching, every session contract for the next 12 weeks after should be to support these goals & outcomes.

#2. Every Session has a Topic

"What would you like to work on today?"

This phrase is golden. This phrase is the foundation of a coaching session. This phrase puts the client in the driver's seat and gives them control of the time they have with you.

The client, ideally, will have something they would like to work on that is aligned with their overarching goal. Sometimes you will get something out of left-field.

"I want to go to the store today"

What? Store? Sure okay, whatever, they want to go to the store, let's get there.

New coaches have a tendency to immediately jump into coaching at the first sign of a goal. In fact, looking for a goal is often the coach's only goal and they disregard the reason behind it or if it's even relevant to why a client started coaching. To them, any goal is good enough so let's just get the client talking so we can get this session over with.

More experienced coaches are patient and are not afraid of asking the Why. Attaching relevance to your client's goals is one of the very rare times a seasoned coach will ask why. With a bit of curiosity, candor, and questioning, a coach can come to understand what a client really wants and how it connects to the overarching goal.

"I want to go to party supply store today because I want to host a party this weekend"

Now we are getting somewhere. As the session contract is being explored, the client may begin to have a clearer idea about what it is they really want to work on today, and it relates to their larger 12-week goal. It's important to notice diversions or tangents that the client may go on and they may even arrive at a different place than what was initially said. After rethinking, the client may say...

"I'm going to host a party next week and I know I need to go to the store today to buy supplies. I want to know what to buy."

#3 Every Topic has an Outcome

"By the end of our session, how will we know that your outcome has been achieved? What will be different by the end of the session?"

There are no loose ends in a session contract. By having the client identify what the outcome will look like you both have a basis of comparison between where they are at now vs. where they want to be. How they will achieve that outcome is reserved for the rest of the coaching session, but now there is an objective to reach.

"I will know my outcome has been achieved because by the end of our meeting I will have a list of things to buy for my party that is within my budget, directions to the party store, and I will feel confident when inviting friends, family, and their +1's to my house."

Awesome, we have a topic and we have the desired outcome. That's all a session contract is right?

#4 Every Outcome can be Measured

The session contract isn't a task to be accomplished only to be later discarded at the end of the hour. The agenda set and its outcome must be revisited to make sure the agreement has been upheld. Have the outcomes been met?

It's not up to the coach to decide if the session was a success. Ask the client.

  • "How did we do?"

  • "Did we achieve your goals for today?"

  • "At the beginning, you said we will work on X, was this accomplished?"

If we set the contract correctly and thoroughly explored the goal in the session you may have a client who is satisfied with the outcome. Back to our hypothetical client.

"I think I achieved most of my goals today. I have a full list of things to buy today at the party supply store, everything on my list is within my budget, but... I don't feel confident about inviting people over. I'm going to push the party out another week, next session can we talk about my confidence and how I can invite people?"

Not every session is going to be a home run and that's okay! What matters is that both you and the client partnered with each other during your shared time and stayed on the agenda. Even better, the client may have a ready contract for you next time. But don't be surprised if this changes in the future. Always be ready to adapt to your client's goals from session to session, a lot can happen in the span of a week.

#5 The Contract is Non-Negotiable

We mean this literally and as a mindset you should have every time you coach.

As you go on to coach, you will most likely want to earn your ACC, PCC, and MCC with the ICF to prove to the world you know coaching like the back of your hand. Part of the application process for the ACSTH Path (you can earn up to 65.87 hours with CLCI) and it involves:

In both cases, the first thing they will ask themselves is did you set the session contract? If not, your mentor coach will give you the necessary feedback. If you didn't in your performance evaluation then it is grounds for automatic disqualification.

All hope is not lost though, you can resubmit your application in the future, but that's another few months and more fees that you could have avoided if you made a habit of setting the session contract.

So going forward. Every time you coach a client. Set the session contract. You'll have a smoother session and a smoother career if you do.


Announcement! Digital Badging is Now Live!

We are excited to officially announce to the world that CLCI is now utilizing Credly to offer our students and alumni digital badges when they become Certified Professional Life Coaches (CLC/CPC) and Master Certified Life Coaches (MCLC/MCPC).

Last week we began issuing all students and alumni these digital badges when they graduated from our programs, in addition to printable certificates.

What makes these digital badges special?

These aren't your old fashioned certificates. These badges are:

  • Shareable: Meaning you can easily post them on Indeed, Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Or place them in an email signature or embed them on your website!

  • Verifiable: Each badge issued is uniquely linked to data hosted on the Credly platform and makes them more reliable and secure than a paper-certificate. No one except you can claim your credential and your associated identity.

  • Data Rich: Badges provide clients, peers, and family/friends concrete evidence of what you had to do to earn your certificate and what you’re now capable of.

Be sure to keep an eye out for emails from Credly or Certified Life Coach Institute in the future for more information.

For More Info on Digital Badging


Thank you,

Lisa Finck, Brooke Adair Walters, Jerome LeDuff Jr., and Anthony Lopez

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Don't miss out on our 3-day life coach classes, it's an education that is beneficial for life, not just for life coaches! Want to learn more click here.


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