Keeping your coaching on track

There are many coaching conversations and programmes which can literally drift along, with little attention paid to the progress of the coachee, the progress of the work or its value to the coachee and/or any potential sponsor, be it organisation or simply the ‘paymaster’.  In this article Mike Nelson, one of our partners, shares his suggestions for keeping your coaching on track.



  • Ask yourself questions – like “What am I thinking about that? What am I feeling about that? Why am I thinking/feeling this way?” These and other reflective questions either asked by the coach or by you of yourself will make you more self-aware.
  • Self-awareness is useful because it allows us to be more in control of how we go about things and how we might refine/improve these ways of thinking or doing.
  • In time your sense of self-awareness should be developed to the point where it becomes a useful tool to manage yourself, not only in coaching but as you go about your life and work in general.



  • Review your coaching goals, developed by yourself or in conjunction with your coach and/or organisation at the outset of your coaching programme.
  • Goals may be set along the lines of S.M.A.R.T. objectives (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time bound) or may be less structured as one or more statements of intent or aim for your coaching.
  • There is a school of thought amongst some coaching practitioners that goals can ‘get in the way’ of what might be described as ‘emergent’ coaching (in other words allowing a dialogue to ‘flow’, guided by coaching questions and your reflections) so that you may get to work on more hidden issues. In this case, some reflective notes made by you after each session or period of reflection could well be useful to help you monitor progress.



  • Having the motivation to take part in coaching and to feel like you want to work on improving your strengths or development needs is a critical part of the coaching process but also is useful to help you monitor progress. Ask yourself how motivated you feel about this work, who is driving this, how different could it be if you changed things – improving skills, knowledge or attitudes to a challenge.
  • Some coaches may help you develop a vision of what it could look and feel like if things were different and the very vision itself proving to be a more motivating and measurable outcome which you can work towards.
  • Make sure that the motivation to do this work is coming from you as this will increase your sense of motivation and will encourage you to measure your progress as various goals or landmarks are achieved.


Contracting with your Coach

  • Most professionally trained coaches will develop a contract with you either before (normally via a Chemistry Meeting) or during an initial session. This is essential so that you and your coach both know how the coaching will work, the boundaries and how to manage all of these. As a minimum, the contract should include when/where/how often/how long your coaching sessions will be.
  • Some coaches will provide a more formal written contract whilst others may make this an open discussion between you.
  • It is worth reviewing how this initial contract is operating, either at the end of each session or more commonly approximately halfway through a programme allowing for adjustment to the way the coaching is operating for you.


Rapport and Honesty

  • Effective coaching takes place in an atmosphere of openness and honesty with a higher level of rapport between you and your coach than you might get in other relationships.
  • One useful measure (albeit hard to define) is how open are you being – with yourself and with your coach.
  • Remember that developing trust takes time so it may take more than one session for you to feel you can be really open.


Psychometrics/360 Feedback

  • Many organisations and some coaches will suggest the use of a 360-degree feedback process to define both a starting point and repeated at a later date to be able to monitor progress.
  • The use of a psychometric instrument or questionnaire may be recommended by the coach or organisation. There is a myriad of these (PRISM, OPQ, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator etc.) so the choice should be guided by professionals.
  • Finally, the most comprehensive (but perhaps the most daunting for some) would be the combination of 360 and one or more psychometrics into a full assessment report which would provide a very robust benchmark against which to set coaching goals and measure progress.



  • Collect feedback from your peers, line managers and staff so that you can benchmark where you are as well as to chart progress.
  • Take time to collate, reflect and think about the feedback. You don’t have to ‘swallow’ it all… which is the feedback that resonates and why is that. If there is a lot of feedback which are the highest priorities, or which is the most frequent from your observers.
  • Remember to collect feedback on your strengths as well as development areas.


Running out of Steam!

What do you do if you feel (or your coach feels) that you have run out of steam with the coaching?

  • Firstly, ask if the initial goal/aim and/or vison is still relevant (or indeed if it was right in the first place!) Take time to explore what you are thinking or feeling and prepare to discuss this openly with your coach. The coach will find this useful to take a step back with you and check to see if the programme, the style or even if the coach is still right for you.
  • Do not be concerned about stopping the coaching or changing the coach if, on discussion, this feels appropriate.


Sustaining Change

  • Stephen Covey (in the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) describes the 7th habit as “Sharpening the Saw.” In this way he is pointing out the need to stop and reflect before pressing on. Having invested time and energy with your coach and if you review along the way then developing a habit of sharpening the saw can be very useful.
  • Even after the coaching is finished this habit can help you sustain new behaviours and habits moving forward.
  • From time to time it may be useful to meet with the original or a new coach to refresh – keeping a record of your progress during the programme can really help this be picked up easily at a future point.


If you want to see the full version of this article then take a look at our book 100+ Top Tips on Managing Your Coaching Needs.