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New coaches often are wary of seeking client feedback at the end of a session. Yet this is often what they need the most to develop. Seeking feedback as a new coach should become a habit. Here are my experiences when developing my coaches.

Scene setting

During coaching qualifications and early post qualification coaching practice, coaches often either forget to seek feedback or are uncomfortable in asking for it. Apart from the coach’s own reflection and observations from their Supervisor, there is no one else able to provide information and insight into the coach’s performance. Approaching the client should be done; but it’s more how you approach the client than anything else.

In my experience of reviewing reflection notes and discussions with coaches, often the extent to which the coach seeks feedback is ‘How was the coaching session for you? The typical response is ‘I enjoyed it’ or ‘It was helpful’; whilst this feedback is pleasant to hear, as I share with the coach this feedback ‘as useful as a chocolate teapot’! It is low value feedback, not very effective for learning from.

Every time the coach runs a session they are performing. Therefore the more information they have on this performance (feedback) the better. Client feedback is essential

Start with your contracting

With a developing coach the topic of feedback should be initiated during the contracting phase. In this way it makes feedback the provision of it and seeking of it, part of how you are both going to work together moving forward.

Doing this also removes the awkwardness of asking for it at the end of a session, as the client knows in advance this is part of the process..

If the client knows that you are a developing coach working toward qualifications, on the whole they are more than willing to share some insight from their experiences of you. By sharing that you are developing you may experience that the client starts to work with you a little bit more.

By building this into your contracting it also helps to nurture the rapport and relationships. Then over time, as feedback is sought and received, this too will add further to your relationship.

Seeking feedback at the end of a session

I encourage coaches to use this initial feedback as an entry point to tease out more from the client. This is where the coaches ability in open questions comes in handy.

  • How was the session for you today?
  • What did the session bring you today?
  • What did you enjoy about the coaching today?
  • What challenged you the most when we were talking?
  • How did the session resonate with you today??

Often you are met with a short answer, but at least you now have an opening to explore some more with them. Another set of questions can be useful:

  • What was it that you enjoyed about the coaching and my approach?
  • Given your goal and what we achieved, how did the coaching help you?
  • Tell me more about what you enjoyed.
  • What particularly do you remember about the session?
  • How did I help you to learn or be more self aware today?
  • How did my approach enable you during our time together?

Using your experiences of the session to prompt feedback

Often during the coaching session the coach will be aware of areas where questions might not have been as effective as they had hoped. Or the client seemed a uncertain of what was required. The coach can bring to the table an area or two they noticed that they would like to explore with the client.

If this is the case, the coach can consider using this and approaching the client with a more focused question to seek out feedback:

  • When we were talking about… I noticed that you seemed a little uncertain, I was wondering what was happening at that moment for you… what could I have done differently there?
  • One of the questions I asked about X your body language became more closed. Help me to understand, what were you feeling in that moment? What was it that I did or didn’t do which may have caused this?

Seeking developmental feedback

Developing coaches do struggle with seeking and exploring feedback which might not be overly positive. Whilst I can appreciate the awkwardness in the coach, the information it can provide is hugely developmental. There are simple questions the coach can position and ask with and of the client:

  • I would like if possible with you to explore some areas which you think I could improve.
  • I would value your insight into areas where I can develop as a coach, if you are happy to share these.
  • I am keen to hear what didn’t work for you in the session?
  • I am keen to hear how you felt I came across during our conversation.
  • What would improve the coaching experience for you in our next session?
  • What things did I perhaps say or do which I didn’t help you when I did them?

If the client is sharing, the coach should maximise this opportunity to explore further:

  • Tell me more about how it felt when I did or said that?
  • If we were to repeat this conversation, what from your perspective would have worked better for you?
  • Next time, how would you like me to be?

Remember to receive the feedback. Whether to agree with it or not. Whether you like it or not. Receive it and look to understand where the client is coming from. It s their view of the world and therefore it is valid. If you challenge it verbally or through your body language it will reduce the likelihood of the client sharing with you in future sessions.

Post session feedback

Rather than asking direct at the end of a session. Some developing coaches will email their clients afterwards. Whilst this is a valid approach it isn’t quite the same as getting it immediately. However it also provides valuable information, as the client has had time to digest and reflect on the coaching session.

Key things I encourage coaches to do:

  • Be clear about the purpose of the email – and be able to share this with the client.
  • From here be clear about the questions you want to ask. Which questions will provide most high value feedback for you? A shopping list of questions will either get no response or low value answers.
  • Limit the questions to 2-4.
  • Share that the more information they can provide the more it will help you – you don’t want to go back to them a second time!
  • Explain how you will use the information – to reassure them.
  • Remind them about confidentiality.
  • Thank them.
  • Share that you will look forward to you next working time together.

Reflect and identify

New coaches can on occasion go to the effort of seeking feedback but then don’t do anything with it. Taking this feedback and analysing it with their own experiences allows the coach to pin point areas and themes to improve.

Reflection is key to this. Reflecting on what was said. Where the feedback has come from. What the feedback means to them in their practice as a coach. Then what they want to  tweak in future sessions. This reflection enables learning and growth to occur after every session.

The feedback quote ‘ feedback is the breakfast of champions’ equally applies to developing coaches. Feedback is simply information that enables change to occur. Coaches of all experiences need feedback to grow. The trick is to become comfortable in asking for it. This begins as the coach starts their coaching journey.

If you want more information on coaching or you are seeking supervision as a coach, get in touch with Abintus today.