Managing Your Coaching Sessions

Welcome to the Coaching guide. This is part 1 out of 3 guides that are strongly recommended for you to read through and practice. Just like in every discipline, there is a structure to follow; the same applies to coaching. In this guide, we will focus on learning about a model that can help you structure your sessions and meet the needs of your client.

A few key points to remember:

  • Be clear that you are only in control of the session by agreement with your client
  • If the client doesn’t agree – there is no session
  • As a coach, you have rights and you don’t have to engage in a session if you feel you cannot deliver what the client wants whether that’s to do with your beliefs, ethos, integrity or lack of experience/skill

For the purpose of this guide, we will assume that there is someone willing to be coached by you and the contract has been agreed upon. You and your client are sitting in a comfy chair, ready to begin the first initial session.

What Is The GROW Model

GROW model is a coaching method that can identify the client’s issues and focus on a solution. It’s a four-step process that you take your client though. At the end of the session, your client will be clear on what to work on to solve their issues.

GROW is an acronym which stands for:

  • Goal
  • Realistic
  • Options
  • Will

According to research, the best and most common model to use to structure a session is called the GROW model. (Myles Downey ref).

At first using this model may feel unnatural and strange. After practising a few times, it becomes more natural and to the point where you don’t have to consciously think about the questions to ask. This model emerged from observation for many centuries to the point someone actually said, “this is what you’re doing as a coach”.

When the model was created, it got the name “GROW”, but really, it should be “TO GROW” as this represents the first step which is identifying the topic.

In a nutshell, if someone comes to you for a coaching session, you can use the GROW model to find out how you can help them. Here is an example:

  • Topic: What do you want to talk about?
  • Goal: You can miss this step as it will be difficult for the client to answer
  • Reality: What’s currently happening?
  • Options: What can you do about it?
  • Wrap-Up: What are you definitely going to do about it?

Here, we’ve missed out the goal as this is something that will most likely become clear once you have spoken to the client. It’s often hard to distinguish what exactly they need help with especially at the start.

T for Topic

The aim of this step is to understand what territory you are in. The importance of it in the eyes of the client and the emotional significance to them.

You want a good understanding of what the client wants to talk about and needs help with.

Below is an example you can read to see the tone you will create.

Coach: what would you like to talk about?

Client: as you know, I’m starting a new job next week and I’m a bit nervous about starting

Coach: tell me some more about that

Client: my first day is next Monday and I feel really nervous to meet new people.

Coach: right

Client: and if I tell the truth I’m normally quite bubbly and positive but this time I feel I have a lot of stress and it’s not a nice feeling.

Coach: yes, I know. Is there anything else about this that you’d like to discuss?

Client: not really. Well, yes. I feel I’m always late to things and I’m scared I’m going to be late to my work.

Coach: is there a broader issue here, then, about your time management?

Client: I guess so

Coach: specifically, then, what do you want to focus on changing or improving from these sessions?

Client: I want to be happier in myself and be on time to things without worrying about letting people down. 

G for Goal

The aim of this stage is to establish clear, specific and measurable outcomes. This is probably the most crucial part of the model as achieving the goal will impact how successful you are as a coach in the sessions that you do for your client. Please note that you don’t need to establish a long-term goal for your client but something that you can work with and achieve.


Coach: ok, I think I’ve got a fair understanding of the topic for the session. Tell me what you would like to get out of this session?

Client: well, I’m more concerned about the immediate problem, the fact that I’m always late to things rather than focusing on why I’m nervous.

Coach: fine. And tell me what you want from this session.

Client: well, I’d like to understand why I am late to almost everything and how I can avoid this next time

Coach: there are two parts to that: to understand what goes wrong when you manage your time and to have an idea of the key things you can do differently for next time. What outcome would you want from understanding why you are late to everything?

Client: to be able to be on time for things and make my friends, colleagues and family happy for me

Coach: what does it mean for them to be “happy” with you?

Client: the most important – to not make them stressed, to not ruin plans, to prove people wrong that I do take my life seriously

Coach: and for the second part, having an idea of the key things you can do differently for next time. What outcome would you like for that?

Client: hmmm… I would like to know the key things I can do to stop disappointing myself and everyone around me.

Coach: and the outcome?

Client: if I could find a way to be on time for things, that would be life-changing.

R for Reality

The aim of this stage is to gain a clear picture and understanding of what’s happening in the client’s mind. As a coach, you want to achieve the most accurate picture of the situation that can be achieved. You also want to make sure you don’t jump to a conclusion, share your view or opinion and speak on behalf of the client!


Coach: You’ve mentioned you have time management problems and then this other, more generic, “letting people down”. Are there any other elements to this?

Client: not that I can think of.

Coach: which of the two do you want to tackle first?

Client: I think the obvious place to start is my time management skills

Coach: ok. Tell me about that.

Client: I’ve been late to a lot of things in my life. I think it started since college as I would go to college myself and not rely on my parents to drop me. I used to be late and I never took notice or realised how bad it would eventually get.

Coach: just how bad was it?

Client: really bad. I upset a few of my friends and I even missed out on a lot of activities because I’d always end up turning up late. But it’s not something that can’t be resolved.

Coach: so, what actually happens when you make plans?

Client: I would agree, and then I would really genuinely believe I would be there on time and then when the time comes, before I realise it, I’m already late.
Coach: what else happens?

Client: you know what, I end up letting myself down in other areas of my life because of this. I feel I am not organised, and I can’t ever stick to deadlines.

Coach: has there ever been a time when you didn’t complete work to the deadline?

Client: yes. So many times. I have tried to keep a diary, but I really don’t know how to prioritise or set tasks for myself.

Coach: so far in this conversation, you’ve mentioned something about your prioritisation, not realising where the time went and feeling that it affects other areas of your life. Is there anything else that you can remember?

Client: not really. I think that’s enough to work with.

Coach: which of them would you like to focus on first?

Client: definitely my time management. I don’t know why I just can’t seem to grasp time.


O for Options

As soon as you have established a clear understanding of the situation your client is in, the discussion will naturally turn into what can be done about it. The aim of this stage is to outline a list of options for your client that is possible – without judging or concluding!

your life and how it also makes you feel. In looking to move forward, which of those would you like to pursue first?

Client: I still think there is most relevance to sorting out my time management. If I can get that right in my head, the rest will be easy to deal with and change.

Coach: where we got to with time management, as I understood you, was that you felt you can’t grasp time and you find it difficult to prioritise because of it.

Client: yes, and that’s why I’m always never on time to things

Coach: so, what could you do differently?

Client: I could make sure I stick to a planning method and actually go over the tasks I’ve committed myself to do and maybe get ready an hour before leaving so I’m on time to things.

Coach: what else?

Client: I could just stop making excuses to myself.

Coach: anything else?

Client: I’m not sure. Well, if I know I won’t be on time I should just ask my friends to reschedule or find a time that suits me better.

W for Wrap-up (Way or Will)

The aim of this final step is to gain understanding from your client that they know what to focus on and have an action plan ready to do. In the previous stages, lots of options have been discussed and presented to the client and now it’s time to list down the ones to focus on.


You want to ensure that the client is ready to commit by analysing their tone of voice and the way they respond to you.


Coach: of all options that we have discussed, which ones do you think you might action?

Client: I can’t remember them all

Coach: I think I listed them down. There are those options that came of the discussion about meeting friends and family, about feeling like you disappoint others and prioritising and understanding time management properly. Where do you want to start?

Client: let’s start with understanding time itself and the concept since I can’t to grasp it

Coach: okay, we’ll run over a few sessions to understand the concept of time, we’ll do a few exercises, and this will allow you to have a fresh mindset on this topic.


In a nutshell, the GROW model is quite straightforward, and you use this in chronological order. You move from topic to goal to reality to options to wrap-up. And then you introduce your coaching programme that can be sessions that run for weeks or months depending on your availability and preference.

Sometimes it can happen when you might have to shuffle the stages, as a client could mention an alternative option right at the end, or realise they missed another problem out when discussing. So, this will require you to shuffle and go back to different stages depending on the situation. Don’t feel like you must completely follow the chronological order of the model. It’s better to follow the flow of the discussion with your client rather than cut them off and focus on bringing them to a certain stage.

List of questions you can ask for each stage

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