4 Life Coaching Session Frameworks To Use With Clients

August 12, 2021
Life Coaching

While you certainly CAN step into a life coaching session with a client and “just see what happens,” if you're hoping to make a meaningful impact during that time can't in good conscience recommend that approach!

Coaching is a deliberate process, and it's the role of a life coach to make sure your client achieves their desired outcomes by the end of the coaching session. But how do we do this exactly?

Enter the Coaching Conversation Framework.

Good frameworks help us understand the coaching relationship from a process perspective, while also addressing the need for structure in the session. 

Now just because there’s a process running behind the scenes doesn’t mean we need to be rigid or uptight about it! YES, frameworks offer a system within which a life coach and client work together, but how this unfolds is both contextual and client driven. 

How YOU implement a given coaching framework will also be flavored by your own unique approach and coaching philosophy.

If you were to observe two different coaches using the same process, it will likely look and feel quite different! Each life coach has their own set of "powerful questions," along with an intuition around when and how to introduce various coaching techniques.

What this also means is that even if YOU were to use the exact same coaching framework to guide every single one of your coaching sessions, the conversations will play out differently with each of your clients.

For these reasons, we recommend holding a general process flow and session framework lightly in your head, while dancing with your client in the moment. This allows us to be nimble, holding space in whatever way best serves the client.

So What Are They?

You'll encounter a wide variety of coaching frameworks in the coaching industry literature and across life coach training programs. And while there's an abundance to choose from, all roads lead generally to the same place.

Here's the common structure that most coaching frameworks share:

  1. Establishing a relationship or partnership with your client that is built on trust, honest communication, and confidentiality. 
  2. Once a client’s goals have been clearly defined, all coaching frameworks include a phase in which insight development and/or action learning occurs. 
  3. Frameworks typically include a step that invites client accountability and commitment toward self-initiated change and continued growth.

At the start of your coaching session, it's important to have a clear understanding between the coach and client around the objectives for your time together. Everything else, including which framework you might want to use, flows from there.

Show Me!

In this guide, we've highlighted the 4 coaching frameworks that students learn in JRNI's life coach training program. They are:

  • The Hallway Conversation
  • WOOP
  • 5-Step Coaching Process
  • 5-D

Hallway Conversation

One of the most simple and effective coaching techniques for guiding a session, this one involves moving through just three questions with your client:

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • What’s getting in the way?

WOOP

Similar to the Hallway Conversation, this framework adds in a tactical element. In it, the coach guides the client in coming up with potential solutions to draw from when faced with an anticipated obstacle.

  • WANT – What do you want to have happen?
  • OUTCOME – If you get this, what do you envision for yourself?
  • OBSTACLE – What’s the mental block that has prevented you from getting what you want?
  • PLAN – What are you going to do when the block comes up?

Want to help really make it stick? Invite your client to keep the plan simple, and to repeat it to you three times out loud. Why is this important? In the absence of a plan, we are mostly likely to revert to our default behavior (old habits, mental blocks - in other words, the very things that have been keeping your client stuck!)

5-Step Coaching Process

This framework is slightly more complex than the last, and can be used to support a client in defining their goal or objective, and then making a plan to achieve it.

  • Set the Session Contract: Identify the specific issue the client wants to to address. What do you want to get out of our time today?
  • Future Visioning: Build positive motivation
  • ‍Strategize: Come up with action steps‍
  • Clear the Way: Identify potential roadblocks, and how the client might overcome them.
  • Recap: Go back over future vision, the plan, and agreed-upon action items for client accountability.

5-D Framework

Drawn from the field of Appreciative Inquiry, the 5-D Framework is a conversation model that helps your client develop a clear vision of what they’d like to achieve, along with the specifics of how to get there. A more complex model than the previous examples, this is one that could potentially span multiple sessions. For big dreams or goals, you could easily spend an entire session on just one of these steps.

Here’s how it works:

  • Define: What do you want to create?
  • Discover: What strengths and experiences do you have that can help make it happen?
  • Dream: What will it look like?
  • Design: How will you get there? 
  • Destiny: Experiment, learn, and evolve the plan.

Now let’s take a more detailed look at each of these steps.

1. Define: What do you want to create?

During an individual coaching session, this is where you nail down what you’re going to work on today. For a longer contract that will span multiple sessions, this is the point where you'd discuss the entire scope of work for the coaching engagement.

Take time with this to make sure as a coach you know the real issue. Sometimes this single question can take up most of a coaching conversation, and that’s OK!

2. Discover: What strengths can you draw from?

In this stage, you help the client explore where they have been strong in both the past and present, and how they can use those experiences to drive their vision forward. Some coaching questions to stimulate creative thinking about this include:

  • Tell me about your best experience with…
  • Tell me about a time when you felt alive and engaged… (get detailed: what made it so exciting, who was there, etc.)
  • Tell me about the things you value most deeply... about yourself, your relationships, and your work
  • Without being modest, what are you best at?
  • What are the key ingredients (internal and external) that enable you to be at your best?

3. Dream: What will it look like?

This is where we help our life coaching clients dream BIGGER. Dreaming begins with a thought: “What could be…”

When a person creates a really strong vision for their future, their subconscious responds to that dominant thought. It then begins to see possibilities and make connections that help bring that vision to fruition.

Here’s a coaching prompt to help get those juices flowing:

“Imagine that it’s 2 years from now, and everything you want to happen has happened. You’re calling me to update me on what’s going on for you right now. Tell me all about it!”

4. Design: How will you get there?

This is where we work backwards from the future vision and help our client identify the steps necessary to achieve it.

As life coaches, this is often the point where we need to let go and let the client drive. Our role isn’t to advise or come up with suggestions, but to hold space and ask questions that help our client figure out what they want to do next. Some questions to ask might include:

  • What’s an insight that you want to take away from this session? (something that shifted for you)
  • What’s the smallest level of action you can take based on that insight?
  • What’s going to give you some traction to move?
  • I have lots of exercises I could give you, but what do you want to do?
  • How do you want to monitor your progress? 

5. Destiny: What action do you want to take? 

This is the “rinse and repeat” element of coaching. As the client works their vision and action plan, they circle back in subsequent sessions to share what’s working… and what’s not. 

Ways you as a coach can support your client's forward momentum include:

  • Revisit the client’s future vision 
  • Tackle roadblocks as the client encounters them
  • Support your client in identifying possible solutions and making adjustments
  • Encourage the client to expermiment and identify new actions they can take

Which Do I Use?!

Whenever possible, try out new coaching frameworks and other interventions on yourself before introducing them to a client. To give a conversation framework a test-drive, just choose a specific issue from your life. Think of something where you really could use a dash of clarity! Then use the questions from these models as journal prompts, and work your way through the process.

Need additional coaching tools? 

Check out our resource guide Top Life Coaching Tools You Need for Your Practice. In it, we cover assessment tools, coaching exercises, positive psychology interventions, and more!

Ready to Be A Coach?

A lot of talented people like you dream of having a coaching business, but aren’t quite sure how to get there. We train and certify adventurous coaches, making sure you’ve got all you need to build a business you love and transform lives, on your terms. If you're ready to learn more about how to become a life coach, check out JRNI Life Coach Training program. Grounded in science, our International Coach Federation accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

JRNI Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

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