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  5. How Should Leaders Run Their Coaching Sessions?

How Should Leaders Run Their Coaching Sessions?

Two people sat on a bench outside having a business coaching discussion

Business coaching is increasingly viewed as a vital way for leaders to nurture their team members, improve morale and develop better relationships.

This, in turn, leads to better performance, improved retention and a healthier and happier workforce.

Our new online ILM Level 5 course in Effective Coaching and Mentoring is an excellent way for leaders to begin to develop their coaching skills and better understand how to implement them.

One of the many aspects it covers is how leaders can introduce coaching to their teams and run their sessions.

And we felt this was a topic we should cover in our regular business coaching and management training blogs.

So, I set out to get the thoughts of an expert – Tienie Loubser, an independent business coach and the tutor on our online ILM Level 5 course.

He believes coaching begins with building rapport with the person being coached.

“You need to build certainty about what will happen during the coaching with them, he said.

“Tell them what to expect, how you will interact with each other, how you will hold them to account and how they want feedback. Set the scene.

“Much of the first session will be about building rapport and chemistry, and the relationship should grow from that point.”

To help build that rapport, Tienie says coaches must ask the right questions and listen to the responses.

Tienie added: “You don’t have to do it, but I know there are coaches who like to emphasise that the other person has their attention. So, for example, they might make sure the person they are speaking to sees them turn their mobile off and put it in a draw, or maybe close their laptop lid.”


How important is it to choose the right setting for coaching? Does location make a significant difference to coaching? Should you hire a room?

Tienie believes there are plenty of location options but is not keen on the trend of meeting in a coffee shop.

He said: “You need a quiet space where both of you are comfortable.

“I know some people have tried to coach in coffee shops, but that isn’t ideal. A quiet corner in a hotel lounge could be a better option.

“Some coaches go out for rambles, do a walk and talk, or meet at a park bench – coaching doesn’t have to be a sit-down session.

“If you do want to do it in an office, I think as a coach, you should go to their office. Your office is your territory. Going to their territory will help them feel more comfortable.”

What about those times when we can’t meet face-to-face?

“Coaching through Zoom or teams can be easy,” said Tienie, who is currently coaching people remotely in New York and Miami.

“Where you can, I think the first meeting should be face-to-face as building that initial rapport can be harder in the virtual world.”

Setting actions

For Tienie, the crucial factor in any coaching session is to ensure there are actions that help meet the overall objective of the coaching - the desired outcome that benefits the individual and the business.

These actions should stretch and challenge them while steering them towards that mutually-agreed objective.

“The ownership of actions sits with the person you are coaching,” said Tienie.

“And the actions need to be relevant to the overall objective you are trying to achieve.

“Let’s say you are coaching someone who has an objective of building better rapport with their team. Ask that person what the team expects or wants from them.

“Once they have identified those factors, then you can put in place actions to make that happen.

“Ask questions that guide them to a place where they create activities relevant to the outcome.”

If you are coaching every week, set up to three actions. If you see them once a month, you could set around six actions.

Tienie always finishes his coaching sessions with this question – What is your first next step?


“The question takes you from now to the future,” he said. “And whether an issue is big or small, there is always a first step - or action - to take.

“And if you know what that is, you gain traction into getting it completed.”


If your leaders are going to successfully introduce coaching to their teams, they must ensure they keep their promises.

This means they follow-through on the things they say they will do during a session. Failing to do so can damage the relationship that has been carefully created.

Tienie said: “If you say ‘I’m going to catch up with you next Wednesday’ or ‘we’ll follow up on these three things when we talk again’, make sure you do it.

“When a coach says these sorts of things and doesn’t do them, it can damage the relationship, their authenticity and reliability and the currency as a coach.”


Constructive feedback is a vital part of effective business coaching sessions.

It should happen regularly. And it must be specific.

In our recent blog on coaching skills, Tienie talks about the importance of coaches catching the people they are coaching doing the right thing and praising them for it.

But in good coaching, feedback is also a two-way process.

“It should be a feedback loop,” said Tienie. “It is about giving and receiving feedback.

“Your feedback for them should have more strengths than development areas. And you should ask them to think and reflect and give you feedback on your coaching.

“And that should include at least one development area that if you change will lead to a better experience or add more value.

“I always try to give 10 minutes at the end just for feedback. I don’t do it in every session. But I do it regularly.”

Running coaching sessions is just one of the topics covered in our new online ILM Level 5 course in Effective Coaching and Mentoring. Find out more about it by clicking here.

The BCF group has been helping organisations develop their talent, inspire their people and overcome obstacles and challenges for the past 25 years.

We deliver training that makes a difference. Find out more about our business coaching, management training and interpersonal skills options.

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