When someone comes to you for coaching, especially for the first time, they are hoping to experience something different. They know that a change is what they need, and they don’t know what that change should look like, so they seek out external help.
But despite this, most of them still show up with a pre-existing context or belief about how the coaching conversation “normally” goes.
This conversational context is filled with ideas like:
- I better not say anything to offend this person
- I better not say everything that pops into my head because I might embarrass myself
- I better not be too honest about what’s hard for me or I might look bad
- I better not admit how I feel or about my judgments because I might be judged as well.
But this isn’t a very powerful context for a life changing conversation. That’s why, when you coach, you can’t just hope that a client will open up, share what’s bothering them, and admit what they are struggling with.
Instead, you have to create a context that asks them to show up differently, and to consider that this conversation could make a difference for them.
When you can create a powerful context for coaching, you don’t just create possibility—you light your client up.
For example, I recently spoke to a coach who wanted to create more clients. When I asked him why, he told me it was simply so he could bolster his cash reserves. We both quickly agreed that this wasn’t the most powerful place for him to come from. This wasn’t a powerful context for creating clients.
So we spent time talking about why that mattered to him. He shared about his desire to feel more relaxed around money. To feel more at ease taking vacations with his family and buying his kids things they would love. Eventually, we landed on creating a context of financial freedom.
Then together, we created a goal for his enrollment efforts that was focused on creating the amount of money he would need to not worry about it for a year.
Suddenly, he was awake, excited, and ready to enroll some clients.
In this example, the numerical value was the “content” of his goal, and the reason behind it was the “context.” When we just had the number it was just a ‘good idea’ or something he ‘should do’. But when we added in these elements of context that goal became truly transformative. It was a goal that had possibility built directly into it.
If I had offered to coach him on creating 5 new clients he might have said yes. He might have been excited about me helping him. But once we shifted to the possibility of creating an experience of freedom, all of a sudden the coaching occurred as more powerful and potent for both of us.
This is the power of creating a powerful context for someone you’d like to become a client.
When you focus on creating a container and context for a powerful conversation every time, instead of relying on a continuation of the last session or a previous conversation, you maximize the chances of the person you’re coaching getting the most transformative experience possible in that moment.
So you might be thinking, ok great Toku, but how can I actually do this?
Well, that’s what this blog is all about.
Here are the steps I follow to create a realistic yet powerful container and context for my clients every time we meet.1
We’re Here To Connect
The first thing I do at the beginning of any powerful conversation is just chat with my prospect.
While this may seem like something really simple that you can skip over, it’s vital because it tells your prospect: we’re here to connect.
Your prospect needs to know that you’re not here to judge them or diagnose them, you’re not here to yell at them. First and foremost, you’re here to connect with them.
How we talk, smile, and otherwise communicate with our prospects indicates our good intentions and creates a powerful context of safety for our clients.
What’s the right amount of time to connect? Who knows? Just practice. Connect until you feel them relax for just a moment. You don’t need to become their best friend, you just need to let them know you’re safe. This safety will make a big difference when you invite them to a proposal.
We’re Here To Do Something Different
Next, I create a set of powerful agreements for our conversation. I’ve used various agreements over the years, but the ones I use now are adapted from those Rich Litvin and Christina Berkeley shared with me.
- Anything is possible — In your everyday life, you’re ruled by what you and others think is possible. In this conversation, the laws of reality have been suspended, and anything is possible.
- Hide nothing, hold nothing back — In your everyday life, you give the answers others expect. In this conversation, we reveal the truth, especially when it’s uncomfortable.
- Going Deep — In your everyday life, you talk on the surface. In this conversation, we go deep below the surface to see what’s there. You can always decide what’s too deep for you and ask for more depth or to slow down if we enter a tender place.
- Playing Full Out — In your everyday life, you expect the other person to meet you halfway. In this conversation, we each go all the way. I come all the way to you by treating you like my most valuable client capable of anything. You go all the way by hearing even the worst question I might ask as the most profound inquiry you’ve ever heard.
The beauty of these agreements and why so many coaches use them is that they answer why we’re here so well. We’re not here to have a normal conversation, we’re here to create something cool. We’re not here to put on airs, we’re here to be vulnerable. We’re not here to have small talk, we’re here to reveal what’s hidden. We’re not here to phone it in. We’re here to put in the work.
Each agreement creates a powerful distinction between your prospects’ regular life and the magical space of this conversation. These agreements also set up different standards you’ll be using for your coaching. This is what invites your prospect into this container of safety and power, so taking the time to do it is so important.
This mistake I’ve seen most coaches make in creating agreements with prospects is that they don’t go slowly enough.
Imagine you are walking your prospect down a long ornate hall, stopping along the way to explain the beautiful gates they are passing through, and admire the craftsmanship of each gate. If you do this, your clients will see exactly how different this conversation is, and it will give you the best chance to not only coach them powerfully but to also lead them into the proposal stage with ease.
We’re Here In Service of Your Best Self
Then, I walk my prospect through every stage of what comes next. I explain that we’ll do some breathing, do some powerful coaching, and then talk about future steps.
And it’s this very last piece that most coaches miss.
This is the part where you tell them what’s possible. This is the part where you let them know that after this, there will be more service in the form of a proposal—if they want it.
I tend to break this part down into 3 parts.
At the end of our conversation, I tell the prospect that 3 things might happen as a next step:
- They might want to know what working together will look like, and they might ask about it. Or I might be inspired by them and feel called to serve them, and I might see if they’d like to explore that.
- Our conversation might be complete for today, so I might offer them a piece of work to explore or another coach to speak with.
- Our conversation today might just be the beginning. In which case, I’ll offer to set up another time for us to speak until we’re both clear on what’s next.
While these three steps might seem incredibly simple, they reveal so much. They tell your prospect that you have planned for every eventuality. That no matter what, you’re here to serve them, and you won’t just end the conversation and leave them in a lurch.
Each of these small answers adds up to one very big feeling: a feeling of confidence that you have them, that you are ready to lead, and that you care about serving them more than you care about trying to get what you want.
We’re Here To Slow Down
Finally, I ask if they need anything else, and then I lead them into some sort of breathing exercise. And while many coaches don’t think of this as context or a container, it’s actually the first part of your realized and experienced context.
Until now, you’ve explained the container and talked about the context, but you haven’t yet invited them in.
Think about this process as preparing for surgery. You’ve gotten on your gown, and they’ve explained the procedure, but now it’s time for the anesthesia. By having your clients breathe deeply and connect with their body, you’re not just creating context. You’re no longer just talking about the container you’re stepping into.
And it’s at this point that I want to drive home the deepest.
These steps aren’t just a random set of things to get right. They are powerful tools designed with care to create something truly special for your clients. I’ve seen many coaches rush through these steps to ‘get to the coaching,’ but this is coaching.
You do all this because you create the possibility of starting from an entirely new place—a place your prospect has never started from before.
An ordinary journey is one where you start from someplace familiar and end up someplace new.
An extraordinary journey is one where you begin someplace new and are amazed from the very first step you take.
An extraordinary journey is what you’re creating when you create a powerful context. And if you do it well, inviting people into a proposal becomes easy because you’re not inviting them from the familiar into the unfamiliar. You’re inviting them from the magical into the possible.
You’re saying to them: “We just went on an incredible journey; would you like to join me on another?”
This is why creating the right context in the beginning is so important, because it creates the possibility for so much more at the end.
So please don’t wait until the end of that first conversation to think about how to lead them powerfully into a proposal. Instead, think about it from the very beginning—create a context now that creates the possibility for years to come.
Don’t worry about getting this right; instead, practice the art of creating magic.
Not only will this make the transition from creation to proposal smoother, but it will also improve the depth of the work you do with your clients.
- I learned these steps from Rich Litvin primarily, but have had different pieces sussed out or clarified by a number of amazing coaches I’ve talked to over the years. Including Jason Goldberg, Christina Berkeley, and several members of 4PC (http://4pc.expert/) just to name a few. ↩︎