The Art of 5 Minute Coaching

I realized recently during a conversation in one of the Coaching Dojo’s I’ve been running that the reason I’m so good at doing 5 minute or “speed” coaching is that I’ve learned the art of creating a single moment really well. You see, much of coaching is about creating a whole arc of experiences, but speed coaching is all about creating one really powerful experience.

After I realized this, I realized that this skill has a lot of application to the rest of the art of coaching as well. In many ways, our job as coaches can be broken into three phases:

  1. Creating safety
  2. Stepping into possibility
  3. Moving from possibility

What I’ve noticed is that most coaches step over the first two of these steps and try to get clients right into the third stage. Which is a problem because it’s hard to help someone have a deep experience of possibility unless you create safety and you know how create a clear and powerful moment of possibility.

I’ve talked elsewhere about the art of slowing down and why it’s so important to start and go slow with clients, but in this post I want to talk about how to create a moment with a client. One of the best ways to learn how to do this is deliberate practice.

Here are the elements I use to create a powerful 5 min session with a client:

  • Set context – If you apologize for the shortness of the session you limit the power you can bring in 5 mins. Which is why you must set a powerful context for the coaching. If the client shows up with their own powerful context great, but if not take 30 secs to set a context that will inspire both of you. A great way to do this is use silence.
  • Be fully present with all of your being – In longer sessions we can use words to create connection and build safety. In speed coaching you have to bring it with your whole body, make direct eye contact, look into their left eye, look beyond their face, relax the whole front of your body, lean in to listen, beam your heart at them, pierce them with your wisdom, use your whole body and being to create a container for deep insight before you even speak a word.
  • Take clients at face value – When we coach for longer we can look behind what a client is saying and ask a lot of clarifying questions. In short coaching, we have to take a client at face value. Even if what they say isn’t the depth of whole truth, it has some truth to it. So coach to that piece of truth.
  • Trust your client – It may seem like your client isn’t bringing something powerful forward, don’t worry about that. Trust them to show up with what matters to them. Trust them to get what they need from what you say. Trust them to create their own experience even if that experience is one of safety.
  • Just give them a read – In longer coaching you can guide a client to do some deeper coaching with you. In a 5 min session all you can do is give them a read. Make sure to caveat your read by saying: “I could be totally wrong, but this is what I’m getting right now.” Not only does this give power back to your client, it also helps your insight drive deep into the heart of them, because you are coating it in possibility instead of judgement.
  • Cut to the chase – There isn’t time to get a background, or hear all of the story so get to chase. Keep looking for the nugget inside the nugget, once you hit a layer dig in deeper and deeper and deeper until you hit solid gold. Then give the read.
  • If they evade, coach around that, if they stay light, coach around that – We often think that we have to get past our client’s defense mechanism to make a deep impact, but sometimes these defense mechanisms can take hours or even years to unravel. So, if you hit a big defense mechanism, coach around that. If they evade, give them a read around evasion. If they stay shallow, give them a read about depth.
  • Be powerful and gentle – You don’t have time to go slow and dilly dally you have to go right at the question, but this doesn’t mean you need to be harsh. Be gentle and direct like a mother wolf picking up her cubs with her teeth. She has to go right for the scruff or they will scurry away, but her bite is soft. This is the balance of being powerful and gentle.
  • Say only what’s essential – Be quiet before your read, say what you need to say simply, skip the explanation, and then as soon as it’s out… shut up. You often need to say less than you think.
  • Assume they understand everything – Assume they understand everything except for complex theories. Just speak like they will understand you, don’t try to teach them everything you know or explain a whole system to them.
  • Focus on a simple part of everything you see – You can’t talk to everything you read in a short moment so focus on the biggest read you have or the most subtle. Either listen to the loudest voice or the quietest one. Don’t try to give them a read that covers everything, just stay focused on a simple and clear read.
  • Don’t be afraid to use silence – Sometimes letting a client’s own words simply resonate in the container is deeply powerful. So let them ring. The more simply they speak, the more you can let them ring. Silence in the small container of speed coaching can be even more powerful then it is in longer coaching.
  • Talk to yourself – It can feel impossible to do speed coaching with someone you don’t know, so try just talking to yourself. We have more in common than we have differences. If you say what you need to hear, they may get what they need to hear.
  • Know when to end – Just because you have 5 mins doesn’t mean you have to use it all. Sometimes the best thing to do is hit one insight and then stop, shut up, tell them you’re complete. Use the rest of the time to sit in silent reverence of the insight that just arose.
  • Don’t overthink it, don’t overcoach it – The power of this container is that it’s small, the power of this container is that it’s small, THE POWER OF THIS CONTAINER IS THAT IT’S SMALL. The #1 mistake I see coaches make when they do speed coaching is they try to get too much done. When you have less space you have to do less, you have to talk about less, everything shrinks into the background while you paint the gentle outlines of a button on a masterpiece. Don’t worry about the painting, just paint the shit out of that button.

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