Use this 5 step frame to have a short coaching conversation

I have been coaching for an online platform where all of the sessions are 30-45 minutes. At first I was skeptical, how can you get much out of such a short session? And yet I’ve been humbled by just how much can emerge. And actually I should have known, because in co-coaching you’re often only coached for 15 minutes, and I always get something out of that!

The key to making a short coaching conversation successful is framing.

Framing helps to focus the brain to the task at hand by reducing uncertainty and it puts the responsibility for getting to a resolution on the thinker.

Say for example your team member comes to you with a dilemma, an unexpected snag has occurred that is going to put a project at risk.

Before you launch into coaching or advice giving, start by putting a frame around the conversation:


Step 1 – be clear on how much time you have and ask the Thinker what outcome they want in that time

You: “Thinker, we’ve got 10 minutes, where do you want to get to in that time?”

Thinker: “I’d like to know what the next action I need to take is.”

Step 1a – if Thinker had said something unrealistic such as wanting to have a full plan mapped out, then help them to narrow it down by saying something like: “I’m not sure we’d get there in 10 minutes, what is something you think we could achieve?”


Step 2 – summarise the issue and what they want to get from the conversation, you can also reiterate the time here.

You: “Ok, so I’m hearing the snag is going to put the project at risk and in the 10 minutes we have you want to know what the next action you need to take is?


Step 3 – Now try an open and curious coaching question

You: ” Right, so tell me more


Step 4 – as you near the end of the time ask what action they need to take

You: “Can I pause you there, we’re nearly at 10 minutes, what is action you need to take?”


Step 5 – summarise the action and offer your support

You: “Ok, so the next step is to ….., when do you think you can do that?”

Thinker: “Yes, and I’m going to do that ….”

You: “What do you need from me?”

Notice that this is framed as a open question to keep the Thinker in thinking mode.

There will be times where the dilemma is so big that 10 minutes is not enough. Remember your time is important and you don’t want to create a pattern that when you say you only have 10 minutes you really mean you have 20. So when this happens use step 5a.


Step 5a – pausing the conversation to finish it at another time

You: “It sounds like we’re going to need more than 10 minutes for this conversation, shall we put half an hour in later today to finish?”

Thinker: “Yes, please.”

You: “What can you do on this until then?”

Although it might not have sounded like it, the thinker has moved on in their thinking chances are new things will have become clear and now you’ve set their thinking off they will be even further on when you meet again.

The final thing to note is what do you do if you have some information to share that the Thinker doesn’t know? When and how do you share it?

The essence of a coaching approach is that you get the Thinker, thinking for themselves rather than you doing all the thinking for them. That way they feel empowered to act and take responsibility so the weight lifts from you. If you have information to share, share it where it naturally comes up.

My challenge to you is to take a moment to consider if the information you’re sharing is objective data or your opinion of what you think they should do. You know which one is more in line with a coaching approach 😉


Drop me a line with any questions and comments, [email protected].

My thinking for this article was influenced by the design of coaching skills workshops I’m designing for leaders who want a simple way into having coaching conversations.

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