Structure Of A Coaching Session – The Key Elements

Before we start coaching, it's important to understand the structure of a coaching session and what actually happens in a coaching session.

Whether you are coaching yourself or coaching others, it's important to understand what the coaching session structure should be so it can be beneficial both for you and your client.


Structure really is a key element of coaching. There's a lot of people out there that are doing very vague, abstract and unstructured sort of a process. So, you're finding that clients are getting very vague, abstract and unstructured results.

The more we can be structured in what we're doing, the better it is for the client.

Man under stress image

The client is coming to you because let's face it, their life is unstructured. That's really what's going on.

They're disorganized, and they're all over the place. The last thing they need is a coach to be the same.

The more structured we can be, the easier it is for the client to get the results they're looking for. When it comes to a coaching session structure, what basically makes up a session is these key elements.

Structure Of A Coaching Session - The Key Elements

In the first five to 10 minutes or so of your session, keeping in mind that your sessions run for however long they run for, I like to move people away from the time-based structure. But when you first kick-off, it's very hard to not do time-bound.

All these people in business are going to say, "Don't ever exchange time for money," but when you first start coaching, that's all you're going to do because it's just the way you have to work it out in your head. As a coach, you have to know how much time you've got.

It's not an easy thing to just launch into results-based coaching and transacting from that perspective. I normally find that coaching sessions run anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. Generally speaking, that's what you're pretty much looking at.

A lot of my sessions now go for about 10 to 15 minutes. That's because a client calls up with whatever it is they want to work on. It's very clear. We run the process and we're out and it's no problems at all.

A life coaching session between two women

When you first get started, you'll be lucky if you can do your sessions in under three hours because something will happen and you'll just keep on processing and working and three hours later, you'll wonder, "What the heck happened to my day?"

We just want to help, and we want to help so much that we don't want them to get off the phone or out of the room until you've helped them with everything.

But let’s face it. Most coaching clients can’t handle three hour-long sessions. It's very difficult for them to have an understanding of how to stay in tune for three hours. They just can't deal with that kind of concept.

So generally, we should be looking at 30 to 90 minutes.

And in that coaching session, the first key element that you should have that will result in an effective coaching session structure is accountability.

1. Accountability

So after building rapport with a client, the first thing you do in a coaching session is to hold them accountable.

Questionnaire image

But if you’re in the process of creating your first coaching session structure with a new client and haven't done any sessions with them, well, you don't have anything to hold them accountable to. So, you can just go over the questionnaire that we've provided to you as part of your life coach training.

If they have already done a session with you, then there are action steps they would be wanting to take between sessions.

Remember, the coach's job, predominately, is designed to get the client to take new action. That's the whole process.

Your job as a life coach is to see how quickly you can get someone to take a different action in their life. If they take different actions, they'll get different results. That's kind of how it works.

Accountability inside the structure of a coaching session, which is usually the first five to 10 minutes of the session or the first five to 15 minutes, depending on how long the session is, really is just about, "How'd you go last week? Were there any obstacles? Any blocks come up? I had you go over the action steps. What worked? What didn't? What did you learn?" These kinds of things.

I have my own pre-session questionnaire that I send out to all clients before the session begins. It's 14 questions and they have to answer that and send it back to me 24 hours before the coaching session.

If the client has filled in the pre-session questionnaire in enough detail, that gives me a very good, detailed understanding of this step.

I've got another one that my clients will have to fill in every single time 24 hours before we have a coaching session. It sets your intention, clarifies exactly what you want to do in the session, clarifies what you're working on - the whole thing.

It's kind of an accountability sheet. If it's been filled in correctly, I don't have to spend a lot of time on accountability at the start of my calls. If you don't have a pre-session questionnaire, spend about five to 10 minutes just really chatting to them by asking them:

  • What's working?
  • What's not working?
  • What are the obstacles?
  • What did you learn?

As well as other questions in this nature.

2. What Surprised You Most Last Week?

Woman at peace

This is the next key element inside a successful structure of a coaching session and is one of my favourite questions to ask clients.

The reason I like this question is when you ask this to someone, the funny thing about surprise is it's one of the few things that you cannot fake.

You can't pretend to surprise yourself. It's an impossible activity. To surprise yourself means you did not have any idea it was going to happen.

The reason I like things that surprise people in a good way is because they show me that they are getting more into alignment with their purpose in life. People who are living true to their highest self have incredible levels of synchronicity that occur and a huge amount of good surprises.

When you start to see your clients getting more and more good surprises each week, it's a positive indicator that they are living way more in alignment with who they are and are way more congruent to what their soul, heart, higher self or lower self does want to have happen.

In fact, it's one of the indicators that Dr Wayne Dyer would often talk about is the number of surprises you have often correlates to how much you are truly on purpose in life.

Woman thinking with question mark signs above her head

So I really like to ask that question, "What surprised you most last week?", after I've gone through a couple of different questions with them. The pre-session questionnaire that's included in our Accelerated Coaching Certification course has all these questions in it.

You can get that pre-session questionnaire and rather than have your client fill it in, you can just go through it on the phone with them.

You can get through the 14 questions quite quickly, in about five to 10 minutes and then that's it.

You get a very clear life coaching structure and you know what's going on from there.

Want to learn how to become a highly successful coach? Check out our Accelerated Coaching Certification course by filling in the form below.

In Conclusion

We hope you found some value in our video and this post, “Structure Of A Coaching Session - The Key Elements”. The key elements of a coaching session that were discussed are:

  • Accountability
  • The question, “What surprised you most last week?”

If you want to learn how to successfully structure a full coaching session, all you need to do is these five steps: Result, Align, Plan, Implement and Develop the “Guru”. Watch our free webinar The Most Effective Coaching Model For Rapid Results here where we explain each step in detail.

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Ben is the Difference-Maker Mentor and Co-founder of Authentic Education. He is exquisite at inspiring people to share their message, make a difference in the world and live abundantly on purpose.

Ben has been featured in media such as the Today Show,,, Huffington Post and