Scripting Your Opening Moves

Scripting Your Opening Moves

My mentor likes to say: “The client does the work, but always within a framework you provide.”

Coaching is not a thing where a client comes to you and tells you how to coach. You are the coach and you provide the framework for the coaching.

And so, your first few opening moves as a coach are scriptable.

In, your first opening move is your welcome message. In a session, your opening move is your introduction and your first series of questions.

Today’s exercise is to share your current scripts and get feedback. As you share your scripts also share where they work well for you and where you think they might be improved.

  1. Do you have your first two (or even three) moves scripted? If not, can you write a first draft and share it.
  2. Help the other coaches. What parts of that script are working and why?
  3. Get help from the other coaches. What parts of the script aren’t working or do you wish worked better? Why?

Below are some sample scripts that you can steal ideas from.

The simplest script.

Why coaching? Why me? Why now?

Clients come to you with a huge amount of energy.

They are often in a moment of crisis. The Why Now question addresses that.

They are often frustrated with other failed attempts. The Why Coaching question addresses that.

They are often tense about starting a personal relationship with a stranger. The Why Me question lets them talk about what their feelings are toward you.

An example written welcome message: Inbox Zero

Example, Inbox Zero. This came from Coach Marshall. This script is a reaction to a problem Marshall was having by being in a different time zone than his clients. Many of you won’t have to say anything about your time zone.

Awesome! That’s the first step out of the way. I’ll be in touch shortly to learn more about you so I can be as helpful as possible.
I’m based in Australia and my main check in time with clients is 7am, which is 8pm in London, 3pm in NYC and noon in SF. I also check at least once again in the evenings around 8pm (9am London, 4pm NYC and 1am in SF). If I don’t respond straight away please be patient as I may be asleep or tied up. And no need to wait for me to respond. Hit me with questions and comments straight away if you have them.
To get you started:
Why is reaching Inbox Zero important to you? What challenges do you foresee? Is this for work email, personal, or both? What email flavour (e.g. gmail) and apps / devices do you use to access your email? What do you expect from me as your Coach?
I feel very strongly that you will see tangible improvements in your life through working towards and achieving this Goal. Good luck!

A phone/in-person script

I don’t have as much data or experience with in-person scripts, but I want everyone to see at least one.

This is from a time when I was on a team of executive coaches going into a company. We had help creating these from an executive coach acting in a supervisory role.

To start, I want to give you a little bit about my background. We’re here to talk about you, but this one time I’ll talk about myself so that you have some context about who I am. Then I want to explain the next few sessions. And then that’s it — I’m going to stop talking and start listening to you.
[5–7 sentence bio that explains how you got into coaching] My background is programming and startup engineering management. Most notably, I was the VP of Engineering on the team that launched Twitter. On that path, I realized that I was more attracted to deconstructing why some people excelled and others didn’t. And so I switched careers because I felt like personal development was my life’s work. Over the last five years, I’ve built tools that helped start 100 million habits, written advice that’s reached 10 million people, personally coached 1,000 people and trained over 1,000 coaches.
The next six sessions are set up so that you achieve one large shift in mindset. We’re going to spend two sessions doing assessment, looking for the mindset change that will do the most to make you more successful. Then we will spend two sessions in implementation. That’s when you make the change. Then we will spend the final two sessions in integration. That’s when you do the work to make your change a permanent part of who you are.

That part of the opening script is pretty easy. The part that scared me was what came next? How do I open this client up and start this assessment.

This too was scripted. We had our first two questions prepared. We’d ask the first question, listen to the answer and make sure the client knew that we’d heard it. Then we’d ask the second question. These were the two questions:

  • “Can you tell me a story about a time when you were successful at work and proud of how you created that success?”
  • “Can you tell me a story about a time when you were unsuccessful at work and disappointed in your own role?”

Everything after this point was improvised — but the script had set up a very narrow playing field for improvisation.

The script establishes the format — six sessions to achieve one goal. By giving that framework, you can lean on the client for help. I would say things like “The goal for this session was to find a mindset that you will change. Do you think we’ve achieved that?”

The script also practically guarantees an early insight by having reliable early questions. Almost all executives have a hero story about why they are executives and that story will secretly include their blind spot about what is holding them back.

If you take phone call clients, do you have your intro and opening questions scripted?

Kendra’s first two steps.

Coach Kendra has her first two steps scripted for her habit coaching.

#1. Automated Message. Clients get this the moment they hire her.

Thanks so much for choosing me to be your coach! It’s great to connect, and I’m really looking forward to working with you.
When you have a few minutes, could you complete this quick survey to get on the path to success together -
I’ll be in touch within the next 24 hours with our next steps. (It’s usually sooner that that, but occasionally time zones keep it interesting.)

Many of the coaches like using a survey at this point because it gives the clients effective something to do. It’s effective coaching and it’s also a trust-builder because it demonstrates you’ve put some thought into your service.

# 2. First Reply

Kendra uses the first reply to do three things:

  • prove her listening skills (that part is unscripted and is a reaction to the initial survey)
  • give a first exercise (blocking out time for the week).
  • and frame the coaching in terms of a first step. For all of her goals she has a library of first steps that work with 90% of clients.
[Name] — Great to connect! Thanks so much for taking the time to complete the survey. The background is very helpful. [Custom — affirm client goals and acknowledge client concerns]
In terms of getting started, I’ve found that the best way is through the lens of our schedules, especially if [custom]. Seeing it visually is usually helpful, and allows us to have a baseline for conversations. This article has a template and more background -
Perhaps you could start by [custom]? How does that sound as a starting place?
Let me know if you have any questions for me — thanks!

In discussion, Kendra told me that she’d rather optimize for a higher cancelation rate in the first few days and then a higher retention rate after. She’s given her clients a lot of work early. If they make it through, then they are going to stay for a long time. If they are not ready for change, then this much work will scare them away. She likes to uncover that early.