The 30-minute coaching session – advantages and challenges

Lynne Cooper

· coaching and communication

Changes in the coaching market continue apace (The two-hour coaching session’s a thing of the past). The demand for half-hour sessions is burgeoning, offering affordable coaching to a greater number of – often time-poor – individuals. Advantages and challenges of these shorter sessions include:


Affordability and accessibility. Whether spreading an organisational coaching investment amongst more employees or cost-effectiveness for self-funders, more people can access.

Focus. Less time is spent on catching up and potential digressions from the goal, increasing productivity.

Efficiency. Both parties can effectively and efficiently include coaching into their busy schedules, reducing time lags.

Just in time. Sessions can be timelier for clients, who are often dealing with the fast pace of change and frequent new challenges.


Relationship. Forging a relationship with the coaching client is essential. Creating rapport and building trust generally need space and time.

The client’s narrative. A client’s sharing or ‘download’ of their situation, problems, challenges can aide their readiness for coaching yet can be curtailed by time constraints.

Limited progress in each session. After attending to relationship and the client’s story, space for the coach to facilitate new perspectives, insights and awareness and options to move forward – the core of our work – is highly restricted.

Adaptation or transformation? Transformative change - the sustainable difference that makes the difference in performance – can be harder to generate in a short space of time, leading coach and client to focus on the simpler adaptations to immediate problems.

Value. Organisations, rightly, want a return on their investment, seeking a level of organisational, not just personal, change, often a tall order when coaching this way

How might coaches do their best work in 30-minutes?

It seems likely the demand for short coaching sessions will grow and grow, and as coaches we need to embrace it.  Some of the coaches I supervise are frustrated by the challenges of working this way and are having to change their approach. Coaches need to be laser-focussed on the client and their goal. They need to lead the coaching process efficiently, paying close attention, always keeping the goal in mind. And although these statements can apply to all coaching assignments, in 30-minutes there is just no space to digress from the subject or goal, and a high expectation to generate results.

We coaches are pretty resourceful and those who devise a tailored approach to successfully navigate the half-hour session serve their coaching clients well. The Five-Minute Coach is one such approach used by coaches such as Sandra Lee, who runs such sessions in her leadership programmes. She says: ‘I have used the Five-Minute Coach in several hundred of these short coaching sessions. It’s a perfect way to quickly create a reflective space for a leader to uncover new insights and create their own, meaningful action plan to progress towards their goal. It’s a valuable way to work and a fantastic approach to have in my back pocket when time is of the essence!’

The Five-Minute Coach helps the client move from problem to goal and through action to motivation in 30-minutes or less (the five-minute parts are the extracts of the approach that leaders can use on the job in just a few minutes). It is not the only approach, but as Sandra says, it works!