Make Room for Coaching

When someone becomes a life- or creativity coaching client of mine, I send them a letter of agreement. It explains the details in coaching that are important–the telephone number to use for the call, how long a session lasts, and a few requests that surprise people.

"Crazy multitasking" from

Almost no one expects that coaching focuses on one thing at a time. It’s difficult to persuade people that multi-tasking is a myth. The way to prove this is to try coaching people who are deeply involved in multi-tasking.

Coaching happens (for my clients) on the phone.  I use a headset, which gives me crystal clear sound. It amplifies the crunching, chewing, and drinking noises of clients snacking or eating an entire meal while being coached. It also amplifies the keyboard clicks of clients who check their emails, text message, watch videos and yes, play games during a coaching session. Not to mention the car noises of the clients who are driving, often with friends in the car. When, a few weeks into coaching, they complain, “I’m not getting anything out of coaching,” I’m not surprised.

Here’s how you can get the most out of your coaching session:

—Coaching is an activity that requires listening, answering questions, thinking through complex emotions and motivations and connecting behaviors with consequences. Come prepared to take some notes, maybe in a notebook or journal, so all the notes stay together.

—Before you make the call, get a drink, grab a snack, go to the bathroom. Then you are ready to spend time on the phone without distractions.

— You can’t concentrate on a friends email or the embedded video and think about important decisions in your life.  Put other people aside and focus just on your needs for the moment.

—Let your other calls go to voicemail. You can’t talk to your coach, shift your concentration and energy to another phone call and pick up where you left off with the coach. Get back to your life when you are finished with a coaching session.

—A lot of coaching involves asking questions. I don’t demand instant answers. Take time to think. If I ask you, “When is your energy low?” I don’t expect you to have the answer instantly. I am willing to wait while you think. I’m even more willing to listen while you sort though several answers, looking for the most honest answer. However, if I hear you keyboard clicking, I will think you are Googling for an answer. Hint: it’s not on Google.

—Ask questions if you don’t understand what I am asking. If I ask, “When is your energy low?” and you don’t know if I mean after what activity or what time of day, ask. If you answer every question with “I don’t know, tell me,” I’ll be happy to give you examples, but your questions make the answer clearer for you.

—I don’t give advice. We can explore choices, options, and your ideas. If you are out of ideas, I’m happy to toss out some for you to react to. But I don’t tell you what to do, think, or be. That is always your choice. If I toss out an idea, it is not a directive. Generally I’ll ask what you think about the idea. You are not required to like it. You can hate it, use part of it, or come back with another idea you like better.

—Coaching is about you. If I tell you what to do and you blindly do it, then you aren’t involved in your future. If making decisions is new to you, you might find the idea of trying out ideas interesting or intimidating. Let me know how you feel and we can explore choices. That’s the joy of coaching. It involves support, encouragement, choices and consequences. You’ll have time to think and be silent. So will I.

If every second is filled with something, there is no time to process information, think of consequences, or process information to compare and contrast ideas and results. Thanks to the way the human brain processes multiple simultaneous activities, it’s apparently becoming rare to really delve deeply into any one subject or relationship, so while the electronically connected are collecting information about a wide range of topics, the depth just isn’t there anymore.

When you work with me, it’s all about you. And I’ll ask you to get away from your computer, TV, DVD player, iPod and every other electronic gadget. I’ve had clients make huge leaps when they concentrate on themselves. And that’s how it should be.

-Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach, writer, and seminar leader.

Image: Crazy multitasking from Beyond Bounds:


2 thoughts on “Make Room for Coaching

  1. I can’t imagine anyone who would sign up for coaching sessions and then NOT focus on the task at hand. But then people pay for gym memberships and then don’t show up at the gym.

    • It was surprising to me, too. But a big problem today is that people want it all and think they can have it all. Lacking the ability to set priorities, they wind up cramming in activities without thinking about what’s needed to make the effort actually produce results.

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