Surprising things coaches do

We coaches are full of surprises it seems! Today I had no less than four different conversations in which I mentioned something that I do as a coach that surprised the other. It made me think how much of what I do is part and parcel to me and new to other people.

Here are some of the things we coaches do that can surprise people.

have a ‘chemistry session’ with you

Your first session should be to decide whether or not you want to work with the coach you are considering. Without a genuine ‘click’ between coach and client coaching is likely to be a series of interesting conversations lacking lasting impact.

This is where exploratory chemistry sessions come into their own. In a nutshell, client and coach use a chemistry session to establish three things:

  1. will you get on with your coach and be able to trust them with your deepest thoughts?
  2. are you ready for coaching? Are you clear on why you want to have a coach?
  3. does the coach feel they are the right coach for you?

A good fit is absolutely essential in coaching, so do ask for a chemistry session.

get out of the room

Yes! We get out and about with our clients too. It’s not all sitting in a room talking. Some of the things I’ve done with clients included

  • observing a client chair a meeting
  • going on a walkabout to see where and how the client works
  • having sessions in coffee places, hotel receptions and even sitting under a tree drawing in the sand with a stick

Each of these activities had a purpose: providing feedback on communication skills or leadership style; looking at the familiar through a different lens; taking the client out of their usual environment to focus the mind.

suggest homework tasks

I tell my clients that the real work takes place between sessions, and it’s true. Towards the conclusion of a session I will ask my client to summarise the tasks they will take on before we meet again, and I write these down in their own words. These are ideas that have already come up in the conversation, and I am pretty good at retaining them to prompt the client later: ‘how will you use that project to try out delegation?’, ‘what opportunities can you seize to ask your CEO for that feedback?’, etc.

Homework does come as a surprise to some people, but I don’t think it’s because they were not prepared to do any work between sessions. It’s more that it had not occurred to them it’s not only about attending sessions, and they soon see how tasks in between help them get the most from our time together.

support you between sessions

Homework support is part of coaching too in my view. With experiments to do, evidence to collect and reading to doin between sessions we can fully expect questions, complications or glorious A-ha!-moments to occur. That makes being present in the background outside sessions important.

I emphasise my availability to clients between sessions because easy homework is not going to offer real learning. If I am agreeing a scary piece of homework with a client to push them well beyond familiar terrain, they need to know they can get a top-up when they need one.

The interesting thing is that I do not get inundated with calls and emails from clients. When clients do get in touch, 8 times out of 10 it’s to celebrate an achievement. Knowing I am available if they need me is almost always enough for clients to just go ahead and do it.

What surprised you about your coach? Good or bad – share your thoughts below

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