We’ve been exploring the topic of taking notes during a coaching session: What kinds of things should a coach remember, and which things are important to forget? It’s a relief for newer coaches to realize they’ve been creating unnecessary pressure to jot down the smallest details while their client is sharing.
Free yourself to stay in the moment with your client, by letting these things go:
One of my clients had been through a traumatic event as a child, which she shared with me in our third or fourth session. And then she said, “But I don’t want you to be defining me through this incident.” She wanted me to know. And then she wanted me to forget.
Our clients will sometimes bring us traumatic details and events, but we don’t need to walk around with this trauma after the session, or every time we coach this person. It doesn’t help the client, nor does it help you.
This also highlights the need for coaching supervision. Not mentor coaching, which is about skill, but coaching supervision, which is about you as an individual person, and as a coach. Even if you don’t do coaching supervision, what are other ways you can care for yourself?
2. Your work as a coach
Listening deeply to people and striving to bring out the best in them can take quite a toll. So another thing for coaches to forget is just all of it. Just put it away. Put away your work, put away your identity as a coach, and go out and play.
Have a life outside of coaching and make sure you live it. The first coaches I met really emphasized this in my earliest training. They said don’t coach more than three weeks a month; always have a fourth week to play, or to just do admin work or something totally different.
Forgot about your clients and what they’re up to in between sessions. I can’t always be wondering, “Has Anika been taking those steps we discussed? What happened when Dmitry described his vision to his team? Are they as excited about it as he is? Were there any hiccups or challenges along the way?”
I also have to forget about the session itself. No second-guessing or negative self-talk, “I should have said this. I should not have asked that.” It’s the coaching equivalent of Monday morning quarterbacking—and it doesn’t help.
3. The story
As coaches, we don’t need to remember all the details. This may be counterintuitive for some newer coaches, especially those transitioning from other helping professions.
Our clients carry their own history, their own story. We just need the outline. Some parts we do need to remember, but most of it we don’t.
A clue that you’re trying to remember too much is when you find yourself paying more attention to capturing every little detail than you are to your clients and what they’re saying (and not saying). Give yourself permission to forget. Gently place your attention back onto your client, and also to your own inner listening and inner knowing.
Try spending a few minutes after each session to jot down any reflections or details that you may need for future sessions. I find that far more helpful than trying to take notes during a coaching conversation.
4. The plan
On the other hand, as you’re approaching that next session, try to forget your plan for the session, so you can be open to what the client brings, and where your client is today.
One of the guiding principles of coaching is to show up slightly under-prepared. If we’re too prepared, it’s very possible we’ll miss the moment by not being fully present. It’s only by showing up fully present and fully in the moment, that we create a space for the conversation to emerge.
We still need to do our due diligence, while being slightly under-prepared. You can’t ever be fully prepared for coaching anyway, because if you are (or if you think you are), you’re not going to be fluid and flexible.
Remember enough to be helpful and respectful, but not so much that you force the conversation into a specific direction or groove.