So the first reason that this happens sometimes is that my client will have so many things on their mind, they don't know where to begin. So it's actually not a matter of they don't have anything to talk about. It's really, they have so much going on and so much they could potentially talk about, they don't know where to start. So this is where it's really helpful to slow the process down. Because if a client is feeling this way, they may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And so the inclination is to try to speed things up to figure it out. This is the point at which we need to slow the pace down a bit, meet the client where they're at, and normalize their feelings of overwhelm, uncertainty, even anxiety, because of everything they might be thinking and feeling. We want to confirm and affirm their thoughts and their emotions, whatever they've shared with us, and just let them know we're following them. We are right there with them.
After we have confirmed and affirmed their position, it is really tempting as a coach to want to dive in and fix it and figure out what really needs our attention today. But again, let's slow down the process a moment. And before we start prioritizing issues, let's ask the client, “What typically helps you when you're feeling overwhelmed?” or whatever emotion that the client has shared with you. Let's ask them what they usually do to cope or work through those feelings.
Now clients may not know and so we may need to kind of guide them through the process and ask them about a time where they've recently felt overwhelmed or uncertain or anxious. But what we want to do is assess their current approach to managing overwhelm. Because if that's working for them, we may be able to pull some of those techniques into the coaching session. So again, this is how we keep the client at the center of the session, we are not yet contributing solutions or ideas before they've had a chance to participate in figuring it out for themselves. So we want to start by asking them what typically supports them when they're feeling this way. And then if there are elements of that that we can leverage in the session, we want to start there. If at this point, they're still feeling unsure about how to move forward, this is where as the coach, I will ask permission to make a suggestion about where to start. That may sound like saying something like, you know, “Can I share something that has worked for some of my other clients or that has worked for me?” At this point, your client will probably say yes, and if they do, then at this point, you can share a suggestion and what I typically offer is a set period of time, maybe 5 minutes/10 minutes, it might vary based on the length of your session. But I provide a defined period of time for a brain release, just as many of us might set a timer for five minutes and just free write, in our journals, whatever's on our mind, I offer that space to the client to verbally talk through whatever is on their minds, I offer to be the scribe. So I will take notes on what they're sharing. And then also, while I'm taking notes, and while I'm listening, this is where I pull in my superpowers of connectivity. And I start seeing connections between what they're sharing with me, oftentimes, there are one or two major themes that come through. And those themes can be actual things that need to be done, or they might be general feelings. But oftentimes, as I'm listening to my client, I'm able to help them sort through everything that's in their minds that feels really confusing and overwhelming. And then together, we distill it down into a few key ideas that might want your clients attention.
So once we've gone through that brain release and the distillation process, and we've narrowed the focus down to a couple key ideas. At that point, I will ask my client. “First off, let me make sure I'm understanding you correctly. This is what you've shared, this is what I've heard. And it sounds like we're really dealing with X, Y, and Z. How does that sound to you?” At this point, your client will likely agree that you have accurately understood where they're coming from, maybe they'll provide a little refinement or clarification. But once you have that distillation, then you can ask them, “Okay, based on what you've just shared with me, and now that we know it's really these key concepts that we're coming back to, which one of these is really drawing your energy and attention right now? Because that might signal where we should begin.”
And then your client will let you know, “You know, I'm really feeling like maybe we need to dig deeper into this.”
“Okay, great. So let's talk about this today. What would you like to have at the end of our session?” And so then we can start creating parameters for the session based on that prioritized topic that you and your client have kind of discovered together. So that's typically what I do when a client says I don't know what to talk about. And it's actually because they have so many things to talk about, they don't know where to begin. We confirm and affirm the thoughts and feelings that are going on for them. We ask them what typically supports them when they're feeling that way. And then if they're still feeling kind of stuck, then we can offer a space for them to brain release what's on their mind. And our job as the coach is to help create some organization in that, to help the client see, “Okay, these are the main themes that are coming through, which of these would best serve you to explore today?”
So that's how I handle it with the client that has a lot going on. But sometimes the opposite happens. And this is the second thing I see most often, which is that a client will come into session, and they'll say, “I'm in a really good place right now. I actually don't have a whole lot to talk about. There's nothing really pressing, there's nothing urgent. So yeah, I don't. I don't know, things are – things are okay.” Well as the coach, the very first thing we want to do is congratulate our client that they are in such a great place. I work with a lot of high achieving clients. And the temptation is to move on from one goal to the next goal to the next goal pretty quickly, and not take a lot of time to really celebrate our accomplishments. So whenever I hear a client say, “Yeah, no! I'm kind of in a good place, things are going really well.” I want to pause and slow down and celebrate them. I want to congratulate them on what they've accomplished. And I want to dive a little deeper into what is working. It's so easy to focus on what's not working and to make tweaks and refinements to get back on track. But we can also learn so much from things that are going well. So it might actually serve your client to do a breakdown of what is working, and specifically to link what is working with your clients’ traits and skills and talents, so we can really establish the connection between the positive outcome and their contribution to it. So that might be a good place to start, which is celebrating and learning from your clients’ successes. Once we've done that, we can also then connect their current successes with their overall goals for the coaching relationship.
So typically when I start working with a client, I have a launch session framework that I walk them through. And actually, I make this framework available to my Coach with Clarity Collective members, it's one of the templates that they have access to inside the vault. And it really helps them structure both that initial session, but also the entire coaching experience they are about to have with their clients. So if you're looking for a resource like that, and so many others, definitely check out the Collective, you can head to coachwithclarity.com/collective to learn more.
So while we are reviewing their successes and how they've contributed to it, I'm also referring back to their initial coaching goals. And then together, we can take a look at how their current accomplishments are connected to the goals that they set when we started coaching together. When we review this, it may show that “Oh, you have made great progress on this one goal. And so how do we take this to the next step? How do we build on the successes you've had, so that you can hit your ultimate goal?” Maybe in our review of their initial goals, we realize that they've met one goal and there was this other goal that they'd mentioned that we've not focused a lot on, so perhaps we should use our time on that. We may find that we need to set new goals or revise the existing ones based on the progress they've made. So I am a huge fan of celebrating their accomplishments, mining that success for takeaways and things that they can continue to apply, and then going back to the goals for the coaching relationship, and exploring what goals have yet to be met, that perhaps we could work on, or whether we want to create new goals for our work moving forward. But certainly, if your client comes into session, and they're feeling really good about where they're at, and what they've accomplished, let's ride that energy wave. Let's highlight it, let's support them, let's really honor what they've accomplished, and then allow that to potentially point to what else they may want to create in their business, in their relationships, in their life.
So we've talked about how sometimes clients might not know what to talk about, because they have too much going on. Other times, it's because they're doing really well. And so they're not really sure where to go from here. The third thing that happens from time to time is that a client might come in and say, “Well, I've got a lot going on, but it's not really related to coaching. So I'm not really sure what to talk about today.” This is always such an interesting response to me. And it reminds me that oftentimes, my clients view me as a resource for them in a very specific area of their life. So for example, if they're coming to me for business coaching, and support in building and growing their coaching practice, then that's the lens through which they're viewing our work. And they may think that if something is not directly related to the coaching business, it doesn't belong in session. So then it's my job to remind them that our work together doesn't exist in a vacuum. And that while we will primarily focus on their coaching business, because that's why they've hired me, there are things that happen in our lives outside of our businesses that still directly impact how we show up in our businesses and in our work. So I'll pause and I'll let them know that while they're under no obligation to do this, our coaching space can be used as a time to talk through other issues that are affecting them. Because often when we're able to find resolution in one area, it affects all of the other areas of their life. And I say this not only as a coach, but as a client. I still work with my own coaches. And while I primarily work with coaches around my own business, lately, I have had some things come up regarding my physical health, and it has directly impacted how I'm able to show up in my business. A few months ago, I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune disorder. And while right now the way I'm experiencing it is probably more on the mild, maybe mild to moderate side of things. Receiving this diagnosis really threw me for a loop. I realized that I was going to have to change a lot about my nutrition, and how I take care of myself, how I manage stress. And in those initial days after the diagnosis, I was feeling really low and it just so happened that I had a coaching session scheduled with my own coach during that time. And so I did exactly what I've just described to you. I showed up to a session and she said, “What do you want to talk about today?” And I said, “I'm not really sure. There's a lot going on right now and honestly, my mind isn't really on my business.” And she said, “Well, tell me what your mind is on.” And so I let her know about this diagnosis and what it meant and what I was working on, and my feelings about it. And I just kind of did my own brain release for a few minutes. And we wound up spending the majority of my coaching session, talking through my recent diagnosis and making a plan for how I wanted to move forward. And even though this wasn't directly related to my business, I knew that once I had a space where I could process my thoughts and emotions around this diagnosis, and I could create an action plan for how I wanted to move forward, I knew all of those things would bring me peace of mind. And having that peace of mind would affect my business. Because I was honestly in a bit of a tailspin, I was completely overwhelmed at the prospect of having to manage Hashimoto’s, and making all of these changes to my lifestyle in order to reduce its effects on my thyroid and on my body. And I was just spinning out. And I kept thinking, “If this gets worse, what's going to happen to my business? What's going to happen to my family? What's gonna happen to all of this?” And so my coach was able to redirect me, and help me work through it and create a path forward, one that would support my physical health, yes, but also my emotional health, my spiritual health, and the health of my business. So I'm sharing this with you, because I want you to know just how often this happens in coaching, especially when we have niched down to a very specific approach to our coaching. Our clients may internalize that as “Oh, I'm only able to talk about business with my business coach. I'm not really supposed to talk about other things.” And yet, we know that those other things have a direct impact on our business. And so sometimes, as coaches, we need to offer the space so that if our client wants to discuss those other things with us, they know that this is a place where they can do that. As they talk through it, they may discover, “You know what, this is something that I want to be coached on today.” We always want to offer them the opportunity, it's not a mandate, we're not going to pressure them into talking about anything that they don't want to. And of course, as coaches, we need to understand where our role as coach ends, and where another helping professional may benefit the client.
So for example, my own coach was perfectly able to talk me through the emotions and thoughts that I was having around my diagnosis. And to help me determine what next steps I wanted to take, she was not in a position to provide me with medical advice, or to make treatment solutions. And she didn't do any of that, because that would have been way outside the scope of her role as a coach. And so we need to keep that in mind as well, that we understand our capacity as a coach. And we know when it might be appropriate to refer our client to another helping professional, like a mental health therapist, or a functional medicine practitioner in my case. So we want to make sure we understand our role, and that we don't cross any boundaries. But we also don't want to create an environment where our client feels like they can't talk about things with us outside the scope of our coaching framework. Once the client has had the opportunity to talk through what they're experiencing, then we can return to the question of “What would best serve you today? How can we make use of this time we have together?” And we follow the clients lead, we allow them to start generating some possibilities. With their permission, we can provide our perspective as well. But oftentimes, just the act of allowing space for the client to talk through something can be really healing, and then they will be at a point where they can return and say, “Okay, now I'm ready to be coached.”
So I've talked about the three most common reasons I see clients having when they say they don't know what to talk about in session. Number one, they have so much going on that they don't know where to start. Number two, they're in a really good place, and so they feel like “Hey, I'm pretty accomplished. I don't have much to talk about.” Or number three, there's something else going on that's outside the scope of your typical coaching work, and they may not know that it's okay to talk about it in coaching. So those are the three most common things, I want to share a fourth thing that I don't see very often. And while sometimes it's tempting to start here, I actually think this is less common than we might think. And that is a client coming in and not having anything to talk about because they're unprepared, or they're not committed to the process, or they're not taking coaching seriously.
My experience has been that if a client is a voluntary client, meaning they have chosen to participate in coaching, and if they are invested in the process energetically, financially, emotionally, then you're not typically going to experience a client who's not taking the process seriously. Now, admittedly, this may happen if a client is not the sponsor for their sessions, meaning they're not paying for it. If someone else is paying for the coaching, sometimes they may not have the same level of energetic investment as a client who is paying for it themselves. So that is a reality that we may need to consider. Or if a client has not chosen to participate in coaching, and this doesn't happen a lot for me, but I do know some of my clients who are internal coaches, who are hired by a company and the company is sending their employee to coaching, sometimes that can create a bit of an involuntary situation. And so the client may not be fully invested in the process. So yes, there are times where there may be a lack of commitment to the process. Typically, it's around whether it was the client's idea to participate in coaching or whether they're being sent to coaching by someone else, and also their financial and energetic investment in the process. Most of my clients are voluntary, they've chosen to work with me, they are committed in all ways, yes, financially, but also energetically. And so I don't tend to see my clients show up with a lack of dedication to the process.
That being said, I know that some of you may experience that, especially if you are doing internal coaching. And so let's talk about how to handle a client who isn't fully committed to the process. Now, this is something I have quite a bit of experience with, from my days as a therapist when I taught anger management classes. I was employed as a contractor at an Air Force base. And most of my students or clients were referred to the program by a commander or by someone else. It wasn't necessarily their decision to be there, they didn't necessarily want to be there. And so I had a whole roomful of people who were told that they had an anger problem and needed to go to anger management, not the best way to start a relationship with a client. And so number one, I started by acknowledging this, I wasn't out to try to convince them or convert them, I joined with them and just said, “Hey, I know that you may not want to be here right now. I know you may find this unnecessary and you're only doing this because your commander is making you. I totally get that. And so I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. But I am going to say you and I have this time together, you have to be here, whether you like it or not. So let's talk about how we can actually make this time useful for you.” And so in approaching it in that perspective, I reduced any frustration or animosity, at least that was directed at me. And I also suggested that even though the client may not want to be there, they do have some agency, they do have a say in how we use our time together. So that is a strategy that might be really helpful, especially if you're working with a client who has been told to go to coaching. Again, not the best circumstances to begin a coaching relationship, but it can be done.
Now, sometimes you'll have clients who want to be there who are engaged in the process and yet, they're still just not sure how to make the best use of the coaching relationship and your time together. And in this case, a little bit of education can go a long way, your client may simply need more support and structure to make the most of the coaching experience. So this looks like really walking your client through what they can expect out of a coaching session. How do you structure it? What are the questions that you ask at the beginning? What does the middle part of the session look like? And how do you wrap up? Then you can also talk about your expectations between sessions. What does the client want to commit to? And how will they stay on track? Now for some clients, this might look like reviewing the takeaways and to do’s that you created at the previous session. Some clients will really benefit from having a pre session prep form that they complete. And so that might look like summarizing their takeaways and to do’s from their last session, and starting to think about what they want to discuss during today's session. That way they come prepared to every session. They know what they committed to do, they can provide a progress update, and they have a question that they can start with at the beginning of the session. So I honestly don't use a whole lot of prep forms with my clients, typically, because they don't need them. But I have used them from time to time with clients who really benefit from that level of structure, and for whom having that external accountability through a prep form really serves their process. So that's definitely something that you can perhaps incorporate in your coaching practice as well. Well, all right, my friend, we have covered all sorts of reasons why a client might come to session, not having anything to talk about. And we've explored what to do for each situation. Now, I think it's time for this week's Clarity in Action moment.
For this week's Clarity in Action moment, I want you to imagine that you have a client in front of you, and you're starting off your session, you've asked them, “So what would you like to explore today?” And they say, “I don't really know, I don't really know what to talk about today.” I want you to just be in that space for a moment. I want you to notice any thoughts that come up, any emotions, any sensations. I want you to notice what your inclination is. What's the first thing you want to say or do when a client says “I don't know what to talk about?” I want you to anticipate this moment, so that you can understand what your initial reaction typically is. I'll be honest with you, for me, when I have a client who says “I don't know what to talk about.” I tend to freeze a little bit, I get a little nervous. I go straight into “Oh my god, what are we going to do during today's session?” And my inclination is to try to brainstorm and problem solve all sorts of things that we can do in that session. So I freeze, and then I rush in. And because I know that about myself, because I know that is my tendency, I have trained myself when I have that initial freeze response, to pause and take a deep breath. So I counteract that freeze into fix it mode cycle that my body, that my mind wants to put me in. Instead, I just notice I take a breath and then I remind myself, it's not my job to come up with things for my client to do. It's not my job to fix any problems. It's my job to get curious, to remain open, and to ask questions. And so that's what I do. I reset myself and I embrace curiosity. And I start asking some questions to find out what's behind the “I don't know.” And it's typically one of those first three things that we've discussed in today's episode. So that's why today for the Clarity in Action moment, I want you to really envision yourself face to face with your client. And when you ask them what they want to talk about, and they say, “I don't know.” notice your response. Notice your reaction. And then ask yourself, Is this reaction going to serve my client best? And if the answer is yes, then you are good to go. But if the answer is no, if you have a response that's a little more like mine, maybe let's slow it down. And then you can start to explore what might better serve both of you in the moment.
All right, my friend. I hope that today's episode has been helpful. I know it's been helpful for me because I do face this and it's a really good refresher of how I want to show up in session as well. I am so grateful that you have taken the time out of your day to listen to the Coach with Clarity Podcast. If you are finding it to be a helpful resource. I would be absolutely honored if you would share the podcast with a coach you know who could benefit from some additional support around the craft and business of coaching. You can let them know that they can find the Coach with Clarity Podcast wherever they listen to their shows, or they can go to coachwithclarity.com/podcast to learn more. I hope you'll join me next week for a brand new episode of the Coach with Clarity Podcast. And until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.