Alongside the other matters we’ve examined in previous posts, we need also to think about the physical location for a coaching session.
On our coaching skills programmes we encourage our participants to do their coaching practice outside wherever possible and weather permitting. This is not just to give people a good time (although coaching is undoubtedly more successful when it’s enjoyable) but to recognise that successful coaching requires people to feel at ease and free from distractions. Remember that one of our main intentions is to use coaching to promote high quality thinking so we need an environment that can help.
When you become skilled at coaching you’ll be able to coach pretty much anywhere and anytime, but to begin with it’s probably best to hold coaching sessions in a separate room or office.
The primary consideration needs to be how easy it is for each of you to listen in the room you’ve chosen. And remember that in coaching we are seeking to employ a level of listening that requires much more focus and concentration then when we are in normal conversation. Try to avoid large glass windows in open plan meeting rooms that look out into other people’s work areas or that have lots of people walking by. This just creates too many distractions. Similarly you’ll want somewhere that is completely private. Nobody is going to give really meaningful, honest answers to coaching questions if they fear that they’re going to be overheard.
Other practical matters include finding some seating that is comfortable and appropriate. The typical chairs used in training rooms are maybe a bit too stiff, but big fluffy arm chairs that you sink into until your knees are level with your chin are no use either! I also like a room that has natural daylight and where you can open a window for some fresh air if needs be. If not, air conditioning is probably essential.
I always find it useful to have some ‘thinking tools’ with me. I’ll always have a stock of pens and paper for us each to write on, but I also like to have a flipchart so that I can write or draw some large impactful images that my coachee and I can both look at and add to in an interactive way.
I am mindful of how challenging it can be to find meeting rooms in organizations these days and that what I’ve said here is an idealized description. People often ask me if it’s ok to coach off site and I feel it is if both coach and coachee and truly comfortable. You need to get as close to the criteria I’ve outlined as possible and accept that the coaching will be a little trickier where you can’t. In the end it’s about finding a setting that will be a positive anchor. By this I mean that the places in which coaching takes place should be associated with high performance. Over time it is quite possible for people to feel more motivated and resourceful just by being in these places.