How to Show Up as An Independent Coach Even When You Don’t Feel Like Coaching

October 7, 2021
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Does it ever happen with you that your calendar is well-scheduled, your week is looking good, your coachee has been eagerly waiting to speak to you and is prepared for the session with their points of discussion, and then on the day of your coaching session you find that you have no desire or motivation to show up? I know that I have had those days and I know of other coaches for whom this is true as well.

Now the reason an independent coach may not feel like showing up for a session can vary from unfavourable physical health to a bad mental health day. Coaches are not exempt from the effects of the internal and external world. Rather, taking on the emotional and mental burdens of clients’ issues can get heavy for a coach, just like it does for psychologists and psychiatrists.

Which is why it is important for coaches to take regular time out for their mental health. But on a regular day, when a session is concretely planned and the coachee is expecting to hear from the coach, who suddenly doesn’t feel like showing up, what is the right thing to do? I can think of a couple of different routes some coaches may take:

  • The independent coach can show up for the session half-heartedly, almost like marking attendance or doing the coachee a favour. At best, they fake being fully present and enthusiastic. Or,
  • The coach can cancel the session. Because the expectation for the coach is to be a 100% present for every coaching session, there is no point in taking a session unless they’re absolutely ready. 

While the above points are viable options, I don’t propagate either of the approaches. By showing up half-heartedly I believe one is not fulfilling their role of an coach, not doing justice to their job. Faking it is not okay either. And while it may be a view not independent every coach will agree with, I equate cancelling a session with a doctor cancelling on their patient.

So, unless a coach is so severely under the weather that they cannot get up and make it to their desk, cancelling a session is out of the question for me. 

Show Up & Follow the Process

So, what is the right thing to do? Well, that is subjective for each independent coach. What I follow and suggest to someone who is struggling with the same case of lack of motivation, is to show up authentically, tune in to the best of their ability, and be present. 

My go-to mantra: Just follow the process. 

Following the process can be as simple as asking your coachee where they are currently in relation to the goals they set, checking what actions were due after the previous session and their status, and understanding what specifically they want to talk about in that session.

And then take it from there, following the client as they lead the conversation in the direction that makes sense to them. The only thing to keep in mind throughout is to be curious and be present with them. It’s not about the performance of the coach and instead is about what the client wants. 

The role of an independent coach is as simple as showing up, being available, and following the process. 

And you can show up authentically and be vulnerable too. You can arrive for the session and come clean about the sort of day you’re having (without delving into too many details and making it about yourself) and give them the assurance that you are there for them completely and are fully committed to their growth, regardless of your lower than usual state.

Then all you need to do is be present and let the client take the lead.

Experts Share Their Secrets

In order to show up fully, it is important to ground oneself before going in for the session, especially on days when it feels difficult to show up. Doing a little bit of grounding exercise helps. 

Here are the three things I remind myself of before going in for such sessions, which help put things into perspective:

  • The client in front of me had a lot of choices of coaches to pick from, they chose to work with me. I should consider it a privilege to be able to work with them.
  • All answers lie within the person in front of me, thus there is nothing that I need to provide or contribute; I just have to be present and help them reflect – the answers will come.
  • There is a timing for everything. When it is right, it will happen. So, I as a coach just need to subtly take myself out of the equation and let timing do its magic. 

Senior executive coach Venkat Raghavan has his own process before going in for such a session. This is what he does:

  1. Replay the last 5 minutes of the previous conversation with the coachee in my mind so that it is a seamless segue from there.
  2. Check with the coachee if they are comfortable and are in a state to do this meeting now (if they say ‘no’, that leads to a wholly different pace and conversation)
  3. Ensure that nearly 100% of my coaching calls are face-to-face or video-on. Very rarely audio only. This ensures that I am alert and ensures that my non-verbal communication is as authentic as my words.
  4. Create a mental picture of the most productive coaching sessions that I have had with a client. That brings a smile to my face and puts me in the right frame of mind even if I may be feeling a little out of kilter that day.

The beauty of this is that that the grounding process doesn’t have to be elaborate for you. I know of another independent coach for whom just taking three deep, conscious breaths before each coaching session is more than enough. Explore, experiment and find what works for you.

Do you have anything specific you do before going in for a coaching session that you’re not quite motivated to take? Reach out to us and let us know – we’d love to hear from you and learn from you!

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author
Executive Coach & Co-founder of Simply.Coach

Recognised as one of the Most Talented Coaching Leaders in India by CHRO Asia, Ram is an ICF certified coach with more than a decade of coaching experience Before co-founding Simply.Coach in 2020, Ram worked across the gamut of organisations, from start-ups through to global MNCs. Having served as VP and Country Manager for Publicis Sapient, Ram’s corporate expertise helps him focus on positive change to empower leaders to reach their goals

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