When I first started coaching, I shuddered to hear the PBC say, “I have tried to come up with something, but I just can’t think of anything to be coached around today.” It would literally cause me to panic. I would frantically start searching my brain (and my cheat sheets) desperately looking for questions to ask that would stimulate something—anything at all—to work with.  But it seemed that the harder I tried, the more frustrated both the PBC and I would become.  After all, how could I get them moving if we couldn’t even find a place to start?  At worst, the PBC would say something like, “Sorry I let you down today” or perhaps even decide to give up on coaching altogether.

As time has gone on and I have relaxed as a coach, these situations don’t cause nearly as much consternation as they once did. In fact, I hadn’t thought much at all about this topic until a recent conversation with Lisa Huddleston (a friend and coach) brought it back to my attention.  As we talked, we came up with some things to remember when hearing the dreaded words, “I don’t know what to talk about today!”  

 Remember coaching is a conversation. Let the PBC talk. The coaching session does not hinge on whether or not I come up with something for the PBC to be coached around. First and foremost, it is about the conversation. Many times, I have discovered that if I will let them talk and spend most of my time genuinely listening, they will discover something to be coached around either that time or by the time of their next call. 

 Remember to ask what the PBC hopes to gain from the call. A coaching session is never about my agenda. It is not about how good a coach I am or whether or not I can sculpt the perfect hourglass call. It IS about the PBC. Sometimes all the caller wants from their hour with a coach is to have an opportunity to talk, to be heard, and to vent.  In such a case, all I need to do is listen and encourage, ask questions when appropriate, and wait to see what happens.  It’s important that the PBC feels free to use their hour as they need to—not every call has to end with three action steps to be time well spent.

 Remember coaching is not a onetime event but a process. If they haven’t been made to feel like a coaching failure, the PBC will call again—especially if they have been listened to and encouraged. Usually, although not always, their next call will be very different, and the PBC will have made some discoveries or uncovered a new direction through the simple process of sharing their thoughts on a continuing basis.  (More on that in another post.)

Coaching really is a conversation.  Relax and let it happen. If you will allow yourself and your PBC to enjoy your time together without bullying either of you to “action” every time you talk, both of you will enjoy the journey much more, and you will be a better coach for it.