Appointments are a normal part of life. You carve out time to see your doctor, therapist, accountant, financial advisor, and other professionals whose services are important to you. In this regard, an appointment is a promise made by a professional that time will be reserved for meeting your specific needs.
During an appointment, you will engage in a conversation with an expert whose knowledge, skills, and abilities are of value to you. When the appointment is over, you are left with an important decision to make, one that may escape your awareness if you are not careful: What am I going to do now?
Your answer to that question will either amplify or deflate the value of your time spent during your appointment. If you decide you’re going to commit to the priorities that emerged, then you are likely to enjoy significant benefits. But if you decide that your only priority is to wait until the next appointment, then opportunities are wasted.
This decision of whether to accept or shirk personal responsibility for creating and sustaining personal progress is especially relevant in the experience of working with a professional coach. Even if you have the opportunity to work with a great coach, the value of the experience will depend on the choices you make between your appointments.
Coaching, therefore, is not an appointment. It is a journey during which positive change is given the best opportunity to be accelerated. Great coaches are masters at helping clients understand themselves and recognize possibilities that before went ignored or unnoticed. But clients are the ones who must commit, decide, and act in ways that allow these possibilities to become reality. It is between the coaching appointments that magic happens for both clients and coaches who are working together in a committed partnership to create progress.
But as all experienced coaches know, desire is the fuel that drives the coaching engine. Coaches, of course, must have a sincere desire to help and support their clients. But this is hardly enough. More important is the desire of clients to grow, change, or advance. They have to want something; but there is little a coach can do to help clients who seem to want nothing.
When coaching works best, each appointment serves two important purposes. The first is to commemorate the efforts the client made since the last appointment. This means reflecting on actions taken, discussing thoughts that emerged from deep contemplation, and incorporating into the ongoing coaching conversation any new learning that occurred. The second is having a constructive, focused, two-way conversation that enables the client to produce new progress and leverage new opportunities before the next appointment. Each appointment is like the landing of a staircase that marks the end of one progress interval and the beginning of a new one.
Some clients warm-up to coaching faster than others, and it’s okay for some growing pains to be worked through before the benefits of coaching are allowed to manifest themselves. But it doesn’t take long for an effective coach to recognize a client who, for whatever reason, is not serious about creating progress, or to see that the only commitment the client is willing to make is to just show up for the appointment and expect the coach to do all the work. When this happens, it is the coach who has a decision to make: use challenging questions or language to help the client see any opportunities that are being wasted, or terminate the coaching relationship.
Successful clients are those committed to working and growing between the appointments.