Monday, June 16, 2008

On the Nature of Coaching Assignments

Assignments can be an important component of how I work with my clients. They serve to focus concrete action and energy toward the goals that have been identified and the progress to be made.

Many people have negative associations with the word 'assignment', perhaps left over from academic experiences. In coaching the process of arriving at assigned tasks, or at agreements to engage in focused thinking about actions or life processes between sessions, is quite different from how a school assignment is given, largely because of the lack of judgment that follows the assignments. There is no "grade" given upon completion.

Generally the assignments my clients work on are things they have come up with themselves, or arrive at rather naturally out of areas we discuss during the session. In that way, a client is able to control how much challenge and time the assignments take. Two examples might be: "Find time to play with daughter" -or- "Work on 'to do' list for plenary session scheduled for Fall" -or- "Be sure to take time to give yourself positive recognition during the day for each job well done".

The assignments come out of areas in which the client has identified they want to move forward... some are very concrete, others more in the realm of "Over the next two weeks think about..." or "Be aware of such-and-such while you are doing so-and-so and report during next session". The assignments are almost totally up to each client to compose, accept or decline, finish or leave unfinished. They serve to focus energy toward the progress the client identifies he or she wants to make. The client is the judge of their own progress. Assignments can work as a gentle encouragement to push forward with life change. The coach can be seen as an interested party with investment in the client's progress: a person to whom the client is, in gentle and non-judgmental ways, responsible to on a level and to a degree that the client determines.

Also, being unable to complete an assignment, to me, generally says as least as much about the assignment as the person to whom it is assigned... there is no real negative consequence from the coach... and being too busy to complete an assignment is a legitimate comment on the nature of the direction the coaching might take from that point forward... the outcome or lack of completion becomes a part of the conversation and part of a way to continue to work toward the identified goals and progress.

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