I fantasized about scolding Gretchen for being inconsiderate, reminding her that she wasn’t paying for our coaching sessions, and that her laissez faire approach to our time together wasn’t working for me. But, in spite of myself, I also fantasized about how I might handle the situation without pettiness, without making it about me, and by summoning the coaching presence of someone with much more patience and restraint than myself.
When Gretchen arrived, she made a breezy apology about her tardiness and said, “I’m just going to grab a coffee; I’ll be right back,” as she set down her bag. I was able to squeeze in a quick, “Ok, but I have a hard stop at 8:30 today” before she dashed up to the counter to order her drink. In the quiet moment leading up to Gretchen’s return to our table, I reflected on how lame my “hard stop” comment sounded. Surely I could do better than that! How could I make Gretchen aware of my expectations moving forward, while at the same time, provide an opportunity for her to gain some personal insight?
When Gretchen finally made it back to our table, I invited her to take a deep breath with me, so we could transition into our coaching session. I knew that Gretchen would be eager to report on her homework; how she’d diligently accomplished the goals she’d set the week before, so I’m sure I surprised her when I asked a seemingly unrelated question.
I gently wondered aloud, “I noticed you’ve arrived a few minutes late without time to get settled before our meeting this week and last week. I know that you’re a very concienscoious and punctual person and are always well prepared for meetings, so this doesn’t seem like you. What do you think is getting in the way?”
Gretchen paused to think about it and offered, “Maybe I’m not bought into the idea that I want to change. Or that I can change.” Her voice got a little quieter as she continued, “Maybe I don’t want to commit to changing.”
I was so proud of Gretchen for not making an excuse or deflecting my question with an apology. And I was thrilled she accepted the opening I offered to jump into the deep end. No dipping in a toe, or wading knee-deep, but a fully clothed cannonball.
What followed was an incredibly productive and rewarding session for both of us. Gretchen uncovered some profound insights that continue to propel her toward her goals, and I got some positive reinforcement for behaving like a coach, rather than a nag.