I hope I startled a few of you with my title for this article, and one really good reason is that I really hope to offload a trap that many coaches have fallen into while at the same time increasing your personal value.
First off, I DO take notes…for me, but I don’t take notes for my clients.
I think taking notes during a session can be really beneficial for a coach for a number of reasons:
- It shows the client that you’re taking interest and are engaged in everything they’re saying.
- During the session, it helps you focus by highlighting words, phrases, etc. and allowing you to ask better questions. It also enables you to succinctly summarize, repeat a phrase, or go back to a point without interrupting the client.
- It gives you a record of the progress/process of a client that allows you to note successes of the client as well as jog your own memory about past conversations that might be relevant now.
- For legal reasons, I like to keep notes, not because I have to nor am I ever expecting a lawsuit. As coaches, we’re never supposed to be giving advice, and since we don’t give advice, we’re not liable for the choices that our clients make. If it ever did happen that a former client tried to blame your coaching on a bad decision they made, your detailed notes would be evidence to support your position that, as a coach, you do not give advice to your clients.
For all these reasons, I do take notes…for me.
But a lot of coaches ask me if I send notes to clients. In fact, a number of coaches have told me that they take detailed notes, then send a copy of the revised notes to their clients after the session.
To me, this is a really big mistake that I hope you’re not making, and maybe after reading this, you’ll stop it entirely.
I see taking notes as a responsibility of the client. At the beginning of the coaching relationship, I do suggest taking notes at each session as there will likely be breakthroughs as well as action steps that they’ll want to remember, but I leave that decision up to the client.
I’ve actually had some of my clients ridiculously detailed notes that they add to a larger journal with pictures, charts, etc. while others took brief notes mostly highlighting their action steps.
Regardless of how detailed my clients have been at note-taking, my minimum expectation is that the both of us clearly understood the goal(s), what action steps were to be taken next, as well as when it would happen. I have always followed up on those items and held my clients accountable.
Taking notes is all about the client doing what they need to do to help them continue to move forward, and that’s why I believe they need to be tasked with it.
Most importantly, I think anytime the client loses ownership in their process, the transformation is lost as well. Let’s protect that at all costs!
What might stick out to me as a coach might not be of that great of interest to the client; that’s why I see a real danger in taking notes for others. This isn’t like a history class where we’re taking notes for an upcoming exam. Those are all fact-based.
The notes for a coaching session are more process-based and subjective. We’re talking about personal feelings, opinions, and insights. A clients perception and even what matters can be very different, so that’s why they should be left in charge of this task.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been the most administratively skilled person in my life. I’ve had to overcome that challenge to create systems that work for me so that I don’t miss important dates, facts, and details. With that said, I don’t get paid for my administrative skills.
And you know what? If you’re a coach, you don’t get paid for your notetaking skills either!
This is not in your job description. It isn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be in your coaching agreement either.
Regardless of whether or not it’s your job description, if you start sending your clients notes following the first session or two, it will be assumed that this is something that is included in working with you.
So let’s say you have the first session with a client, and you’re so stoked and wired after the session that you type out 2 pages of notes and email it back to the client within 24 hours after that session.
What happens if 2 weeks later, you didn’t have time to type out those notes and sent them perhaps 2 days later? Since it’s assumed that sending notes is part of your job, it appears as if you’re slacking.
Again, you may not have told them that you were going to own this task every week, but you created a level of expectation, and that expectation is that you’re going to type out 2 pages of notes each week. Even worse, you’re training your client to not take notes and taking a responsibility away from them.
A coach once told me that they would take notes by hand, then sit down with a computer at home that night and type and revise them before sending them on to the client.
I said, “Wow, I hope you’re getting paid for that.”
I don’t think that coach appreciated my bluntness at the time, but they learned quickly.
I even think of myself as a pretty fair writer, but typing and revision take time. I told that coach: “Even if it took you only 30 minutes to revise your notes and send that email, you’ve already lost 30% of your fee for that coaching session.”
I’ll put this in bold so you’ll read it again:
I’ve already settled in my mind that taking notes for clients is not a responsibility for coaches, but if a coach is going to do it anyway, I hope they at least figure that time into their fee.
I’m not sure that clients even read the notes that coaches prepare for them.
That’s not to say that they didn’t maybe the first session or two, but I really think that anything that the client didn’t come up with themselves is going to largely be ignored, at least after the first few sessions.
Hey, I get it, some clients take bad notes.
And, hey I get it, some of you suffer from false guilt because you think your clients are owed more.
The best way I can suggest to help your clients is to allow them to record the sessions. I wasn’t really comfortable with this when I first started out as a coach because I didn’t know much about the law, and I was extremely self-conscious about my coaching.
But there were so many times when a client would say, “Would you repeat that?” or “I hope I can remember what I just said” that it dawned on me that nothing could replicate that moment. The moment would forever be lost: not just what was said, but how it was said, and how both the coach and the client heard it.
Recordings can allow you to capture that moment and can really add value to the client.
In conclusion, what I’m really hoping is that you value the service you bring with that each 30-60 minute session that you give a client. It’s enough. You don’t have to justify it by doing extra administrative work. Value yourself. That extra time is better spent building your business and gaining additional clients.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
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