One school of thought is that a coach cannot be attending and listening properly to the coachee if they are also taking notes at the same time. Taking notes can be a distraction from being fully present with the client – the coach focuses on writing rather than listening, and can find themself recording facts rather than the key themes. They may also miss some interesting non-verbal cues if they are concentrating on writing rather than their client. Taking notes can formalise and slow down the interaction, and this may not be helpful if you aim to develop rapport, and encourage responsiveness and spontaneity in the sessions. After all, a coachee doesn’t want to spend the entire coaching session talking to the top of your head!
There may also be an issue with the coachee being concerned about what is being written down, especially in a corporate scenario where they may have concerns about confidentiality. This may then lead to the coachee holding back in the session rather than being fully honest about their thoughts and their situation, which ultimately undermines the relationship with the coach. For this reason, it is important that there are only two copies of the coaching notes – the coach’s and the client’s. A copy should never be sent to anyone else. It is important to always write up any coaching notes as soon as possible after the coaching session and send them back to the coachee within a few days of the session. They should be sent by e-mail or post to the coachee’s home or work – it is their choice from a speed, convenience and confidentiality point of view.
Notes do provide an invaluable resource – particularly if you are coaching a client over a period of time. Without a record of the sessions, it is very difficult to trace the client’s development, change, successes and achievements. A record of the actual language and images used by the client in different sessions can point to recurring issues, themes, perceptions and perspectives and the client’s shifts over time. Notes of early sessions can also provide reminders of the bigger picture and initial aims identified by the client.
The benefits of taking notes during the session are that the notes are often a very helpful reminder to the coachee of the content of the coaching session:
– particularly of the actions and commitments made by the coachee
– it brings back to them the sense and atmosphere of the session
– it acts as a check list for them and a reminder for the coach
– it means that they are more likely to take ACTION and DO IT
– they act as a basis for catching up at the next coaching session
– they round off the process
However it is not wise to write them out fully when coaching because:
– some coachees (a small minority) don’t like it and find it off putting
– some clients require the coach to feel completely in tune with them.
– some coaching environments eg. lunch / dinner make writing more difficult
– the coach can become overly responsible for identifying the significant points and developments in the session rather than the client. This can also move the ownership and power in evaluating the impact of the session from the client to the coach.
So in conclusion it is recommended that the coach takes brief notes during the coaching session which are completed straight afterwards, unless it is found that it gets in the way of the coaching relationship and conversation.