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Listening Write by Cheryl Scanlan

Jun 27th, 2011 | By | Category: Coaching Tools

Note Taking Developing note-taking skills that support the client and work for the coach

Early in my coaching profession I took 2-3 pages of notes per client.  I captured a lot of the call, but had this sense that I was missing something important – that which could only be gathered in the moment of the dance.    I soon dropped to maybe ¼ page of notes.   That also seemed insufficient as my relationship with the client deepened.  This pendulum swing began a journey of fine-tuning my note taking skills for the sake of optimizing client relationships. 

Use a form or not?

I have mentored coaches who use forms and those who do not.   The advantage of a form is you don’t have to capture redundant components of coaching, recording only pertinent information in prescribed areas.  A disadvantage is we are working with people and we want to be careful we don’t become formulaic in our approach to coaching.   Theory and methods are good.  Rhythm is critical.  But formulas will run counter to the Level 3 listening that is required by the best of coaches.

Special notations?

Suggested by my own mentor coach, I have found that noting key aspects of the call with codes is very helpful for quick accessibility of information.

0        Indicates items I promise to deliver to client (a follow up phone call, a web address, title of a book, etc.).

? For areas client wants to work, but not at this time. These would be those ‘gap’ items that we hold onto for the sake of the client. 

!     Areas of ‘aha’ or deepening awareness for the client.  I typically will try to remember the question that served as a prompt moving them into that awareness if applicable.

A    Action items the client designs.  Using an A serves as a reminder of the self-accountability the client builds into the action item design and if coach has further involvement I add a 0 to them so it would look like A0.

What to capture?

This has changed for me over the years.  But the following items consistently remain a part of my note taking:

  1. Name of client and date of call.
  2. Coaching agreement for the call
  3. Changes in coaching agreement during course of call if applicable
  4. Lists the client develops so I can feed information back if needed
  5. Awarenesses discovered or deepened
  6. Actions designed

 Benefits of capturing sessions?

  • Recall more from previous sessions simply because of taking the time to record.
  • Return to key client data points as necessary to help client keep moving forward.
  • Remain on client agenda.
  • Repeat key words used by client in reflection.

 What if I can’t listen while I write?

Some clients move very quickly – typically there is no time to write long sentences.  For them I will use a form of shorthand as noted above and still try to capture the items mentioned above.   

A second option is to consider taking notes during those ‘pregnant pauses’ while the client is processing something that just occurred in the session.    This will allow you to catch up with what has transacted while the client ponders.  

Still another option is to build into your practice the expectation that the client will complete a summary form.  Since the most important data from the call is what transacted for the client, have them help you with the note taking by completing that form. 

In all cases, we want to remember that our primary focus is to stay in step with our clients.  Over time you will develop your own strategy for note-taking that will help you find the balance between capturing what took place during the session while allowing you to dance in the moment with your client.

Cheryl Scanlan PCC, CPCC

Founder, Way of Life Coaching, LLC

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