Co-creating the Coaching Scope of Work

Episode 196

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In this podcast episode, hosts Ash and Cam discuss the process of developing a scope of work in ADHD coaching, emphasizing the importance of co-creating the scope with clients. They explore the balance between addressing clients’ urgent needs and detaching from predefined outcomes.

The conversation delves into perspective work, awareness-building, and the gradual nature of coaching, using examples from their coaching experiences. Cam introduces the concept of dedicating 2.5 hours per week to self-care and reflective practice, emphasizing the value of nuanced thinking and curiosity in personal growth.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: Hi, I’m Ash,

[00:00:08] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:00:09] Ash: And this is Translating ADHD. A quick reminder that our newest group coaching offering, which is the topic of Acceptance, begins Wednesday, January 24th, meeting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on Wednesdays. For more information on this course, including content, pricing, and how to apply, visit the website and click on the group coaching tab.

So, Cam, what are we talking about today?

[00:00:37] Cam: So today, Ash, we’re talking about how in coaching, we develop this scope of work. I was thinking about our last two sessions that we did. Our last two episodes, we took listeners through the arc of the work you took. You shared one of your client examples two weeks ago and last week I shared mine. And, like, the whole arc of meeting the client where they are, developing a sense of the scope of the work, and understanding the client’s needs, values, and strengths.

And what I noticed when there was a theme there listeners might be paying attention to is how much we had a hand in kind of modifying the work. I think that a lot of coaches out there are like, wait a second, isn’t it the client’s agenda? The client comes and they have an agenda. They have goals, and we help them with those goals. We do. And I don’t want people to hear that it’s like the coach comes in and re-configures or is heavy-handed with the scope of the work.

So today I thought it was an interesting idea to drop in and get maybe a little technical here, but this really important coaching distinction, where we are partnering with our clients to help them develop the scope of the work. So I want to talk about that as to coaches. And this is really for everyone that’s listening, but also new coaches who are out there and they’re like, oh, Ash and Cam, they were like working with these clients. Seemed like they adjusted the scope and reconfigured it. No, we didn’t. What we did was we co-created the scope of the work based on strength-based coaching, number one, right?

This idea of when I’m thinking about the work that I’m doing with my clients, it’s like doing hard work, right? They’ve come with a dilemma. They’ve bumped into a wall, one of our barriers, or some conglomeration of all of those three barriers. They’ve bumped into something. People do not seek help if they haven’t bumped into something. And so when we bump into something, this is for all humans, it’s in that struggle place. We’re like, okay, I haven’t figured this out, so I need someone else to help me. But we think we have an idea of what the dilemma is, right? 

[00:03:11] Ash: Cam, we talk a lot on this show about detaching from the outcome, and that is such a critical coaching skill. We don’t call it that in coaching. We call it limiting the expert, but the idea is the same. I personally think detaching from the outcome describes it better because there’s a distinction to be made between expertise.

I’ve spent thousands of hours talking to people with ADHD. So broad strokes, I can help my clients fill in gaps, but I do so without being attached to the outcome. Meaning I never assume where a coaching session might go. I never assume how something I toss in for a client – if I say, ooh, another client goes through something similar and describes it this way – I never assume how that’s going to land for my client. Because whatever their responses, if it’s like, ooh, yeah, that does sound like me, that thing, your other client, the words they put to it, that’s helpful. And now I have more language. Or no, that doesn’t sound like it at all, but here’s some new context now to grapple with. Okay. If this isn’t it, then what is it?

So first and foremost, I think the distinction between a good coach and a great one is that ability to truly detach from outcome, to partner with the client, to be on the journey in every session and to not be attached to where a coaching session might go, including if the coaching session goes in a direction where you’re not going to get to the action in that session because of what you’re uncovering or because of the turn that you’ve taken or whatever else.

And that’s scary as a newer coach, right? Got to get to action. We got to get somewhere. And being in that messy middle where you’re not sure where it’s going, and the client isn’t sure where it’s going, can be a really scary place to be as a newer coach.

[00:05:22] Cam: And I appreciate you bringing this up, Ash, because this person has hired you and they’ve come and they’re frustrated. They’re feeling a sense of urgency, and we can get pulled into that person’s sense of urgency. And it’s got to help them. And the analogy I like is here, grab a shovel, let’s start digging. We’re going to dig our way out of this and with coaching, it’s about starting to reframe. So not attaching to the outcome yet, building a big enough frame around the work that we’re doing. This is the context to appreciate the coaching process.

So if you’ve been listening, you know, that we’ve been talking about subscribing to this idea of coaching process, of developing awareness and designing actions, and generating learning from those experiences, that activity that you have, folding it back into our work, that said, are not thinking about tools. They’re not thinking about tools other than shovels at this time. It’s often, I need relief from this pain point. Can you help make this pain point go away?

So it is, again, we want to help clients stabilize their situation, but coaching is not just about stabilizing. It is about building. It is about revealing. It is getting to certain truths. What is going on? There’s the ADD. The person is operating in their environment, and we are curious, right? We’re detached from the outcome so we can be super present and listen and appreciate their lived experience so that we can give them a nonjudgmental nonexpert. “I know what you need” is a mistake people make all the time. It’s a very human mistake to try to offer someone support by, oh, I know exactly what you need.

No, you don’t. No, you don’t. You don’t know what the person needs. Now within ADHD coaching, there are certain best practices. That is very helpful. So there’s those best practices, but then being there and helping them come and turn that idea of making this negative thing go away to what’s the positive thing we’re trying to create. It is a bit of a reframe.

[00:07:53] Ash: Yeah. I might just want to chime in and say even if you do know exactly what the other person needs, that’s not enough. That was my first aha moment with coaching as a baby coach. I had been working with this client as an organizer for over a year on several things, mostly on her real estate business and her overall time management picture. She was a very busy person, and I must’ve said to her a hundred times in that year, you need to say no more. You overcommit. You need to say no more.

Same client agreed to do a little coaching with me as part of my baby coach practicing. We’re coaching at the end of a session. We’re coaching on time management. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but I do remember the aha. We were sitting in her kitchen, we’re talking about time management. We’re coaching about time management. She just pops up out of her chair and goes, I need to say no more. She scurries into her office, grabs a red marker, and on her white board in the middle in big letters, say no, underlined multiple times.

What was the difference maker there? The difference maker there was the client had some awareness that they didn’t have before – some awareness that connected them to, hey, I need to say no more. 

[00:09:16] Cam: Ash, great example. And coaches, if you’re familiar with it – core competencies. And I have one core competency pulled up right here because before we started recording, Ash and I were talking about what we coaches do if we’re curious about our client’s patterns of thinking and feeling. And we are helping our clients reveal, right?

It’s that difference there between you saying, you see it like you’re overextended, you see someone suffering and making the same mistake and you say, you need to say no more often because of this overextension because ADHD makes it so hard for us to see going beyond limits. Man, this is about boundaries. This is about time management. And so that difference is having it be where there’s a safe and supportive learning environment where they can come to this realization themselves.

So I’m looking at right here, there are two that I’m thinking about. It evokes awareness, right? We help clients evoke awareness. It’s number seven in the core competencies. Ask questions that help the client explore beyond current thinking. We’re asking questions where we’re making reflections and exploring beyond current thinking. The other one is helping the client identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behavior, thinking, or emotion. We’re bringing these pieces in and sharing them, holding them here like this thinking, how does it come up against what you’re trying to do to generate more awareness, to generate more learning, and then between that are these safe experiments right?

They had to come to some place of realizing, wow, I’m overextended. This is what happens when I’m overextended. A lot of listeners out there is yeah, I’m on that ARC cycle. And it’s when I’m on that ARC cycle, I just get so depleted. I’m going through that delay into the intense activity. And it’s you’re making progress when you see the impact of the cost and recovery, right? It’s that crash, recovery, and it’s who, there’s a real cost to this. What you’re doing there is you’re starting to challenge your patterns of thinking and feeling. In coaching, we call this perspective work.

And so coaches, we want to be doing coaching and perspective work right out of the gate. When your clients come and they say, here’s my dilemma. I’ve reached out to you, like what you have to say, and I think you’re the person that’s going to help me solve this dilemma.

So we take that and we listen to that, but we’re listening to more because there always is more, and that often is the case. This is for anyone with your current thinking and feeling patterns, as current patterns of thinking and feeling are not going to necessarily alone help you solve your dilemma. Are you open to different patterns of thinking and feeling, clients? This is a growth mindset. Again, there’s a belief that’s here. Would you be willing to look at this differently? And when we bring that up, it’s yeah, I’m down with that, Cam.

[00:12:51] Ash: Cam, let’s bring your music teacher client into this conversation. Can you speak a little bit about how you did that? How did you start with perspective work with this client in the very early days of your coaching?

[00:13:06] Cam: That’s good, and you know what I’ll do? You were talking about baby coaching. I’ll do my baby coaching, like a baby coach Cam, what I would have done in that situation, and what I did with this client. Cause again, there are new coaches out there who you get a client, you want to help them. And they come in, and pretty much everything’s on fire. People with ADHD tolerate crises. And so we’re pushed to certain limits, and it’s you’re about to lose your job. Again, for her, it was you need to fill your seats in your classes, they’re electives, kids don’t have to sign up for your music classes.

So she had to market them. And she had so much dread about the visibility, right? This is what we talked about, is this, I have to be some kind of salesperson and get out there and be visible. I’m putting air quotes up here, right? This thing that she felt was so foreign to her. Early coach Cam would have gotten into her urgency and okay, how can I help her solve her dilemma and do what she wants? Cause it’s the client’s agenda. What I learned as an early coach was that the Holy Grail of it’s like a client’s agenda.

So I was like, okay, client’s agenda. And I tried to work hard to help her address what she saw as the objective, which was to show up and deliver the goods on all of my inputs. Here’s the ADD piece that I learned later on: Okay, the ADHD piece is, that everything presents equally. And, it’s I’ve gotta bring 110 percent to everything.

And what my job is how do I find more time, energy, and attention for my clients? Like, how can I help them expand their bandwidth so they can address all of these things versus, okay, how can I utilize the coaching process here? Meet them where they are, help them stabilize the situation, but reveal to them this change process. We’re going to partner. We don’t know everything to know. You don’t know everything you need to know to solve this dilemma. I don’t know, just get back to you and detach from the outcome. We don’t know everything.

So we’re going to engage in this discovery process of okay, here’s the dilemma. But there might be other ways to solve this dilemma. And the way we do that is to activate and engage with strengths – your natural, authentic strengths based on values and needs, right? And here she is, I have to be someone I’m not to be successful. I’m thinking maybe she can be someone she is and be successful, right? That’s my hunch as a coach that we can be more authentic and more in our strength zone.

[00:16:08] Ash: So Cam, the thing I want to call out here is that big dilemma that clients often come with is usually the thing that takes time to solve. You didn’t get to the students are doing the marketing, and she’s enabling quietly in one session or two, or three or five, even though that was the big signal.

When that client arrived to coaching, same thing with the client that I talked about, the client who was working in a family business and it was painful and she knew that she wanted out. And she felt like she had to quote-unquote leave well, which was a bunch of storytelling about the fact that it was a family business and she didn’t know anything else.

And it was a year later that the client found that new position, which by the way, that client’s ears must have been ringing when we recorded that episode because between the recording and the release, I actually heard from her and things are looking better still. But again, this is not something that happened in two sessions, three, five, or in a truncated period. It happened over time, and it happens in the coaching and not in the coaching because my client’s a bit of a unique example that we didn’t do a ton of coaching relative to other clients who have had this big of a shift, but we did enough for that client to lay some groundwork or what I like to call the foundation.

I tell my clients if your big agenda is like building a house, then our work is digging out and laying a really solid foundation for you to build that house on. And the two components of that foundation are these: Number one, strength and challenge are on the same playing field. With ADHD, we tend to elevate our challenges and minimize or not even see, understand, or know what strengths we have available to us. So strength and challenge are on the same playing field.

Number two is that thing where you start to see the client doing their work outside of coaching, which is a big part of this client’s story arc because again, a lot of this happened when we paused coaching. I heard back from her more emerging awareness and what she’s doing with that over time, even though we’re not actively coaching.

And over time she’s able to come to this place and this new place due to several threads that we were pulling on, not just the work thing. The client had some stuff about finances to some big one down stuff about finances. And I bring that in to illustrate that when we tell these stories in 30 minutes, it’s hard to see all of the nuance that goes into these bigger shifts. We’re not always necessarily coaching directly about the big signal or the big dilemma, but all that awareness work that we are doing is going to pay dividends in the future as we turn our attention back towards that big signal or big dilemma, or it’s going to shake something loose.

Which it did for this client. Finances, it turns out, were a bigger barrier than she thought. She was limiting herself in so many ways due to embarrassment about her own perceived lack of financial acumen. She wasn’t seeking support, and it was a big one-down place for her. That when we shook that one down place loose a little bit and had a powerful perspective shift there, that was the crux that kind of opened up all of this other learning and awareness about this big signal to start to sink in.

[00:20:00] Cam: I love that example. I love the shift in that direction of shaking things loose. We’re not talking about coaching here. We’re talking about informed change. I think if listeners are out there just talking about we all should have a coach, and we need to do coaching. No, this is not about coaching. This is about how to create change. And so I appreciate that in the sense that you didn’t do a lot of coaching with this person, but you did some real fundamental work to address the dilemma.

Humans have belief systems that are hard to change. Imagine, people, if your belief system changed daily. It would be challenging. And so our belief systems, our thoughts of what we’re thinking have some inertia, right? It’s hard to change that, and so it positively serves us, but can also get in our way sometimes.

[00:21:01] Ash: Cam, I just want to jump in and say not just changes daily, but also maybe changes based on context.

[00:21:08] Cam: Right.

[00:21:09] Ash: I’ve had clients who have very different perceptions of themselves, very different rules for themselves, very different experiences based on the context around them. And I know you have, too. That client that’s killing it at work, but home life is killing them or vice versa. 

[00:21:28] Cam: It’s not just looking at patterns of thinking and feeling, it’s like how we are moving through our environments and how our context influences our thinking and feeling – those patterns. This is back to this practice of reflection. We’re at the beginning of the new year, Ash, and I’ve always seen all these people talking about new year’s resolutions and goals and things like that. You know what I’ve been playing around with? 

[00:21:54] Ash: What’s that Cam?

[00:21:55] Cam: 2.5, Ash. 2.5, 2.5, 2.5.

[00:22:00] Ash: 2.5.

[00:22:02] Cam: That’s it. That’s the answer, Ash. That’s it.

[00:22:04] Ash: Is this the new life, the universe, and everything number or what you got?

[00:22:09] Cam: Oh yeah. What is the… 

[00:22:11] Ash: 42

[00:22:12] Cam: 42. Thank you. Yeah. The answer is 42. So I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this whole idea of my clients getting activated when they are just a bit overextended. There’s this sort of connection between the quantity of work and performance that they have to reach this max. It’s like that surface tension, and your cup of water where you pour, and you’ve got the water over the brim and it’s got that dome shape. They put too much in their coffee cup every week. You fill your cup with too many things.

I’ve just been playing around with 2.5 hours a week. So 2.5, what is that? That’s 150 minutes. That’s 150 minutes. That’s about 20 minutes a day. 20 minutes a day given to self-care. Your definition of self-care. The replenishing, renourishing, and this reflection going back to you helped your client equip themselves with the ability to reflect – self-coach in a way – so they can again pay attention to their thoughts and feelings in a given context. Oh, look at me in this context at work. Look at me over here. Look at me concerning money, and how I’m thinking about money and how it creates one-down.

I have a client right now who is grappling with rejection sensitivity in a specific context. When we get into the deep and dark place, we go to black and white, and everything is absolute. This is the way it is. Our belief systems harden and become not our best friend, but that sort of that nuance and distinction that we talked about at the conference, bringing curiosity, bringing nuance, bringing distinction, and all these people are coming out with these lists of, oh, do this for 2024, add this, add that. It’s addictive.

No. We’ve got too much on our plate. We need to reduce. Give yourself a little bit of room in your coffee cup so you can spend some time reflecting on your thoughts and feelings, your patterns, and your perspectives. How am I looking at this situation? Is it helping me? How is it getting in my way? What’s the strength piece?

Right back to that music teacher is getting them to see how they could show up more authentically, and that it was not about visibility, but it was about connection that resonated for her. It’s about connection and about really raising leadership and the visibility of others around me. So it became her definition of leadership.

More to say here. Lots of interesting stuff, and I’ll leave it at that.

[00:25:07] Ash: What?

[00:25:09] Cam: 2.5 

[00:25:10] Ash: Y’all missed me giving Cam the old, hey, Cam, it’s about that time motion.

[00:25:15] Cam: It’s past that.

[00:25:16] Ash: It’s past, usually it’s okay.

[00:25:18] Cam: Yeah.

[00:25:19] Ash: One last thing I’ll say is that I love what you just said about reflective practice. In my opinion, that’s the power of ADHD coaching is partnering in a dedicated time and place with somebody who knows how to facilitate reflective practice, number one. And who, two, knows something about the ADHD experience.

And so as Cam said, we’re not here to sell coaching. I’ve talked a lot about other ways that I engage in reflective practice, reading tarot for myself being one of them, but If it’s something that you struggle with, if it’s a skill set you feel like you don’t have, a coach can be a really powerful ally in teaching you some skills there. Because that’s another thing that happens when I talk about that coaching foundation, that thing where clients start to self-coach, they’re learning by doing that process of sitting down with me every week and reflecting and becoming aware and learning and having new experiences. It’s changing the way that they think. It’s enabling them to pause and have those moments of reflection. To have those pause, disrupt, pivot moments when I’m not in the room.

I think that’s a good place for us to wrap for today. So I’m Ash.

[00:26:45] Cam: I’m Cam.

[00:26:46] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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