I am fascinated by Agenda Setting. It’s a weird habit of mine to get excited about things that seem mundane. My hope in this article is to pass on some of my enthusiasm for fully exploring agenda setting to you.
What draws me to Agenda Setting is its power to set the tone for so many elements in coaching. Agenda Setting:
- Sets expectations for how each individual session will work.
- Informs a client on what to expect from his or her coach.
- Influences the nature of the relationship between coach and client.
The impact of agenda setting can be felt throughout a coach-client relationship. Therefore cultivating the skill of establishing a coaching agreement for each session is critical to a coach’s development. The basic steps of agenda setting are:
- Identify the topic of the session
- Help a client determine a measurable outcome for the conversation
- Confirm the agenda with the client.
If a coach becomes familiar with these fundamentals of agenda setting, they will serve their clients well. However, the exciting stuff happens when coaches decide to go deeper by fully exploring coaching agendas with their clients.
From Face-Value to Fully Exploring
Here is a good rule of thumb for coaching: “Never accept Agendas or Action Steps at face value.” Coaches help clients go beyond the easy answer. Instead of accepting the initial, surface agenda topic, a good coach will probe deeper to help the client voice the important parts of the topic. Below are some examples:
- “I would like to talk about procrastination.” may become “I really need to talk about how to improve the situation between me and the Chemistry teacher.” What makes the difference? Questions such as:
- “What makes this topic of procrastination top of your mind today?” (Chemistry class experience)
- “What about this class do you find most challenging?” (Dealing with the lack of information from the teacher)
- “How does this situation with your teacher relate to your procrastination?” (I feel like my teacher could care less if I pass or not. Other teachers take more time with me, but this teacher doesn’t, so I guess I think ‘Why bother?’)
- “As I am starting this new business venture I have so many challenges ahead of me. I need to know what to do with them all.” transforms into “What I need most is a plan for what to do this next month with the initial marketing plan.”
- “What part or parts of the business venture feel most challenging right now?”
- “If we could only focus on one thing with this session, which topic would have the most impact?”
- “What makes the marketing plan so important for the next few weeks?
In each of these examples, the student or client brought a topic that was either too vague or too much for a solid 30-60 minute coaching session. Addressing the basics of procrastination in the student’s life in general would not serve that student as well as looking at the cause of procrastination in the Chemistry class. Trying to resolve challenges with every part of the business plan is too much for a single session, and many parts of the business plan may not be a problem at all. We cannot know any of these things about the surface agenda without digging with some powerful questions before the coaching really begins.
Saving TIME in Fully Exploring Agendas
When discussing agenda setting, some respond with the concern that they don’t have enough time in their sessions to pursue the topics in-depth before getting into the conversation. We do more meaningful work when fully exploring agendas.
One way to help save time in your agenda setting might be to practice TIME:
T – TOPIC: Start with the Topic
What is the topic for this session?
I – IMPORTANCE: Identify the Importance
What makes this topic important to the client today?
With a bigger agenda, what part does the client want to focus on most?
M – MEASURE: Make It Measurable
What is the practical outcome for this session?
How measurable is this outcome?
E – ECHO: Establish It with an Echo
Was the agenda paraphrased and confirmed with a clear “Yes” from the client?
Following these four steps consistently in your agenda setting will make it more automatic allowing your client to commit to a deeper, more productive agenda for each session. Please leave your thoughts or questions about agenda setting here. It really is a fascinating topic!