PhD in Business and Organizational Management

Coaching on the fast track when things slow down

Two current challenges 

  1. Coaching business has slowed down lately. Clients and organizations are breaking away even if it is precisely in disruptive times that coaching has proven to be THE tool to thrive.
  2. When it comes to hiring executive coaches, we keep hearing from HR, executives, and coaching program providers that they crave:
  • More consistent delivery of high-value results that make an impact
  • Coaches that can build rapport quickly so that clients experience better results faster
  • Coaches that can help clients overcome more complex challenges.

In this article, we will explore specific ideas how to tackle these issues. We address the question: What is the right level of speed when it comes to generating fast impact and grow your business? 

A possible cose at hand

Let’s assume you have a potential client that responds vaguely to your question, “What would you like to work on?”. How could you move on effectively? 

How would you suggest to move on to create fast impact for your client and your business?

An emerging trend in coaching

We can perceive an emerging trend in coaching: coaches are craving to showcase fast impact and win clients. This is understandable, and we can state with confidence that you too will feel the need to know how to

  • Make money from coaching, preferably by charging what your coaching is worth
  • Create impact quickly to get referrals through word-of-mouth
  • Show the value of coaching to prospective clients
  • Handle even the most complex coaching situations with confidence 
  • Differentiate your coaching services from your peers 

We understand that accelerating our coaching impact is critical today. Yet, what if we slowed down to wonder, “Hey, what moves the needle for us coaches right now?”

For sure, a) our coaching business is slowing down in what we perceive to be disruptive times, and b) the coaching landscape is competitive filled with practitioners. 

But, what if accelerating our coaching impact is to do with our attitude to our practice rather than times being disruptive? What if our success is to do with the level of quality of our coaching rather than speed? What if speed is to do with ‘getting the word about our impact out there’ to potential clients? 

Shifting paradigms

  1. Let’s assume that accelerating our coaching impact is to do with resourcing the exact signals of when to accelerate or decelerate how to coach.
  2. Let’s assume that most coaches are trustworthy, phenomenal listeners, cultivate a great relationship with clients, and receive positive feedback. And let’s assume that coaches love what they do. Just like you.

These assumptions imply that paradigms shift as a key pressing question emerges: How do you master high or low speed in coaching?

What do client organizations value?

Organizations value coaches that 

  • constantly work on themselves to deal with the complex issues that cripple workplaces today,
  • are resilient because resilient coaches are able to empathize with clients who grapple with complexity, and
  • are smarter than leaders themselves. 

Organizations do not need nice, charming, warm and friendly coaches, as not all nice, charming, warm and friendly coaches are good coaches. Organizations are aware that good coaches give sufficient thought to elevating their clients’ learning searching for that impact through continuous training. 

What is that to do with speed in coaching?

Speed for speed’s sake will not do the trick as you cannot become faster without raising your game to add value quickly. You cannot raise your game in coaching clients for complex and emerging challenges without staying ahead of those that you coach and the pace of change. 

While it is true that time is money and that the most valuable asset leaders crave is time, and hence generating greater value per minute hitting the ground running might sound like a good option to be a good coach, but is that what it takes to raise your game and create greater impact to meet clients’ needs? 

Slowing down to find your focus

Much in line with Daniel Kahneman’s work ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ (2011), to generate greater impact per minute as a coach, you need to slow down to find your focus, which means looking out for signals that suggest to you when to go faster. Some signals may be that

  • Client rushes in with an urgent issue
  • Client asks a lot of irrelevant questions
  • Client is ruminating or repeating the same ideas
  • Client indicates they might get interrupted in the session with you 
  • Client cannot see the value of something you think is so critical
  • You ask client for a lot of context that you do not need
  • You realize that you work harder than your client
  • You ask questions that inform you but do not add direct value to the client
  • You ask about past events without any implication for your specific session
  • There is low energy in your session.

The above signals indicate that you are not focused. You are not in your groove. You need to move on faster to where the client has energy, which will create the focus necessary to get to the real coaching done faster. They indicate that you need to become attentive (i.e., ‘Where is my client right now?’) in a purposeful way.

Focusing on identifying where the client has energy is where speed in your coaching kicks in. 

Speeding up your coaching impact

The more confident and comfortable you feel in your skin in dealing with these signals, the faster your coaching impact and the higher the revenue you can generate. Finding your groove may be THE gateway to standing out. It may be the value of being a great coach.

Of course, there is a good time to slow down to explore an issue in-depth too. For instance, when clients give a superficial answer to a question you ask, you may need to slow down to explore what is underneath the surface. 

However, speeding up your coaching impact is the outcome of being thoughtful about the thing that matters any given moment. It is not the outcome you expect to generate but the outcome that is important for your client, which may be two different things. For instance, you may believe that exploring your client’s question maybe the impact needed when actually what matters to your client is that they feel simply seen a person, an outcome you cannot achieve without finding your focus. 

The risk of not finding your focus

However, not focusing on how to get to the heart of the coaching matter fast to spend more time on going deep and to get more coaching done in less time, you risk missing the client, which eventually leads to losing business.

Speed up to slow down to go better

Accelerating your coaching impact is not about coaching faster per minute. Accelerated coaching impact does not come from speed. Rather, it is an outcome per se. Accelerated coaching impact is about how you combine different elements and factors that emerge in a coaching situation – it is deep attention and care coupled with patience and the capability to bring seeminlgy disparate parts together in one whole. 

The No 1 question to find your groove

Ask yourself always: 

“What is the most valuable thing – for the client – I can do right now to move forward?”

This question is powerful. It helps you stay grounded. You are fast in that you are strategic in how you use your time efficiently to create the greatest possible value for the time invested. 

For instance, instead of being eager to be helpful when a client comes to a session eager to get a solution to their issue, start being more engaged with their big rush into the session and the eagerness that emanates from your client to get past the superficial (i.e., ‘This is on my mind now.’) and find your groove to focus on the long-term goal rather than the ‘I need this now’ urge. Pay attention to how you eagerly adopt the energy your client brings into the coaching room and be fast to go past ending up in a parallel process with your client (Day, 2010).

Five DON’Ts to accelerate your impact 

  • Don’t ask “What have you tried before?”, as all that you will get are points that do not work;
  • Don’t ask for context or details, as they can fill in as needed;
  • Don’t ask questions just because you are curious, or you believe ‘it might be helpful’: your client educating you does not add value for the client;
  • Don’t be seduced by easy wins. Play the long game: what is the greatest value for the client in the long run;
  • Don’t state observations but formulate questions that embed the observation: “Given that you are .., what can you do next?”: this approach propels you to the next phase of the conversation. 

Start now!

Give yourself the gift of how to accelerate your coaching impact: slow down to practice the following steps to move faster. You can put these ideas to work right away: 

  • Eliminate long intake conversations; just start coaching. Let the client fill in the details as necessary. 
  • Gain clients’ trust by being focused on their needs rather than on what you want to get out of the coaching: this means getting to work faster on things that matter to clients rather than bringing your own agenda and being pushy.
  • Coach instead of explaining what coaching is about. Tell the client, “I’d rather do something meaningful for you right now.”
  • If clients do not know what to work on, you can ask, “What are you most frustrated with at work right now? What is the most difficult thing for you to do?”

AND, think twice: are you speeding ahead for speed’s sake? The right level of speed when it comes to generating fast impact and grow your business lies in finding your focus and groove rather than generating faster coaching per minute. 

A possible answer to the coaching case above:

Think of this: what if you restated your question asking it again in a different way, and if necessary asking it yet again in a different way, so that you can guide your client in how to get their laundry out of the way?


Day, A. (2010). Coaching at relational depth. A case study. The Journal of Management Development, 29(10), pp. 864-876.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4299-6935-2