I walked into one of the big hotels near the railway station, to shelter from the rain. It is a hotel that I know is used for high level meetings and executive coaching, the coffee is expensive, and the surroundings are spacious; a very grand hotel in days gone by.
I know the coffee house is often used for coaching conversations and, sometimes, deeply personal discussions. It is the meeting place of a senior slice of the public sector management strata, the who’s who and the who knows who.
Standing at the entrance of the coffee house restaurant checking out how wet I really was I looked around and could see 1-2-1 meetings where people were deep in conversation; many of them looked up to see who I was. My presence distracted some for a short while and then people began again to immerse themselves in their conversations only to be distracted again when somebody else entered the room.
It took me back to the times when I’d been asked to carry out coaching in these settings……
Executive coaching is such a personal and powerful experience which is why, I personally do not coach in coffee houses. The power of the coaching relationship is vital, it can be ruptured easily and can be contaminated by unforeseen events.
Imagine you were in a coaching conversation, psychologically connected to the other and somebody came up to you and said “hello”. Does that help you focus and continue your conversation? Imagine coaching, and not being present, because you do not know who is watching or listening.
Being present is so important in coaching conversations. How can we really and truly be present, and share some of our vulnerabilities and inner worlds with the coach, and share them with ourselves if we are constantly distracted and unsure of who else may be coming into the room?
The coaching conversation is significantly disrupted if the coach is distracted by people entering or leaving the room in their wider field of vision, or if the coachee cannot freely talk without fear of being interrupted.
Who else might be looking, and maybe making notes in the room? I have known people to actively go to public places like this to find a story and to attempt to deliberately overhear conversations. I know of one case where a café was visited by a journalist and the issue being discussed ended up in a national newspaper. In another case, a member of the public who by chance had been having breakfast and overheard the conversation, reported back to the official commissioning body of the hospital services discussed in question.
Confidentiality and privacy are so important in coaching conversations. Coaching is a powerful psychological contract, so if you value the contract find somewhere private to talk (and you don’t want to use a digital platform or telephone), if you have no private meeting space to use in the office I would invite coaches to think about paying for a space or place to use for coaching, your coachee is worth it!