Location, location, location

It is often one of the things that coaches arrange without too much thought- but the location you choose for a coaching session may well make a significant impact on the success of the session.
Frequently the coaching location is influenced by the coaching sponsor- with the use of the organisation’s premises providing a convenient solution for the sponsor as it will reduce costs and also save time as there will be little or no travel time for the clients being coached.

However, as a coach think about how the location may be perceived by the client – if you are using the organisation’s own premises will they perceive you as “part” of the organisational power and therefore be inhibited in disclosing matters or engaging?

Sometimes changing a location can actually generate a freedom of thought and engagement that was inhibited by using a location that a client is very familiar with or in which they have to maintain a particular façade.

When selecting a coaching location, here are some of the factors to bear in mind:

  • Privacy- bear in mind that confidentiality is the crux for a successful coaching relationship. Make sure that the room selection demonstrates that confidentiality has even been considered in the choice of the location – are the walls thick enough to avoid audio leakage? What about visibility – a lot of trendy modern offices now have “glass” walls – unlikely to instil confidence in sharing visual ideas etc. Make sure that you are going to be uninterrupted- also remember to switch off your mobile and ask your client to do the same.
  • Neutral Territory- even if you have to use accommodation provided by the coaching sponsor, think about what you can do to demonstrate to the client that this is “neutral” territory. This could be done as part of your contracting discussions- but also think about the room set up –can you rearrange the furniture- what about where you and the client will sit? Avoid using the client’s own office- this is frequently an environment where the client is prone to distractions and interruptions.
  • Be Adventurous- do not be afraid to offer a different venue- coffee shops or even taking advantage of the great outdoors. One of the most productive sessions for one of my supervisees came from recognising that the office environment was causing the client stress that say and thus they went for a quick stroll outside – this led to the revelation for the client that the cause of his stress was the office not his own behaviour and actions- and he came up with an action plan to resolve this.
  • Comfortable- make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature and well lit. Is the seating comfortable enough – but not too comfortable?
  • Access- again this links back to confidentiality – is the “corridor” access to the room such that it will actually reveal who is attending as a client? If there are no alternative options, think about how the coaching sessions will be pitched to everybody in the organisation- do it in such a way that it diminishes any stigma or presumptions that people may make.
  • Technology considerations- if you are going to use technology –make that there are plug sockets or anything else that your gadget may need (e.g. internet access). I would suggest that ideally you should aim to be self-sufficient and have a coaching toolkit that has all the necessary stocks and supplies that you may need- that could include investing in a dongle or mobile broadband access device or a device with built in internet access. Even if you use something as simple as pens and flip charts – if it is an open view room you are using, you may need to rethink how to approach the session. Above all else, whatever technological aids you use- always check that they are working BEFORE the session and have a back-up plan in case there is a technological malfunction.
  • Organisational Rules- if you are using the sponsor’s premises, make sure that you familiarise yourself with any rules or protocols that have to be observed. It could even be as simple as checking what the dress code is or when fire alarm tests are scheduled!
  • Planning – make sure that you plan out the travel time and familiarise yourself with the location in advance. Get there early. Make sure there is a point of contact so that you can direct any queries or raise any issues with them.
  • Refreshments- think about whether there needs to be tea, coffee, water on offer. If this is going to be a full day session for you – think about what you will do for lunch. Also check out where the restrooms are!

Martin Hill LL.B (Hons), FInstLM, AMAC, EMCC Member, Coach &Coach Supervisor
Faculty Member
Programme Director for ILM 7 Coaching & Mentoring Courses
British School of Coaching

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