Privacy, Passive Listening and Forgotten Headphones

As I write this I am listening, unintentionally, to someone who is obviously in a coaching session.  I should not be able to listen to a coaching session, as privacy is extremely important.

When I sat down (it is a group table) I asked if I could sit.  Shortly thereafter is when I realized this was some sort of coaching/therapy session. Of course today I forgot my headphones (I find it difficult to concentrate normally in fairly packed coffee shops) . Though I am doing my best not to listen, I am hearing enough to know two things about this session –

  1. The coach does not value privacy, obviously.
  2. The coach considers coaching as a series of questions.


Let me address the first and most obvious point – privacy.   It is very important your discussions, your file, your interaction with the coach not only be confidential, but it should also be private.  Confidential means the coach will not share the information about you and your sessions with anyone, except perhaps with another professional and only by making you an anonymous client.  That’s done typically for assistance, clarification, etc.  Yes, coaches have peers and even coaches.  What if you were a coach that coached coaches and didn’t travel in business class.  Wait for it… *

Confidentiality is obviously being broken because I am one of many people privy (in part or in whole) to this conversation. So though they are not actively sharing the information, they are passively sharing to anyone who wants to listen, or is nearby and doesn’t want to listen but just are.

Privacy is the ability to have the session only with the coach.  There is a certain level of comfort you should have when having a session with a coach.  This comfort comes with knowing you are in a one on one, and that you are free to express your ideas – ideas that may be very private to you.  This is why I perform my coaching via video.  My clients can be coached from the comfort of their homes, or their offices.  Being in that setting, instead of being forced to show up at an office creates a zone of comfort and relaxation.  In addition, it reduces the travel time to exactly zero.  An hour of coaching costs you an hour of your time.  Consider that when seeking coaching and comparing prices.  Your time is valuable and should also have a price, not just the coach’s.

20,000 questions

One of the hardest lessons to learn when coaching others is to make it less about questions and more about mindful communication.  Mindful communication may sound like an elusive concept but it’s not.  It’s the kind of communication that allows two people to have a discussion, a guided discussion, while still allowing the client to speak their mind.  Asking a series of questions may work if you’re trying to figure out if the answer is “Bugs Bunny” in a  game of 20 questions.  Or if you’re trying to get to the bottom of a crime scene.  It does not work that way for coaching.  Asking an enormous amount of questions and then delivering an edict is actually not very helpful.


One of the things completely missing from the public session is a goal, not even one.  The point of coaching is not to allow you to air your grievances ala Festivus, indefinitely.   The point is to discover, plan and reach goals – you want something tangible out of this.  If you don’t, you certainly should.  I do.  My very strong goal was to make sure Alchemy For Life was a coaching service that delivered something tangible.


At this Open Air Coaching Session, there are no notes, no paper on either side of the table.  How the participants are going to build on this, let alone remember any of it is beyond me.  It’s nearly impossible to recount what one goes through in a coaching session, whether you are the coach or the client.  When I created my coaching system, I created online notes that both coach and client had access to.  Though I do have private notes for my eyes only, the bulk of our notes are shared – and it looks like  cool chat session so you can see who said what. convo Those notes are accessible at any time by my client, she can log in and have a refresher or equally as valuable – she can respond to something between sessions.  I make it my practice to always have read up on notes before a session, so that I will not waste 20 minutes of the hour by asking ‘how things have gone.’  I expect that my client has kept up with any additional notes, and I will always to the same.  It makes that hour very efficient, and cost effective.



Disclaimer – I did my best not to listen, and only picked up a few things.  I was writing this the entire time, and eventually moved away when a seat opened up at another table.  This was not intended as an Everything Wrong With such and such, but instead a good learning moment that I wanted to share with you.

* A coach in coach that coaches coaches.

About Mark Bradford

Check out Mark's fourth book: Alchemy for Life - Formulas for Success. Mark Bradford developed a system to achieve goals, manage your energy and understand and strengthen your path - it's Alchemy for Life. He writes, coaches and speaks on the subject. For more information, tips and tricks, like Mark Bradford on Facebook, follow Mark Bradford on Twitter. Schedule a 15 minute chat. Articles are posted regularly on AlchemyFor.Life, and LinkedIn.