Momentum in Coaching


April 24, 2013

Newton's CradleA former coaching client—no names please—struggled with choosing actions that he actually was willing to accomplish. No matter what action he considered, he could talk himself out of actually acting on it. The plan could make all the sense in the world, but my creative client was able to brainstorm all kinds of reasons why he shouldn’t actually move on the plan. Good plans or bad, it wasn’t long before the momentum fell away.

Maybe you’ve worked with a client like this, or a client that struggles with momentum in accomplishing their action plans. More often than not, a loss of momentum is the first step toward inaction. So, watching the momentum in coaching can be a great predictor of what a client will do, and what they won’t. Let’s ask the bold question: Where’s the momentum in your coaching relationships?

Momentum is a funny thing…we’re not talking about physical momentum, like in this video about momentum. Really what we’re describing is that sense in a coaching conversation where you know the client is going to accomplish whatever they commit to. Choosing actions becomes easier, and they seem to happen with minimal activity/effort in the relationship. It’s not the same as buy in to the purpose of the relationship, but momentum is definitely and outgrowth of being fully bought in.

With buy in, momentum is forward momentum. Without buy in, momentum can easily become backwards. The best coaches constantly find ways to supply forward momentum for their client. More accurately, the coach doesn’t supply it, but rather the coach fosters momentum growth in the relationship. Trust and mutual commitment to the relationship are the building blocks. The client must be making progress toward their vision, with the coach going along for the ride.

Think about our working definition of coaching: “a relationship with a purpose, focused on facilitating change.” It’s fair to say that if nothing is changing, you’re probably not coaching-at least not very well. So the first evaluation of momentum in your coaching is “What’s changing?” Forward momentum grows when you’re changing the thing that the client picked out. You can’t just change anything willy-nilly, you’ve got to be working on changing the thing that the client chooses.

So any momentum in your coaching conversation has to be moving toward the destination or vision that the client picked out. How do you do that? One is by constantly checking with your client, “Are we making progress toward the thing(s) you want to accomplish?"

If the answer is “Yes” to this question, you got forward momentum. If the answer is “No”, you probably don’t. If the answer is “I’m not sure”, you probably need a little time to evaluate the action steps your relationship is generating to see if they’re taking the client where they want to go. All of those situations are coachable, and an effective coach will consistently leverage questions and action steps are the best way to measure your forward momentum.

You even have an opportunity to leverage negative momentum or backwards momentum into something positive. Think about Frederick Vester’s idea of energy transformation and Wikipedia. Vester argues that any—positive or negative—momentum can be leveraged toward the preferred outcome. Powerful coaching question can be a great way to route any momentum toward the preferred outcome.

So what’s the current state of momentum in your coaching relationships? What questions can you ask to route that momentum toward the preferred destination? How can you use questions to add momentum to your relationships?

Got a strategy you like? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

For more from Jonathan Reitz, please click here.

Jonathan ReitzJonathan Reitz has a number of impressive titles at CoachNet Global (Chairman/CEO/Guy with Coffee).  Jonathan has been coaching since 1996 and has worked with over 500 clients in the church, the non-profit sector and the business world. 

  “Coaching plays a part in the kind of leadership the world needs,” says Jonathan Reitz.  “I want to be a part of that.”

For a daily coaching question from Jonathan Reitz, follow him on Twitter @jonathanreitz  Or, you can email hime at or by phone at 440.550.4374.

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