Deadlines in Your Coaching

By Jonathan Reitz

January 2, 2015

One thing that is fascinating about being a coach, and working with coaches, is the fact that human beings don't make a decision--most of the time--unless they're nudged. What can deadlines do for your coaching?

The nudge can come from an impending deadline, accountability that matters, or even a big picture vision that is tied directly to the current decision. I've seen this time and time again in my coaching.

When a deadline is looming, my client makes choices that otherwise might be out of reach. Even if it's an obvious choice that could've been made weeks ago, the deadline is powerful enough to be the thing that nudges them forward.

How close to the deadline a person can vary greatly from client to client. Some folks need to be absolutely up against the wall. Other folks just need to know that the deadline is looming sometime in the near future. This is something that's important for a coach to know about their client so they can serve them most effectively.

Because of this tendency, coaches can leverage this human tendency to increase effectiveness--or more accurately--the client's effectiveness. How can you build helpful deadlines into your coaching conversations so that your client to action sooner rather than later?

One helpful strategy is to simply ask "How soon do you want this done?" or "What will finishing this do for you and your vision?"

Vision is the most powerful change agent in coaching. If you are working with a client that has a clearly articulated purpose for being coached, it is an advantage for both coach and client to evaluate how every action plan connects to the larger purpose.

In a recent coaching session, my client was envisioning how including a certain assessment in his team development would benefit the team. Every session had built toward developing a skill that the team didn't currently have.

A breakthrough moment came when the client named the skill in a crystal clear description. He knew what it would take to develop the skill, but couldn't name how he would assess the current state of his team member's abilities in this area. That's where the assessment came in. There was a reasonably large time commitment to learning to use the assessment and include it in his team's culture. The financial cost was pretty high as well.

The first coaching question I asked was "What will this information give you as the team leader?" He talked for almost seven minutes listing the benefits.

I followed up with "What reasons can you come up with to NOT learn and use the assessment?" His only hesitation was the cost, but then said "I have the money and the time to do it."

My next question was "How will this help you accomplish the team's purposes?" He had another long list of ways. My final question was "What would keep you from getting trained?" He immediately responded "Nothing. I'm already on the registration site."

The vision motivated him to act. It was powerful.

This kind of vision-related nudge works virtually every time. This particular client ended up choosing a training that started two weeks later, and had his team take the assessment before our next session.

What vision or deadline could you help your clients articulate and embrace in your next coaching session?

 This post appeared originally on   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 for over 10 years 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 him at or by phone at 440.550.4374.

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