Top Menu

Are you taking note?

Are You Taking Note?

 Boring?  At first glance, the topic of note taking may seem to be one of the more mundane items to cover in a blog post on coaching. I beg to differ, and propose that it actually offers an abundance of insight as to what might be going on ‘between the lines’ (no pun intended) during a coaching session.

Whether you are noting things during a session or afterward, try to focus on not only what’s “on the surface”, but also what’s “under the surface”.

I believe that in every conversation, fascinating things are unfolding front of our very eyes… if we only look beyond the obvious. For example, imagine that you find yourself tired or bored at a certain point during a coaching conversation.  What might be causing this?  Is it the topic itself, or your’ coachee’s style of communication, or perhaps there is too much detail?  Or is it you? Are you as coach not in a curious frame of mind? Does your coachee’s behavior remind you of someone else?  And most importantly, should you interrupt your coachee and share what you are feeling, and explore why it is so? Does this person perhaps have a similar impact on others, and can this actually be a learning moment for you both?

Below you can find some things one might take note of while coaching:

On the Surface

  • General: what the coachee says
  • Language:  actual quotes, terms, names, adjectives/adverbs, acronyms, etc.
  • Ideas: be their scribe while they are brainstorming, as your questions may get them thinking so hard that if they start noting down their own ideas, this may interrupt the creative process!  Some typical topics include:

–       Why someone at the office might have behaved in a particular way

–       What others might be feeling when the coachee displays a certain behavior

–       The qualities of the ideal job

–       Pros and cons of implementing a certain solution

–       Possible causes of or solutions to a challenge

–       Etc.

Under the Surface

  • Observations of silences, body language, facial expressions, voice tone, volume changes, feelings, etc.
  • Connections that you as coach are making between apparently separate events
  • Themes emerging in your mind – often abstract similarities that connect different stories
  • Observations of behaviors that support or contradict themes discussed
  • Feelings that emerge in you as coach while in the presence of the coachee, and possible reasons for these
  • Observations of the relationship developing between the two of you


I do take notes during my coaching sessions and I have found that by focusing on these two dimensions, there are major benefits for both my coachee and myself:


  • Coachees often appreciate the fact that I have recorded the explicit, as it gives them the space to simply think and create.
  • Looking down to note something from time-to-time can give a coachee a break from being ‘observed’ or looked at.
  • It makes me a better listener. I was worried that the notetaking would be distracting to my coachees, but I found the opposite to be true. By taking notes while we talk (and looking them in the eyes when I’m not writing), coachees can tell that I’m really listening to them — not just pretending.
  • I find that coachees appreciate having the thoughts that they’ve generated read back to them from time-to-time.
  • I review my notes in preparation for the next session, and coachees appreciate my ‘good memory’ of the details.


If we coaches can capture what is going on under the surface, and share as we see fit, well this is the stuff of great coaching!

Julie Johnson, CSA Accredited supervisor