Competent ADHD Coach Explores Choices and Invites Action

by Linda Walker

The PAAC ADHD Coaching Competency, “Explores choices and invites action,” makes some important distinctions from the ICF competency Designing actions. As ADHD Coaches, we help our clients succeed when we embrace and address their challenges with reinforcing new awareness, specifying the when, where and how of their mission, prioritizing and managing obstacles.

Competent ADHD Coaches help their clients explore options and not only embrace, but acknowledge and reinforce their clients’ new awareness. Our clients don’t always pay attention to their progress; instead they notice where they’re stuck and what they haven’t achieved. At times they may become aware of how they function but not make the leap to understanding how they can apply their new awareness in their lives. The competent ADHD Coach reinforces their new awareness and explores with the client how they can apply it in their lives.

Clients with ADHD Need to Identify Specific Actions
Another tendency with our ADHD clients is for them to decide to take some “generic action” such as organizing their desk or planning their week in their agenda, without really being clear on how they’ll accomplish it. As coaches, we need to help them specify when, where and how they’ll accomplish these projects (they are not tasks); otherwise, they’ll struggle to take action and feel as though they have failed.

We may also help them gain momentum by encouraging them to take immediate action. This allows them to immediately focus on implementing the session’s plan of action and to begin to achieve quick wins they can use as springboards to other actions.

Prioritizing Is Key to ADHD Clients
ADHD affects a person’s ability to prioritize. In fact, for some of our clients, their biggest issue is that they want to do too much, much more than is humanly possible – in this case, we can help our clients succeed by identifying key projects that will have the biggest impact now (what I call “low hanging fruit”) and what actions they can take immediately to progress in these projects – and to park the rest until they can move their attention to them.

ADHD also affects our clients’ ability to estimate time, which creates challenges with unrealistic expectations. These expectations are often the reason they carry an endless to-do list that includes every task they’ve procrastinated over the last five to ten years. We must ensure our clients commit to their tasks in their agenda, allowing them to be more realistic about what can be and cannot be done in the 168 hours they have each week.

Overcoming Obstacles
In your ADHD Coach training, you’ve been told to avoid delving into the past; however, there are times when it’s very helpful to tap into our clients’ past intuition, wisdom and life experience to solve today’s challenges. ADHD clients don’t always make the link between their current situation at work and past situations in school where their intuition served them well and its solution can be used as a framework for resolving challenges in the present situation. If no resolutions “pop,” we can truly increase their buy-in and commitment to new solutions when we co-create these with our clients, using brainstorming and other tools.

We wouldn’t help our clients if we didn’t take time to explore the obstacles that might impede their progress. Most are obstacles they’ve already encountered in the past. When we take the time to identify these obstacles with our clients and to formulate if… then… statements that prepare them to manage each obstacle as it presents itself, we increase the likelihood they’ll succeed.

There are many ways in which competent ADHD Coaches help their client explore choices and invite action. Like all coaches, we help create opportunities for new and ongoing learning, for taking new actions, for exploring alternative solutions, for applying new learning quickly and making decisions. We also must address many of their ADHD challenges by reinforcing new awareness, by clarifying with them the details of when, where and how they’ll take agreed-upon actions and by helping them prioritize and formulate solutions to their recurrent obstacles, paving the way to success.