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I’m Dr. Moira. I’m a college professor, instructor, coach, and passionate mentor to health coaches around the world. But I haven’t always been that confident and committed to my coaching career. I was hesitant to take the next step and wasn’t sure what the best approach was to success and fulfillment. I decided to step into my passion and purpose of guiding health coaches on their journey from hesitant health coach to committed health coach,
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Welcome back to our podcast series on communication. At long last, we are here at the end of the month. We have talked about everything from questions to affirmations. Last week, we talked about reflections and if you’ve been following along, you know, that we are working on our Motivational Interviewing OARS as a foundation for the conversation about communication that we’ve been having.
And so, we are now to the S of OARS, which is summaries.
Summaries are a wonderful technique to use, but I think often forgotten in the rush of time. So last week we talked about reflections and the fact that reflections really honor our client’s time, because what we’re doing is showing that we are in the moment we are there with them. And by reflecting, we can highlight what the client is saying, show that we’re listening and really help them to gain more, understanding more insights into what it is they’re thinking and feeling and what they want to accomplish. So where do summaries fit into this pattern of communication?
Summaries are a form of reflection. However, they are more like a paragraph. So, when you took writing back in grade school, middle school, high school, college, whenever you took writing classes, you were probably instructed on some kind of five paragraph essay where you had an introductory paragraph, you had three paragraphs of content, and then you had a closing paragraph. Okay.
The opening paragraph, in the five-paragraph essay format, was all about where are we headed. What do we already know? And what are we going to be doing? And this concept holds true in the coaching setting as well. What we learned in communicating in a writing format carries over into our coaching conversations in a really cool way, because with that opening summary, when you sit down with a client for a session, you welcome them. You offer that warm welcome, and as you sit down to talk an opening summary sets the stage. It will help the client to remember what you talked about in the previous session. And also, what to expect from this session. You can offer options. You can summarize what they’ve talked about in the past, and then really think about how that plays a role in where they want to use their time today. So that’s that opening summary. It is truly about setting the stage, just like in that five-paragraph essay.
It’s that first paragraph of that five-paragraph essay. Summaries, paragraph style, lots of reflections all in one place, they are affirming to the client, just like a regular reflection because it shows the client that you remembered what they said. You were able to think about that, you were able to integrate it into your understanding of the client, and they got the chance to hear their ideas back. And if you’ve highlighted it, it also gives them a little bit of confidence that what they’re saying is meaningful in a world where we move fast, we rarely take time to slow down and acknowledge what others are saying.
An opening summary to your coaching conversation starts everything off in a positive light. It allows for more confidence, more trust, more comfort with the client. And it increases our client’s willingness to jump into that conversation as a full partner, because now they can offer, you know, what happened this week, based on the summary you offered, maybe you reviewed their goals from the previous week and they can say, yes, this is what happened. Or man, this week really fell apart. I don’t know where to go from here. And I’m hoping we can use some of our time to talk about that.
When you have the beauty of an opening summary, you start to realize, whoa, if it’s that powerful at the beginning of a session, I wonder where else it fits. And one of the ways I like to think about summaries. We have the opening summary. Let me talk about the closing summary. And then we’ll talk about what are those three middle paragraphs in that essay that I was talking about?
The closing paragraph of a five-paragraph essay is all about a summary. You are talking about the key points that you covered in your five paragraphs or in this case, the four preceding paragraphs. You’re talking about what you covered, what are those conclusions? And, you know, in some cases, what are the next steps? If you’re talking about research, what are the next research steps? If you’re talking about where things need to go, you’re highlighting that in your closing paragraph, in that essay and a closing summary operates in the same way.
It operates in that fashion where you share with the client, the key points you’ve talked about in your session, because remember they’re in the moment they may or may not notice all the things that they did during that session.
How many times have you looked back on your year and thought, man, I didn’t get very far until someone says, well, in January, you did this in February, you had that happen. And March you did this, and April and they keep going and suddenly you look at them and you say, oh, who did something? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that to my husband, Nate. And he sits there and lists off the things that I’ve accomplished. Our son has accomplished when we’re doubting where we’ve come from. And this closing summary gives you that opportunity to highlight the progress, highlight those important breakthroughs, those a-ha moments, and then sends the client out into the world with an affirmation.
Not only is the summary itself affirming, but you can also add an affirmation that helps them think, wow, I have this strength and I’m going to go use it now to accomplish my goal for the week so that I can get closer and closer to that vision of where I want to be with my health and wellbeing. So that final paragraph of the five paragraph is that closing it is a highlight of the important or key points from the discussion, next steps, and an affirmation.
So now we’ve got our five-paragraph essay once more. We have our opening; we know exactly why that’s important. It sets the stage for everything. And we know that the closing summary is important because it’s wrapping everything up and it’s sending our client out into the world with that positive momentum to make their goals happen.
But what about those three middle paragraphs? I don’t know about you, but in our homeschool life, we have been working on writing cohesively. And so those, the middle paragraphs get tricky, right? Because it’s easy to get lost in the flow of things. And sometimes you wander down a rabbit hole. Sometimes your writing and thoughts take a completely different path than you would have expected.
It doesn’t really fit together. The summaries in the middle of those kind of the body of the essay, those summaries that you might include in the coaching conversation throughout the session are going to be a way to move from one topic area to the next topic area. You can offer those summarizing points, those key points of what you’ve been talking about and offer guidance to shift gears. “Now, with this in mind, it sounds like you’d like to talk about”, and so you can then offer that client, the momentum to keep moving the conversation forward but without it feeling like you’re being whipped around without any warning.
It’s akin when you’re in the car and you have your car’s navigation system running, or maybe it’s on your phone, it’s on my phone. I don’t have a car with nav, but it tells you in 0.3 miles, you’re going to turn right onto Smith Street and 0.1 mile you’re going to turn right on to Smith Street, TURN RIGHT onto Smith Street. It gives you warning. So those summaries in the middle are a nice way to offer that same kind of navigation warning so that you’re not turning the corner and your client is still sitting there going, “What just happened? I had no idea we were shifting.”
Those middle of the session summaries are just as important. Now, sometimes if you are not truly focused, if you’re not truly in the moment, it is very difficult to offer these summaries because you’re thinking ahead.
If you’re thinking ahead, you’re not paying attention to that progression of how the conversation is moving. But once you really focus on how the conversation is moving, you can make that transition through a summary into that next step. It’s like when I talk with coaches about their vision, we don’t start with the vision. We start with their values. Tell me a little bit about what you value. Okay. And how are we going to grow on those values? And we talk about what the values mean, how they operate in their life. Okay. Now let’s, with these values in mind, let’s think about how they grow and build your vision for your business. But we don’t have that conversation without a summary in the middle.
We don’t go from values to business vision without any kind of warning. If you think about a toddler who’s playing on the floor probably very intently with something. And then you say, “let’s go to the store” without any warning. What happens? They melt down. They get confused because they didn’t have any warning. They didn’t know where we were headed, why that changed, what happened?
Those middle of the session summaries are easy to forget. You know, think about being that toddler parent. And you’re like, “whoa, I’m late. I need to get going”. And so, you just tell your toddler, “it’s time to go. Let’s go get your shoes”. Or, you know, “come with mommy”. And the meltdown happens because there wasn’t warning what we forget in our sessions to take time for these summaries as well. That’s the key. We have to remember them.
It’s not just about an opening and closing summary. Those are vital. They’re essential, but so are the summaries that you’re going to find in the middle. When you are offering summaries along the way, here’s the other thing that happens. Not only does it keep your client on track, it keeps you as the coach on track and it keeps you engaged and it keeps you focused so that when you get to the closing summary, you have summarized at least once along the way. It’s easier to pull out those key points in the moment. Now what happens if you’re like me and you are worried about being able to remember the key points simply because you’re just so in the moment and maybe when you’re like that, you don’t always remember those key points, or you can’t put them into words right away. Well, one trick is to just jot down a key term. If your client is talking about adding rowing to their exercise routine, you write down “rowing”, not “client wants to add rowing to their exercise routine”. You’re just writing, “rowing”. And that should be enough. If you are completely focused on the conversation, that should be enough to help you craft that closing summary when you get there. When you get to the end of the essay, when you get to the end of your session.
If you think about summaries, in terms of that five-paragraph essay, where you have an opening summary, you have a closing summary, you have the opening summary to set the stage. What do we already know? Where are we headed? We have that closing summary to say, here are the things that we’ve done. Here’s where we’ve been. And here’s where we’re headed, right? Because they’re going out into the world. So where are they headed? And then you have the middle where we say,
Hey, turn right in 0.3 miles. We have those moments where we shift from topic to topic in the midst of the session, where we offer a summary of where we’ve been and now we’re going. The key with all of this is just to remember, to slow down enough for summaries. You may feel like they are a waste of time.
You may you feel like you don’t have enough time. But my question to you Is do you have enough time to not do this? This is going to focus the conversation. It brings a lot of cohesion to the conversation. It brings direction. It brings an open, welcoming component to the conversation. It brings trust. It brings all these things to the conversation. My question is, do you really have time not to summarize?
It just takes a minute. It just takes a minute. Think this week about where you want to add in some summaries, if you’re actively coaching great add them in. If you are not that’s okay. Add them into your conversations at home. After you have a discussion about what the weekly chores are going to be, or the breakdown of what’s happening, summarize it, give it a whirl, see what it’s like, see how you can make, make it more effective. Okay?
You may have noticed at the beginning of this podcast, I offered you a summary of the month so far. Now we’re at the end and it’s probably time to offer another summary. I’ve been offering little summaries along the way. So let me offer you a closing summary. Today we talked about where we’ve come so far in the month. We ha we started this month with communication in mind, we have talked about all of our OARS from Motivational Interviewing. We talked about open questions, affirmations, reflections, and summaries. And today that was really our focus summaries.
And I compared it to that five-paragraph essay structure, where we have an opening summary that opening paragraph, we have a closing summary that closing paragraph, and then in the middle, we want to offer summaries along the way to keep the client with us so that we are moving in a direction that makes sense for them and we continue to stay focused with our time and effective with our time.
And I left you with a question. I said, do you really have the time not to summarize? So think about that this week. Do you really have the time not to summarize? Or is it worth the minute it might take to offer a summary so that you’re both on the same page? And with that in mind, I am going to ask you to try to offer at least one summary a day in your conversations.
See what it feels like, get that practice in. And I cannot wait to hear how it works for you.
Next month I have something exciting, exceptionally special for you. We are talking all about passion and purpose because on August 10th, I get to sit down with book author, Amy McLaren. Her book is being released on August 10th. It’s Passion to Purpose.
And oh, my goodness, I got a pre-release copy. It is already dog eared. I love it. And I thought this might be a good time to really think about working within and honoring our passion and our purpose. I am going to use her book as inspiration for August. We’re going to talk with Amy on the podcast. It’s going to be fantastic. I am looking forward to it.
Next week, we’re going to start by answering a question that I saw recently in health coach group. And that question was, “why do I need to, why is everyone telling me I need to find my purpose? My purpose is to be a health coach”. And so next week I am going to come back to that question. And I’m also going to challenge you to think about it in the meantime, is that a purpose? What do you think? Is it a purpose? “My purpose is to be a health coach”.
If You’re Coaching Hive member, you probably already know where I’m going with this, and you probably already know some of my thoughts. So we’ll talk about that the first week of August and then August 10th, I’ll sit down with Amy McLaren, author of Passion to Purpose.
Please guys, go ahead and order this. What happens is 100% of the proceeds, and no I’m not making any money off of this, 100% of the proceeds go to support their Village Impact foundation. And it is building a girl’s boarding school in Africa.
What could be better, making sure that girls have the opportunity for education. So go grab it. I can’t wait for my pre-order copy to come. Like I said, I have a pre-release copy that I printed. That’s a PDF that I’m marking up in dog earing, like crazy. It’s got sticky notes galore, and I know that your copy will be the same.
So go check out passiontopurposebook.com to order Amy McLaren’s new book. On her website you will see multiple options for ordering as well as getting the free Passion Planner. If you have multiple copies to order, go ahead and pre-order it on her website. There are some added bonuses that you can’t get any other place.
Beginning on August 2, our Passion to Purpose Book club on Facebook will open and we will have live calls, work through the book together and support one another on the passion path. Are you ready? Feel free to go ahead and join the Passion to Purpose book club that I’m hosting by going to www.facebook.com/groups/coachinghivepassiontopurposebookclub. Is that overwhelming? Check out the link in the show notes and you will be just a click away. The book club is completely free so feel free to bring a friend and join the conversation.
As always, thank you so much for listening. I hope that this series on communication has given you a few ideas not just for your coaching conversations, but for all conversations that you find yourself taking part in. Just simple shifts can make a world of difference in someone’s day.
I’ll see you next week!
Passion to Purpose Book Club Link:
Passion to Purpose Book Website: