How to Coach Thanksgiving (Gratitude, Not the Holiday)

At this time of the year, coaching clients have a pretty narrow focus. Your clients are either 1) focusing on their end of the year goals, or 2) starting to get ready for the holidays. Most people don’t think about much else as the last few months of the year tick by.

For coaches, this is both great thing and a challenge. Creating awareness of what’s actually happening during a potentially stressful season of the year is a great coaching strategy. A great way to steward that awareness is to focus on thanksgiving–I mean gratitude, not the holiday–for a few minutes in each coaching conversation. Over the next few paragraphs, I’m going to suggest five simple methods that can focus your coaching conversations on thankfulness or the practice of thanksgiving.

Each of these strategies begins with a question. The first one is What’s working for you? This is a basic exercise in thanksgiving. As the world gets busier and busier and moves faster and faster, it’s altogether too easy to take our eyes off of everything that’s going according to plan. Every single one of us has been given much to be thankful for, if only we can see it. Starting here roots your client in reality, and reinforces the trust and connection you’ve built with your client.

The second strategy/question is What’s not working for you? This takes a little bit more awareness work, because we’re choosing to start with the proverbial glass half empty. An effective coach will have to re-direct the conversation from deficit to what’s actually present for the client. I think a great Scriptural example is Jesus at the feeding of the 5000. He helps the disciples move from focusing on all the money they don’t have, to focusing on what they do have: five loaves and two fish. You can do the same with your clients.

The third question focuses on What are you learning? Every time a new insight comes for your client, that new awareness changes the way they look at the world. Even if it’s small, your client is now seeing a new slice of what’s in front of them. Changes in perspective naturally lead to thanksgiving or gratitude. Every time you realize something new, you have an opportunity to be grateful.

One of the things that drew me to coaching was the idea that the client already had everything they need to affect their situation. We coaches (and our clients) often struggle to realize how much of a gift that actually is. This leads to the fourth strategy, built around the question What needs to change? If a client can name something that needs to be different in their lives, they have taken the first step toward making that a reality. Celebrate that! A mindset of gratitude flows to directly out of understanding what you need to change.

The last question is What now? Asking your client what action they’re going to take, without expectation or attachment, is where change becomes real, and your clients begin to reap the benefits,. And reaping the benefits is where gratitude goes to a whole new level!

You can act your way into a new way of thinking or think your way into a new way of acting by using these five strategies. But building in a layer of thankfulness or gratitude makes these changes much more likely to stick. At this time of the year, that’s especially easy to do and effective coaches leverage everything they have available to them.

And you know what? I’m thankful for that.

Post Author: Jonathan Reitz, Director of Training/CEO of  CoachNet Global. He is also CoachNet’s primary trainer and the author of most of the training options that CoachNet offers. Jonathan is a member of the Cleveland, Ohio chapter of the International Coach Federation and holds the Professional Certified Coach credential in the ICF.

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