A Change in Plans

By Joanna Chmura


Maria moved from Western Europe to Eastern Europe with her husband and their dog. In her home country, she worked full-time in the jewelry industry, and although she decided that her stay in Eastern Europe would be her sabbatical, she stays in touch with her former employer and does a bit of work for him once a week.


Moving to Eastern Europe was quite a challenge for Maria and her husband as they had never before

lived outside their home country. They decided, though, to take this opportunity as a great adventure, explore, and get to know a new region and culture.


For their first meeting, REA coach Joanna planned to learn about Maria’s values, share and manage expectations, and build trust. She also wanted to assess their ability to collaborate successfully and become partners in the coaching process.

Focused on doing everything “just right” and in her client’s best interest, Joanna went to the meeting prepared with practical guidance, information about local resources, and answers to her client’s possible questions. Excited and a bit anxious, Joanna introduced herself, shook hands with her client and, in an effort to make Maria comfortable, began to outline her plan for the meeting. However, as she continued her explanation, Joanna noticed that, although the client nodded actively, she was becoming less and less enthusiastic.

Joanna’s intuition told her that they might have different expectations for this important first meeting. She asked Maria if everything was all right and encouraged her to be candid. She let Maria know that the client is the most important part of the coaching process and that she wanted Maria’s input. Maria answered with some hesitation that she thought that this first meeting would be about “getting to know each other” rather than objectives and goals, and that she was on sabbatical and didn’t yet know what she wanted to do.

The REA coach realized that she needed to make a change in her plan, and quickly cleared the table of calendars, notes, and notepads—everything but the coffee and tea. She listened as Maria told her about her home country, the move, the house she was renting, and her new neighborhood. Joanna asked a few questions but mainly listened as Maria shared her story. They talked for two hours and, because both felt the time was too short, continued to exchange emails after the meeting. The meeting, though different from the one that was planned, provided resources for Maria and helped Joanna better understand Maria’s needs.


After this meeting the REA coach sent an email summarizing their first meeting and outlining the proposed coaching plan. When Maria received the summary she replied, “Wow to your email, a fantastic summary of our discussion! I will give it all some thought and email you again with a better and longer response.”

Thanks to this shift in her approach, her intuitive ability and willingness to listen, the REA coach was able to begin a productive coaching adventure with her client. The coach is confident that she is meeting her client’s needs, and Maria is assured that the coaching process is dedicated to her and that she can have a great influence on how it moves forward.