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Coaching and Support for Executive Functioning

Increasing Understanding

Understanding the impact.


Often the biggest issue which causes people to struggle on without support for "executive functioning" difficulties, to the detriment of their self-esteem, self-confidence, and mental well-being, is that there is no objective comparative measure of "executive functioning".

Sometimes a specific diagnosis such as ADHD can increase awareness of the central role "executive functioning" weaknesses are playing in a person's challenges. For others, a particularly stressful period, or a diagnosable mental health or physical health condition, can exacerbate existing "executive functioning" difficulties to the extent to which they become unmanageable.

Support for Underestimated or Misunderstood Challenges.

Often though clients who seek Coaching and Support for "executive functioning" become increasingly aware that their peers, work colleagues, fellow students, and friends appear to navigate and manage the complexities of daily life more much seamlessly than they do, and are more consistently and efficiently able to take actions to support core personal and professional goals.

Furthermore "executive functioning" challenges are often not explicitly linked to intelligence, or IQ, so the fact that clients often have a demonstrable track-record of success in academic, vocational, or professional qualifications means that friends, family, teachers, and colleagues often underestimate, or downplay as common to everyone, the difficulties that they are facing.

A functional, emotional and "I am... You are...." Component

Effective Coaching and Support for "executive functioning" often involves working with clients to understand, and disentangle, the functional and emotional impact of their "executive functioning" challenges, and the ways in which they have come to label themselves, and be labelled by others, with reference to these challenges.

Understanding the Functional Challenges.

Functional challenges often create bad outcomes, experiences and recurrent failures which increases a sense of hopelessness and helplessness to improve the situation.


For example, struggles with Planning, Prioritisation and Time Management lead to important deadlines being missed, meetings being forgotten, lateness, or persistent cycles of over-promising and under-delivering due to unrealistic calculations around the time needed to perform a task.


Struggles with Organisation and Working Memory make it difficult to assemble the materials and information needed to perform specific tasks, or to organise the environment in such a way that the tasks in question can be efficiently performed.

Struggles with Attention and Focus mean that key instructions are forgotten, missed, or never captured, sustaining effort on a task from start through to completion is compromised, and so incompletions mount and the To-Do list grows. Transitioning from one task to another, or returning to a task after a distraction, is also impaired further diminishing productivity.

Struggles with Goal Setting and Task Initiation make it difficult to make a start on a task, or "activate", to distinguish the relative importance of tasks, the order in which to do them, or even the point of doing them in the first place.

Understanding the emotional challenges.


Emotional challenges are both a integral component of "executive functioning" weaknesses and a consequence of the functional challenges that they cause.


Response Inhibition, Emotional Control and Self-Monitoring challenges, all core "executive functioning skills", often make people very reactive to the immediate environment, without pausing to consider how their actions might be perceived by others.


Often difficulties in summoning internal sources of motivation makes it difficult to regulate emotions to the relative importance of the task at hand, instead seeking something more novel or interesting to do.

Additionally, frustration, anxiety, exhaustion, and stress build around the functional challenges along with resentment at the comparative ease with which other people appear to manage their lives, and the lack of recognition or understanding of the difficulties that they are facing.


Understanding Perceptions and Labels.


The consequence of these concurrent functional and emotional challenges is often that unaddressed, or misunderstood, "executive functioning" difficulties are labelled as character flaws both by the person and those around them.


Functional challenges are often labelled as "laziness", "unreliability", "sloppiness", "not-caring", or reflective of a "lack of discipline", "lack of willpower" or "lack of pride in their work".

Challenges around regulating and modulating emotions often cause people to be labelled as "blunt", "tactless", "indiscrete", "impulsive", "reckless", "argumentative", "difficult", "unpredictable" or to prompt similar judgements around the "inappropriateness" or "excessive strength of their emotions" in relation to the situation at hand.

As these labels are reinforced, and repeated, self-esteem is eroded, and the perception of being different from "normal" people accentuated.


Increasing Activation


Organising, prioritising and activating to work.


Regulating Alertness, Sustaining Effort and Processing Speed.


Utilising Working Memory and Accessing Recall.


Focusing, Sustaining and Shifting Attention to task.


Managing Frustration and Modulating Emotions.


Monitoring and



Coaching to Support Executive Functioning

Helping to Increase Understanding of the Cumulative Impact of "executive functioning" weaknesses to Better Support Future Actions.


A key role of Coaching is firstly in helping clients to articulate and better understand the barriers which are preventing them from fully reaching their potential.


In other words, what is stopping them from successfully pursuing the personal and professional goals which are important to them, or impacting their mental well-being and happiness in pursuit of these goals?

However, as important, is helping clients to optimally use this increased understanding to identify those Actions which are most critical in the here-and-now to move them progressively closer to their stated Goals.


Once identified a key role of a Coach is to support a client in taking these actions, and increase their confidence in their capacity to succeed, by increasing awareness of the choices, resources and strategies available to support them in their endeavours.

Helping to Overcome Procrastination and Rumination.

This dual role of Coaching in helping Clients to better understand the challenges that they are facing, and then supporting them in identifying and taking Actions with reference to this increased knowledge, is of particular significance when supporting clients in the area of "executive functioning".

Unaddressed, misunderstood, or unsupported "executive functioning" weaknesses by their very nature sabotage productive Action and indeed the motivation to take Action in the first place. Past failures, or perceived failures, discourage future efforts as does the constant struggle to "get things done" or "stay on top of the things that need doing."

Procrastination, the postponement of Action, is often a central manifestation of "executive functioning weaknesses" as is Rumination, endlessly reflecting on the Actions that haven't been taken and what that says about us as a person. Both Procrastination and Rumination are inactive creating a vicious cycle which further reduces Productivity.

Promoting Activation: Action Before Motivation

When commencing coaching clients often have a strong sense of wanting to improve one or a number of "executive functioning" skills before they are ready to fully commit to a Goal or Action.

When asked what a successful outcome of Coaching would be often the answer revolves around developing strategies to be "more focused", "more organised", "better at managing my time", "more productive", "more confident", "more decisive" etc with the implication being that once these strategies have been "learnt" or "mastered" or "I have a perfect system in place" then "I will be ready and motivated to Act".

However, the most tangible measure of "executive functioning" improvements is in the confidence, competence, ease, efficiency and success with which we are able to identify, prioritise, start, continue and complete Actions that contribute meaningfully  to our  core personal and professional Goals. 


Successfully completed Actions, and deliberate focus on these successes and the strategies which contributed to them, increase motivation to take further Action.

Matching Specific Strategies to Specific Goals.


Often the most effective strategies for the ongoing management of "executive functioning weaknesses" are those which are linked to specific Outcomes and Goals, rather than finding a universal solution relating to a particular domain of "executive functioning".


Coaching can help to pinpoint those elements of "executive functioning" which are presenting the greatest barrier to maintaining forward momentum and making tangible progress towards our current Goals. 

Matching strategies to the outcomes they achieve, and the positive Actions and Habits they facilitate, increases our sense of control, and confidence in the resources available to us, when faced with similar situations in the future.

Similarly, adapting and augmenting  existing strategies as our Personal and Professional Goals evolve, and applying insights as to what has and hasn't worked in the past, offers greater flexibility than endlessly searching for the perfect system/strategy to manage "executive functioning" weaknesses.

functional challenges: executive functioning
emotional challenges: executive functioning
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