ADD-flavored Coaching

Never forget that YOU are “the temp in charge” of
your ADD client’s Executive Functioning Clubhouse!

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the Coaching Skills Series

Drawing of the human brain with the prefrontal cortex highlighted (the seat of the executive functions)Failure in this arena is the biggest mistake I see in otherwise excellent Coaches, and it turns pretty darn good Coaching into absolutely lousy ADD Coaching in a heartbeat.

An ADD coach must identify and presence the “Name of the Game” whenever they coach any ADD client. No matter how high functioning,

ADD clients hire coaches for help in an area where they are struggling – and the source of the struggle is usually in the area of activation and follow-through to completion.

The main reason we ADDers struggle with activation and follow-through is because in our pre-frontal cortex [PFC], the Executive Functioning Clubhouse, the receptionist seems to take frequent breaks — and we get distracted and wander away before she returns with some necessary piece of our process!  If we could stay on track without your assistance, we wouldn’t have hired you in the first place.

Erratic Executive Functioning is the one thing that never changes with ADD, no matter how much ADDers know about ADD work-arounds or how well they understand themselves.


To be an Effective ADD Coach You MUST Stay in the Driver’s Seat!

Your ADD client relies on YOU, not only to hold the vision as they step through repeated sessions of on-track focus-to-COMPLETION but, most importantly, to keep them really-no-kidding on-track for one short period each week.

  • Their coaching call may be the only single-focused shot they have at putting together an action plan they can actuate on their own in the coming week.
  • Their time with their coach may be the only modeling they receive to let them know what “on track” looks like.
  • EF Coaching – coaching to compensate for erratic Executive Functioning – is the single, most important item that distinguishes ADD Coaching from what I call “vanilla” coaching – “unflavored by ADD.”
  • Keeping a client on-track through the call is the single biggest difference between a chat on the phone and a coaching call, and
  • It’s the ONE thing ADD clients won’t be able to do well without YOU.


ADD Coaching IS EF Coaching

Not only does EF Coaching imply the obvious, a broad-based understanding of ADD and facility with Brain-Based Coaching, it also means something much less obvious and much more important:

YOU are assistive technology — an externalized Pre-Frontal Cortex 

• YOU train their metaphorical guide dog,
• YOU run their virtual hearing aid store
• YOU are their “wheel-chair ramp.”

YOU are accountable for keeping your clients on a linear, goal directed path through the session.

Even once clients reach a point in the coaching process where they know how to do this themselves and have developed great client habits (meaning they are using the Client Prep Form and sending it early, and are calling on time, ready to work)

. . . and even once clients have identified values-based goals
and developed a clearly articulated game plan . . .

they need YOUR help to be able to stay on track to completion!

That’s why they hired you, whether THEY realize it or not!

Rewrite Your Coaching Manual™

  • We ADDers can sit and ponder potential forever; we don’t need a coach for that one.
  • We can come up with terrific ideas, even a game plan that will give us a gazillion and two “lives we love,” all by ourselves!
  • YOUR primary value is to hold the flashlight on our goals and objectives throughout the session.

Holding that flashlight for an ADDer mandates a “spin” to the ICF core competencies that is the essence of the difference between ADD Coaching and “vanilla” coaching. Not ONLY does that mean you have to know a lot about ADD and brain-based coaching to understand what is going on and how to “end-run” it, you MUST know how to keep that flashlight steady.

ADD Coaching is NOT “ADD frosting” on a “vanilla” cake.

ADD Coaching is a compensatory strategy.

Coaching ADDers mandates a change to every tool in your coaching arsenal
in a significant, ADD-flavored way.

An ADD coach MUST understand not only how to explain Executive Functioning to your clients, but also to augment Executive Functioning in your sessions:  

In other words, to know how to compensate for EF deficits when your client’s brain stops working momentarily — and to be able to explain what’s happening to them so that they can learn to develop their own work-arounds for when they are no longer working with YOU.

  • All the shifting and growing and learning and goal setting and motivating in the WORLD is less than useless if your clients can’t actuate the game-plan
  • Actuating the game-plan involves specific, brain-based tasks that are the domain of what we call the brain’s Executive Functions [EFs].
  • EF deficits define ADD.
  • It’s an ADD coaches job to know what that means and exactly what that entails
  • In addition to their ability to tap into a slew of effective work-arounds for times when the ADD client’s brain posts an “out to lunch” sign, modeling the process of getting back on track as well as illuminating it.

And if that doesn’t make just too much sense, PLEASE hire an ADD Mentor Coach or refer your ADD Clients until you update your training.  

I want the best for YOU as well as your ADD Client, and NOTHING is more demoralizing than realizing that you’ve been ineffective with a client you could have helped because your training has not prepared you adequately for the task.

photo credit: Natalie M. Zahr, Ph.D., and Edith V. Sullivan, Ph.D.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Common

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Coaching Skill Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles right here on
(in case you missed them above)

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

4 Responses to ADD-flavored Coaching

  1. Pingback: Crash, Boom, Bang: An Accident Leads to a Massive Attack of Executive Function | Brain and Head Health

  2. Martha Cossu de R. says:

    Hi! I am Martha from Mexico City and we met via internet for the seminar on coaching in the Spirit with Kate and Peggy last year. Congratulations on this incredible page. So much work and experience has gone into it, it shows clearly in every piece of information. This will be of great use to me and others. I will try to participate in peer coaching as soon as I get my work schedule for this semester in order. Thank-you and hope to hear from you soon. Martha Cossu de R.


    • I’m thrilled you found your way here, Martha — and thank you so very much for your acknowledgement. How is your practice coming? You have your work cut out for you in Mexico, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell YOU that. In many ways you are in the position I was in when I put together the first ADD-specific training here – a pioneer. It will be tough, but I think you have what it takes to go the distance.

      I’d LOVE to have you in Peer Coaching, and I’m sure you will find value in it for yourself as well as for your clients, but some of the stuff to come will probably be of even greater value for you personally. I’m hoping to get a group going specifically for relatively new coaches (or those, like you, in countries where getting ADD coaching acknowledged and accepted when ADD is barely recognized and understood will be like climbing a rock face straight up a mountain!).

      I have no idea how quickly this Peer Coaching meme will spread, so I can’t predict how soon I will be able to expand the entire concept, but my vision is a caucus that will be like a coaching master-mind group combined with a practice building support group mated to Partner Coaching (slightly different skills than Peer Coaching, explained in the Peer Class, but I want to be able to delve more deeply there when BOTH “peers” are professional coaches.)

      So stay in touch. We are up to nothing less than transforming our world in OUR lifetime, you and I and others of our ilk. We are going to need each other!



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