What is at the core of what we do as coaches?
One of the most exciting parts of being a coach is the realization that what we do goes beyond the routine of making a living. Coaching is a celebration of humanity. It is a tool that supports our clients to integrate, to live their lives, and build their organizations in integrity and authenticity.
Coaching came to be as a formalized profession out of a cry from the corporate world – a realization that the traditional way of work, where we were asked to keep our personal lives in the parking lot, is unsustainable, inhumane, and ultimately unproductive.
Just recently, the ICF released a revision of their Core Values. This comes out of the same effort to update their Core Competencies, Code of Ethics, PCC Markers, and certification process. It is a demonstration of the commitment the organization has to the ongoing evolution, growth, and professionalism of coaching worldwide.
As expected, the Core Values are simple but powerful. And they accurately speak to the core nature of coaching.
A commitment to a coaching mindset and professional quality that encompass responsibility, respect, integrity, competence, and excellence.
A commitment to develop social connection and community building.
A commitment to being humane, kind, compassionate, and respectful towards others.
A commitment to use a coaching mindset to explore and understand the needs of others so I can practice equitable processes at all times that create equality for all.
We couldn’t be more proud of these statements. They truly express what is at the core of what we do.
As coaches, we have a commitment to bring our best to our clients. We strive to grow, to stay current, and to evolve. We strive to bring a level of excellence to everything we do. It is a question of integrity and true respect for the trust our clients put in us every day.
Just like I mentioned a few months ago in another blog post, we are a group of professionals that can only truly thrive in community. It is together that we are strong. It is by sharing that we learn. As humans, we are social beings and collaboration is a matter of survival. It can never be “us and them”. Our efforts are around unity, generosity, and living by sharing and giving.
That is being human – and at the core, this is what we do. Our job is to support our clients to be even more connected to their humanity, to recognize who they truly are and live from that place. Therefore, it is imperative that we pledge to be kind and compassionate, not only in words but in how we show up every day.
We believe in the value of every individual. We believe in the resourcefulness and potential of every person and every client. Regardless of their background or whatever shape and form they come with, we operate from the principle of respect and honor. This requires a level of self-awareness on our part and a commitment to challenge our own biases, limited points of view, prejudices, and even subtle acts of discrimination, to make sure we are open, flexible, and ready to learn from each other.
As we look at these Core Values, it is important to remember that coaching is not just what we do. Coaching is who we are. And this is not just a catchy phrase, but the raw reality of this profession. There is no way we can possibly be effective if we are not truly committed to growing through and embracing these ideals.
Creating a fertile ground for innovation.
Awareness is at the apex of any coaching conversation. This is the moment where the client reaches an insight and is able to see their situation in a way that they had not seen before. Awareness is what the client is seeking, simply because after awareness, action is just a consequence.
For the coach, especially new coaches, reaching this moment can be intimidating. How can we bring a client to this new level of discernment that neither they nor we know in advance? What is the secret? In my mentor coaching practice, I have seen many coaches questioning their ability to be effective particularly because of the fear of not being able to bring the client into this new awareness.
That is why I say that coaching is a courageous act. We embark on this process with our clients not knowing the destination but trusting that together we will be able to get there.
However, as elusive as it might seem to be, awareness is inevitable – and that is where we can all place our confidence. There is no doubt in my mind that when two human beings come together and sincerely put their best efforts in judiciously exploring a situation or a topic, something new will show up. That is the power of connection. In human terms, 1+1 is never a simple addition. We cannot help but to multiply, and it is in this alchemy that innovation happens.
I was very pleased when, in the new version of the Core Competencies, the ICF decided to use the verb “Evokes” associated with the Awareness competency. In the previous version, we used to call it “Creating Awareness”, almost meaning that it was the job of the coach to generate the awareness for the clients. That to me is an impossible task. Awareness cannot be created, and it is not up to the coach to reach this state of insight or to fabricate it in their clients. The only thing we can do is to partner with the coachee in creating the proper conditions for awareness to surface – and that is where all the other Core Competencies come into play.
The secret of awareness is not in awareness itself. For us to support our clients into getting their aha moment, we must start from the beginning. How well have we established the coaching agreement – both for the whole process as well as each session? How deep is our presence? How broad is our listening? How easy is our language and communication with the client, especially in formulating questions and sharing our observations?
Awareness does not happen on a whim. Instead, it is an inevitable fruit of the careful work we do all along.
The great point of it is that this way, it becomes very easy to troubleshoot it. If we are not being able to bring the client into an awareness or if the awareness is consistently somewhat superficial, it is time for us to reflect on the skills we are demonstrating in all the other competencies and see how we can polish them even further so that we are better able to provide the breathing space for awareness to grow.
The secret of awareness is in building sharp coaching skills and in trusting the humanity of our clients and ourselves. This is a recipe that can never fail, and this is one of the foundational and brilliant points of our coaching profession.
Silence is who we are...
It is summer here in the northeast of the United States, and I am getting ready to take some time off. As much as I love my work, my clients, students, mentees, and co-workers, it is time for me to go outside, see different sights, and catch a breath.
Space is a vital part of our human experience. It is in breathing that we renew. It is in slowing down that we can observe more deeply. It is in retreating that we can broaden our view. And since coaching is a human-to-human experience, space and silence are intrinsic parts of what we do.
We learn about the role of silence in coaching right from the beginning of our training. Silence gives the client the time to process, to notice, and to listen to themselves more deeply, accessing points within to create an awareness that was not there before. I like to think of silence as this rare gift that, in itself, can transform the coaching conversation, and bring new insight to the coachee.
However, even though we intellectually understand the concept of silence, it usually takes years for us to truly master this skill. We may theoretically understand it, but when it comes time for us to engage in coaching, the idea leaves us completely. We end up in this automatic mode where we are filling every space with sound bites, verbally processing without intention, stumbling with our words, stacking our questions, and often interrupting the client’s line of thought.
That is because silence is not just a technique. For us to use silence effectively, we first need to live it. Again, coaching is a human-to-human experience. If we want our clients to access their resourcefulness and potential, we must first show up in our humanity and authenticity as well. And if silence is not a part of who we are, we will struggle with this concept.
That is why the role of self-care, personal foundation, and having a reflective practice is so crucial to the development of a coach. We cannot simply expect our clients to go into their Who, to look beyond, to stretch, and see new possibilities if we are not willing to practice this ourselves.
How rested are you right now? When was the last time you took a break? What is your self-care routine? When did you last spoke with a coach – not to practice, but to be coached? When did you go for a walk, or look at the sky, or notice the breeze touching your face? When was the last time you had a belly laugh, or looked deep inside another person’s eyes?
We live in a culture where being busy has become a badge of honor. The busier we are, the more successful we must be. But we all know how silly this idea truly is. That is why coaching is so powerful. Because it gives the client an evidence-based structured space to process what they could not in the grind of their day.
But coaching is not just theory. Coaching is not just a methodology. Coaching is not just about competencies and markers. We can all be so articulate about coaching, but can we truly live it?
That is why I am taking a break this month. It is time for me to access my silence within, and to create new space for myself, so when I come back, I can be even more present to you. I encourage you to do the same.
Knowing where to focus our attention most effectively.
A few months ago, I wrote an article called, 3|3|3|--The Three of Threes of Coaching where I described three important triangles coaches need to be aware of. Today, I have one more triangle to add to this list--The Listening Triangle.
In coaching, we talk a lot about the distinction between the What and the Who. To describe it quickly, the What is the story, the situation the client brings to the coaching conversation. The What usually stays on the surface of the client’s system. The Who is what is underneath. This is the identity of the client—where their values, motivations, and their internal energy come from.
Since coaching is designed to be a transformational process, the best coaching happens when we can tap into the Who of the client. This is because, when we access the Who, we are giving the client the opportunity to empower themselves and make choices that are in integrity with Who they truly are. When we access the Who, we are supporting the client to create steps that will open the possibility for them to make sustainable and lasting changes.
However, it seems that we are all fixers in recovery. We all have that tendency to look at a problem and quickly jump into trying to solve it or find an answer for it. For the longest time, our culture has rewarded us to have the answer and we became very proficient in gathering our toys, collecting information and even in pretending we know better.
Our egos can also be very active in these moments. When we find the answer or know the solution, we pat ourselves on the back with that sense of reward and self-worth.
What we tend to forget is that as coaches, regardless of how much experience or how many PhDs we may have hanging on our wall, the moment we jump into solving the problem, we are actually disempowering the client. When we give the answer, we are inadvertently saying: I know, and you don’t. I am better than you. I have the resources. You don’t. You are less than. When we focus our attention on the What, we are, in fact, dismissing the most important element in the coaching process--the client.
This is when the Listening Triangle comes in handy.
The coaching process is like a triangle where in one corner, we have the client (Who); in another, the coach; and in the third corner, we have the issue (What). As coaches, our job is to have our presence and listening ear focus on the client (Who).
One of the fundamental principles of coaching is the trust and belief in the client’s resourcefulness, and their ability to handle their situation. As coaches, we let the client be concerned with the issue (What). Our job is to listen beyond the story, beyond the issue and pay attention to the client.
The moment we turn our attention to the problem (What), we end up forgetting the client (Who) and transformation becomes virtually impossible. The process become superficial and whatever steps the client (Who) creates, most likely will be temporary simply because they are not going to be directly connected with the client’s intrinsic motivations.
Clients come to the coaching conversation with their own way of seeing the issue at hand. They are usually focused on the problem and not able to see much beyond their thought process. The impact of coaching is when the coach puts their attention on the client’s own being (Who) and bring them forward through questions, observations, stories, and reflections. This process gives the client the opportunity to widen their perspective, giving them a deeper view of their situation and more solid resources for them to make sound decisions around their issue (What).
In a way, this is supporting the What by listening to the Who. Taking care of the What, through the Who. When we pay attention to the Who of the client, we are empowering them to better address their What in a transformative and lasting manner.
The importance of community as we build and sustain our coaching practices.
Coaching can be a lonely business. We go through coaching training. We finish our classes. The assignments and collaboration start winding down and suddenly, we see ourselves struggling to push forward without much energy around.
When this happens, it is easy to lose momentum and focus. Our commitment can still be strong, but somehow, it becomes more and more difficult to keep going.
We can have the support of our family and friends, but naturally, it is hard for them to help us come up with the ideas and innovation needed to maintain our practices. Even though their support is crucial, they are not coaches, and therefore, they don’t have enough knowledge of the industry to help us with the specifics we need.
As an internal coach, this can be even harder. If we are not a part of a cohort, continuing with the developmental plans and promoting the coaching opportunities within the organization can become a mammoth endeavor. Co-workers are busy with their own projects. They don’t have the time and again, the expertise to support us in our initiatives.
That is why coaches need community. It is virtually impossible to build and sustain a healthy and robust practice without being connected with a group of other coaches. Regardless of how determined we are, it is a lot easier when we tap into the power of a group.
In community, we can inspire each other, cross-pollinate, build accountability, continue to be current in what is happening in the industry, and even benefit from a little peer pressure.
Here, the purpose is not to directly get clients. Connecting with other coaches, will not necessarily bring us business straight away. But we must look beyond the immediate reward. Being in community builds excitement. It brings us to imagine new possibilities, and the encouragement to try something, to take that extra step and most importantly, to persist.
And this can be just the secret ingredient we need to succeed.
In my own practice, everything changed when I became an active member of my local ICF chapter. And I want to emphasize the word “active”, which means, I was not simply attending sporadic programs, but I volunteered to be a member of committees and board positions. I never got a single client from these gigs, but seeing what other coaches were doing, noticing the growth and development of our profession (eventually even being a part of this development), made all the difference in my energy, approach, and presence.
Another major point was when I started taking some training opportunities that eventually brought me to a faculty position at Coach U and later to become an assessor for the ICF. To this day, this connection keeps me current in my skills and with what is happening in the industry. Other coaches know they can come to me to find out details and the latest in the coaching industry. As an assessor and faculty member, I learn from my peers every single day, and this gives me confidence, reputation, and the excitement to keep going.
And isn’t this the primary reason why it is so important to become a member of the ICF and to seek certification? When we show up to the marketplace as an ICF member, we are saying that we have more than 46,000 other coaches from all corners of the world, backing us up and making our practices more legitimate, reliable, and effective. This fact alone, makes me so proud of what we as a community accomplish every day, everywhere around the world.
Whether you are a brand-new coach or someone who has been around for a while, I would encourage you to reach out, join or build your circle of coaches, contribute to each other’s growth, create partnerships, and always be open to learn more from your peers.
When the client delivers those dreadful words.
One of the foundational principles of coaching is the confidence in the client’s own resourcefulness, competence, and ability to discover their own answers. In coaching, we come from the belief that the client is the authority in their own lives and situation. As coaches, we do not approach the coaching relationship as the subject matter expert. Instead, our expertise lies in our ability to establish a research-based conversational framework where the client can more deeply explore the issue at hand, broaden their perspective and in doing so, come to new insights that will further empower them to take their next step.
In other words, the client knows best. Our role as coaches is to engage with them in a partnership that will support them in this process of discovery, so they create their own forward movement.
So, if the client is the expert and the client has their own solutions, what happens when in a coaching session they simply say, “I don’t know?”
After working on thousands of coaching sessions with my own clients plus reviewing hundreds of recordings of my students and mentees, and assessing for the ICF, I have identified two possible reasons for this statement.
It Is Too Early
Coaching is a process of exploration. We coaches act as disruptors of the client’s way of thinking that provides them with the opportunity to break away and gain different perspectives. That is what is fascinating about this practice. Clients come to the coaching session with their own partial view of the situation and through our questions, observations, and silence, they are then able to widen their horizon and see for themselves what they could not see before.
However, we sometimes are so eager to bring the client to this new awareness that we end up asking questions they are not ready for. It is too early in the coaching conversation and we are already prompting the client to express ideas they have not been able to access yet.
In this case, “I don’t know”, should be a clear warning to the coach, that perhaps we have not explored the situation deep enough. There are perspectives that have not been explored. There are layers that have not been uncovered. And most likely, we are jumping into action way too early.
Here, the remedy is obvious. It is time for us to ground in our presence, deepen our listening and support the client in a more nuanced examination of the topic to empower them with more profound information that will enable them to know.
What are the words, expressions, and subtleties we overlooked? What is the true meaning behind what the client is saying or not saying? How can we become even more curious, let go of our assumptions, and allow ourselves to stay in this place of ‘not-knowing’ a little longer?
This state of curiosity and comfort with the discomfort can be just what the client needs from us, so they are able to answer those questions with clarity and truth.
But let’s say we did explore the situation quite enough. Insights are clearly available everywhere and still the client continues to shy away from embracing them. This reluctance may be a sign that the client is avoiding.
Coaching goes beyond transaction. What we are aiming for is an internal transformation that provides the client with a widened view, which can, in turn, propel them forward. We need to realize that at times, this can be intimidating.
As humans, we like what is familiar, even when it hurts. Sometimes we prefer to stay where it is uncomfortable rather than venture into the new. Taking a step into the unfamiliar is a very courageous act. It is amazing how ingenious we can be just so that we avoid seeing the obvious.
Client’s will resist. Perhaps refuse to commit. Their words will not match their actions. They even become very creative with their excuses.
In this case, it is imperative for the coach to listen even more closely. What does the client really need in this moment? Is it a compassionate attitude? Is it a challenge? Should we take a step back or must we poke the avoidance?
The answer on how to proceed will, of course, come from the client. Coaches are partners, not parents. We support, we mirror, we present, but ultimately the decision belongs to the client. The fact to consider here is that, in this case, the “I don’t know” is not a lack of information, but instead a lack of readiness from the client and other factors might be at play and in need of exploration.
And one more…
There is one more scenario we need to keep in mind. It may be that the “I don’t know” is in fact a lack of resources. There may be a piece of practical information missing in which neither the client nor the coach has access to during the session. In this case, the action is clear. Some simple research might just be the answer.
The art and science of coaching inquiry.
Questions are definitely one of the most powerful tools within the coaching process. It is through this ability to skillfully inquire about the nuances of the client’s story that the coach is able to create the fertile ground for awareness to surface. Coaches are always working on polishing their questioning skills so they can be even better equipped to support their coachee in this process of exploration and discovery.
But what is the secret? How can a coach create these masterful statements that will serve as an open the door for the client to deepen their awareness of their situation?
One thing I’ll tell you right off of the bat: powerful questions do not come from a book or a list of questions. While it can be informative to go through these collections, it is important to remember that these individual questions are placed out of context. They are not associated with a specific setting and a real client situation. Therefore, if we use them randomly, they will most likely fall flat and not be able to serve the moment.
Another myth about powerful questions is the belief that there is this transformative, magical, sometimes even miraculous question that will be the apex of the coaching conversation, transforming the client’s lives – this question that seems to exist in the Elysian Fields of coaching that we all aspire to have access to. While I myself have experienced countless moments of true shift happening within my clients, I do not believe there is such a thing as the “Holy Grail” of questioning that we must discover or manifest somehow. There is no such a thing as this dreamlike question, and to stay preoccupied with constructing this enchanted statement will only blind us even further to the true moment the client is in.
Bottom line, powerful questions come from two main sources – presence and listening.
It is when a coach has the courage to trust the process and position themselves in a true connection with their clients, moment by moment by moment, listening with a depth of curiosity and sincere interest in who the client is that the most relevant questions come to the surface.
And relevant is an important word here. Powerful questions are those that are closely connected to where the client is in that particular instance. Powerful questions come from a place of complete synchronicity with where the client is and only presence can provide us with it.
Powerful questions do not live in the past or the future. They can only exist in the present. Even if we are able to craft that perfect statement, if the client moves on, that question is most likely not applicable anymore. The moment has past and so must we. On the other hand, saving a question, waiting for the client to arrive at a certain place in time is just a waste of energy and prevents us from being in the now and doing what we can do here.
Powerful questions come when we are able to listen beyond the story and connect with the essence of our client and the client’s situation. It is when we see the human being in front of us, accepting all their complexities and intricacies, daring to open our minds and heart to this individual that questions begin to flow.
Three technical points a coach must keep in mind…
But aside from the technical points, remember, coaching is human-to-human experience. It is when we dare to go to the core of this human connection that we will easily find our questions. This is a muscle to develop, but a part that already lives in all of us. We are built for connection and it is when we learn how to surrender to it that we will notice the instinctive ways of supporting the other through our curiosity and objective empathy.
Connecting the dots from session to session
In coaching training, we put so much emphasis in developing our skills on how to handle a single coaching conversation that we rarely address the topic of how to support our clients in the long-term progression of the coaching engagement.
The issue of continuity and connectivity of session to session within a whole coaching process is a frequent question I get from my mentees and students. If the very first step in the coaching conversation is to ask the client what would be the focus of that session, how do I make sure there is a connection between sessions? How do I make sure the client is progressing in the agreed upon direction? What if the client brings up a topic that is completely different from the overall objective of the coaching program?
This is particularly important when we have different stakeholders involved in the engagement and there are certain expectations around the results of the coaching program.
Regardless of the set up, the simple answer to these questions is always – stay with the client. Stay where the client is. The client knows best.
Coaching is a client driven process. The coach is there to provide the framework for the coaching conversation, but the client is the one who sets the direction. And it may be that the path chosen by the client is a bit more unpredictable than we expected. Nevertheless, the client is the one in charge. The client is the one who sets the goals and leads the way.
Coaching is about giving the client the responsibility for the process. Coaching is about believing that the client is able to take charge. Even in an organizational setting where expectations are set for the coaching, it is crucial that the client understands the importance for them to take ownership of the engagement.
Having said that, as a coach, it is also our role to support the client to stay on course and make progress towards their goals. Accountability is one of the most powerful benefits of coaching.
So, how do we reconcile these two ideas?
First of all, we must remember that what may seem disjunct or even contradictory to us coaches, may make perfect sense for the client. Even if the client brings up a topic that is apparently outside of the overarching agreement, we need to support the client in clarifying where this unexpected topic fits in the whole landscape of the client’s world. It may be that in the path to reach their destination, the client needs to make a few stops to be able to get to the desired outcome.
Remember, coaching is a human-to-human interaction and as humans, our journey is rarely a straight line.
We also need to consider the crucial role of transparency and authenticity in coaching. One of the foundational points of our craft is our ability to freely connect with our clients and to relate with them in an open and sincere way. As you are establishing the coaching agreement, if you sense a disconnect between the session’s topic and the overarching direction, ask the client. Perhaps they are not even aware of the disparity and that alone can be an opportunity for new awareness to surface.
I would also invite you to look at the whole coaching process as if it was one big coaching session where you have an agreement, you bring the client into a discovery mode, opening the space for new awareness and landing on a clear movement forward.
If that is the case, what would you do if in the middle of a single coaching conversation the client changed direction from the session’s agreement? Of course, you would ask to clarify and perhaps even change direction.
The same holds true in the big picture of a coaching program. If the client moves and keeps moving in unpredictable ways, ask them, clarify and support them in making sense of it all.
Bottom line, the client is always in the driver seat. The client is responsible for the coaching process per se. We hold the space. We bring our expertise in creating the environment for coaching to happen and for awareness to surface. The responsibility of connecting the dots is for the client to take.
Supporting the action plan and success of the client
If you are an intuitive coach, like I am, you may have the tendency to sometimes indulge a little too much in the discovery part of the coaching process. Clearly, supporting the client in exploring the situation, getting to insights and evoking new awareness is exciting. We are all waiting for that moment of shift, when a new perspective comes to the surface and the client is able to notice something they were not aware of before.
For new coaches, this moment of discovery becomes so powerful and rewarding that it is easy to forget that our job is not finished yet. Getting the client to an insight is not enough. For a session to truly have a long-term impact, there is more we need to accomplish and pay attention to.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) gives us a good framework for this final stage of a coaching conversation. Competency #8, “Facilitates Client Growth”, is clear on the importance of helping the client in setting up an action plan and methods of accountability that will bring the client into sustainable results.
Awareness to Moving Forward to Support
To tell you the truth, I am cautious about the word action. Many times, this word is interpreted as the need to establish a tangible, concrete step forward. In reality, the result of awareness can prompt the client to many different ways of moving forward.
Action can be tangible with the result of the coaching conversation as a clear, concrete step forward. However, action can also be an investment in self-discovery or some moment of reflection, time for observation or brewing on a concept. Action can be to stay still for a while or perhaps even to take a step backwards, or even to quit.
That is why I prefer to call this “moving forward” so my clients have complete freedom to decide what is truly relevant for them in the moments, hours and days after their session.
It is important to remember that this movement forward needs to be a simple, organic result of awareness. Action does not come out of thin air. It is a consequence of the discovery and the exploration the client has done previously. Now that the client has a new awareness, a new piece of information, or, as I like to say, a new ingredient in this recipe, what are they going to do differently?
Here, we can see the flow of the coaching conversation from establishing the agreement, maintaining presence, listening actively, evoking awareness to now facilitating an opportunity for growth and development.
Action cannot be manufactured. The best action plan is created out of a natural evolution of awareness.
But designing an action is also not enough… A client can be very clear and precise in establishing their movement forward, but what will support them in actually accomplishing what they created?
That is why in coaching, we need to invite the client to create systems that will support them in being successful with their plan. What are the resources, the measures, and processes they need to make sure they will follow through?
In coaching lingo, we call it accountability. I prefer to use the expression, “systems of support.” Always remember that it is best to promote the client’s autonomy and check the level of personal commitment they have to their plan. The best accountability is not necessarily to another person, certainly not to the coach. As coaches, we want to encourage the client to take full responsibility for the process including guaranteeing their own movement forward.
Oh, and after this, how do you close a coaching conversation? Simple! Ask the client… Is this a good place to stop?
The deceptively simple competency of Presence
It is one of the competencies frequently dismissed by the less experienced coach. We are often much more curious about the intricacies of the coaching agreement, or perhaps the nuances of ethics than on the act of being present. At first, polishing the action plan or savoring that moment when a client comes to a new piece of awareness seems much more interesting and exciting. We want to believe we are always present and so, being present to our clients is a no-brainer. We got this…
And then, the more we coach and the more we delve into the process of coaching, we begin to realize the subtleties and the depth we are called to when it comes to maintaining presence. This is no simple task. It demands a level of self-awareness, humbleness, confidence and comfort that may take years to master.
The ICF defines competency 5, “Maintains Presence,” as the act of being “fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident.”
This gets complicated because we cannot be fully conscious and present with our client, if we don’t truly know how to be fully conscious and present with ourselves first. That is why personal foundation work is so crucial for an effective coach. It is essential for us to be in connection with our own inner workings, strengths, insecurities, and our own humanity to be able to connect with the humanity of our client.
There is a methodology to coaching and we may be able to brilliantly articulate the coaching process, but if we are not truly in touch with who we are, we will miss the most essential part of coaching – the human-to-human connection. Regardless of what kind of coaching we do, this human connection must be the source of coaching and this only happens when we are truly present.
Presence is not just a question of filling up the space or sharing the same room. It is not simply being in front of another person and relating with them in a socially acceptable manner. Presence is not even a matter of giving someone our full attention and listening to what is being said.
The act of being present in coaching means we are here, moment, by moment, by moment – not 5 minutes ahead, not 5 minutes behind. We are not concerned with what questions to ask or what answers need to surface. Distractions are not even an issue because any possible distraction is no longer important. The person in front of us becomes the most interesting subject in the whole universe. In itself, the act of being present in a coaching conversation is the true acknowledgement of the value of that individual and WHO they truly are.
All of a sudden, there is no concern about performance, having the right answer, asking the right question or the need to provide value to the process. We are connected in the moment and we know that this is where the coaching process truly begins.
I have heard many very experienced coaches frequently say, “all competencies are crucial to coaching, but if I had to choose one, ‘Maintains Presence’ would be the most important.”
Simply put, if we are not present, nothing else can really happen. If we are not present, there is no place for listening, no sense on an agreement, no trust. Questions are empty, prescriptive and powerless. We may be able to come to some actions, and develop some tricks along the way, but in the end, it is all superficial and even meaningless.
The interesting point about presence is that we can practice it anytime, anywhere. Even right now… How aware are you of where you are in this moment? How fast is your breath? What are the noises or level of silence in the room? How does your body feel in the position you are in? I would encourage to do this level of personal check-ins two or three times a day. Ask yourself: where am I right now? There is a difference between where your body is, and where your mind is. Presence is when you, as a whole are in the same place, the same moment.
To transfer this practice to when you are working with a client, take a second to check where you truly are. How attentive are you? Where is your focus? Who is this person in front of you? Surrender to the moment and trust that together you will both find your way through this process.
A note about the New Year
It is interesting that presence is the topic for my last post of 2020. I wished I could say I planned it exactly this way, but I am way less strategic than that. It has been a year of global challenges and unimaginable losses. How wonderful would it be if we could have a 2021 where presence would be our practice?
Below a video to help us getting started... Enjoy!
As a mentor coach, I am always giving feedback to my students and mentees helping them develop their coaching skills and prepare for their certification with the ICF. ForCoaches is a place where I can publicly share some of my insights and experiences. What does it mean to be a truly effective coach?