The Gift of Coaching Presence
Any coaching relationship yields the best outcomes when the client has the supreme trust in the coach and the coaching process. On the part of the coach, it’s extremely important to have an unconditional faith in the client’s intentions and abilities as well as have an open mind to explore and “flow” with the process. This brings to the fore Coaching Presence, one of the ICF Core Competencies.
The meaning of the word “presence” is to be available or to exist at a certain place or time. Coaching presence, then, is to be fully present with your client, moment-by-moment and, at times, in physical reference, too.
A typical coaching session might have a transcript that reads:
Coach: “…Hello Jim! How are you doing this evening?”
Client: “Hi Peter. I am great. Thank you.”
Coach: “Is there anything that you need to ‘clear’ out before we begin today’s session?”
Here the coach is attempting to clear out any pattern that might keep the client from being fully present in the coaching process. It’s a pattern interrupt. Similarly, for a coach to be the most effective, it’s equally, if not more, important to be fully present with the client. Being in sync and fully dancing in the moment with the client brings about the most authentic self as a coach. In the book Presence-Based Coaching: Cultivating Self-Generative Leaders Through Mind, Body, and Heart, Doug Silsbee explains presence as “… a state of awareness in the moment, characterized by the felt experiences of timelessness, connectedness and a larger truth.”
Exhibiting coaching presence as a process is essential because it:
- Helps create a space where the client can go deep inside to dig out their innermost gifts and resources. This is critical to create a different frame of reference where solutions emerge.
- Supports co-creation of the relationship. Master coaches follow the client’s agenda and are ready to experiment and explore vulnerabilities. The coach cares little about the process and smoothly glides through with agility, innovation and mutual learning
- Helps establish authenticity in the coaching process and relationship. The coach moves to a state like unconscious competence in learning and coaching.
The very essence of coaching presence will allow the client to lower their guard and explore the gifts and resources deep within. The coach helps the client explore and experiment with various thoughts, ideas and plans. The coach is fully and deeply listening, without judgment.
For professional coaches, mastery of coaching presence is a journey. Every coach progresses through a maturity continuum from being trained to attaining mastery. As one moves up the curve, these skills become innate and spontaneous. However, the following logical steps might help new coaches gain proficiency faster and make this capability more natural.
- Being actively self-aware in the initial coaching episodes and through training, a coach can take the initial journey. Reflection is a key element.
- Humans are vulnerable to various distractions. As a coach, one must deliberately avoid judgments in the process and the content to be fully present in the moment.
- Meditation can favorably impact the development of presence and mindfulness.
- Filming initial episodes (and discussing with a coaching supervisor when appropriate) can help the coach review their own process.
- Centering and deep breathing calm nerves and keep the mind fully present.
- Developing a mindset to let go of the process without ignoring the elements and their deeper connection to help the client is vital.
With coaching presence, a coach transcends from “doing” coaching to “being” coaching. It allows the client to connect with a deeper self (being) from the superficial one (doing). Coaching presence also contributes to higher-order trust between the coach and the client and leads to superior and lasting outcomes. Finally, coaching presence helps develop presence in the client too. Research into clients’ behavior establishes that they start to unconsciously develop their own presence, thereby moving from quick fixes to permanent solutions.
With coaching presence, a coach innovates and demonstrates flexibility in the process and learning. A master coach with superior coaching presence can co-create the entire coaching experience in a magical fashion like building the aircraft while flying it.
As a coach, how do you build your coaching presence?