In the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies, Co-Creating the Relationship addresses the 3rd and 4th competency. This month we will explore the 4th competency, “Coaching Presence.” And again, we will explore this core competency through 3 lenses: your Profession (actual coaching), your Business (business practices), and your Life!
In coaching, one of the greatest gifts we give our clients is presence. The ICF defines coaching presence as the ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, and confident. I want to share some practices I have developed over the years that have helped to support my presence with the client:
• Prior to the beginning of the session, I read over my notes from previous coaching sessions.
• I clear my desk so there are no distractions in front of me.
• I have a little mantra I say to myself-No-where but Now-here is what my client needs.
• The only thing I use my cell phone for is a 10-minute alarm that lets me know that the session is coming to a close. However, I put my phone on silent (the alarm still sounds) and I put it out of sight or face down. I let my clients know at the beginning of the session so they are not surprised when it goes off. That way we are both triggered to bring the coaching to a close.
• I practice transparency with my clients-if I get lost and am not sure where we are going, I let them know.
• I do regular check ins to make sure we are tracking and in agreement.
• I allow for whatever shows up in the session without agenda or judgment.
• I go where the client leads and match their energy and language.
• Even if the client chooses not to be fully present, I continue to hold my presence practices.
I have found these practices to help steer me toward giving my full attention to my client. These practices assist in establishing a co-created relationship grounded in trust and intimacy.
Business – Business Practices
Practices within my business that support ‘presence’ are demonstrated by my customer service standards. Again, the ICF emphasizes “the ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, and confident” and can be demonstrated by establishing your customer service standards. These may be communicated in your introductory letter. Customer Service standards could begin with an “I will” statement. A few of mine are:
• I will maintain a flow of communication that lets my customer/clients know I care.
• I will return all phone calls to my internal and external client/customer within 24 hours.
• I will bring all communication to completion with a response even if it is just to say thank you.
• I will be honest with my clients, delivering communication in a gracious way.
• I will keep my client informed throughout whatever process I am engaged in with them.
• I will treat my clients as lasting relationships
These translate into being fully conscious in the relationship, allowing for flexibility and openness through a high level of communication.
The most impactful shift in my life has been one of mindful presence. I wish I could say that I gently flowed into mindful presence however, that would not be the truth! I CRASHED into mindful presence! In 2010 my world came to a screeching halt as I underwent two back surgeries in less than a months time. Very long story-shortened; I could not move more than a few steps a day for almost 3 months AND it took me almost 2 years to fully recover. Prior to my crash, I was the type of person that was always moving on to the next thing, planning for, setting goals and running, running, running.
What my new pace brought me was a deep appreciation for the gift of the present moment and all the pleasures I was missing by running right past them! A dear friend gifted me a mindfulness course based on Jon Kabat Zinn’s work which changed me forever! Mindfulness as defined by Jon Kabat Zinn is the practice of nonjudgmental, compassionate, moment to moment awareness. He lays out 7 mindfulness practices:
Non Judging – cultivating the stance of being an impartial witness to whatever we are experiencing, breaking out of the habitual categorizing and judging of experiences which locks us into automatic responses/reactions.
Patience – a type of wisdom, recognizing that, at times, things must unfold at their own pace; letting go of the tendency to be impatient with ourselves, our efforts, etc.
Beginners Mind – coming to each experience as if for the first time; freeing ourselves from preconceptions and biases so that we may see things in a new light and perceive new possibilities.
Trust – learning to have faith in ourselves and our own intuition, honoring our own feelings, our native wisdom; following our own path, not imitating someone else.
Non-striving – non-doing, with the intention of creating space for simply being who we are, being with what is already here; realizing that, in mediation, the best way to achieve our goals is to back off from striving and focus on seeing and accepting things as they are, in the moment.
Acceptance – seeing and accepting things as they really are in the present, which reduces the energy drained by denying, suppressing, or resisting what is already here, thus freeing and focusing our energies for positive change.
Letting Go – non-attachment, letting go of our investment in particular thoughts, feelings and experiences; not elevating one thing while rejecting another, but accepting whatever is here in the moment.
If you have not explored mindfulness and you find that you struggle with getting present – even to yourself, I encourage you to explore these mindfulness practices.
Adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn. (1990) Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness. New York: Delta. pp. 33-39