Outdoor Intelligence for Online Coaching

On the one hand, inspired leadership has never been more called for.  On the other, workplace burnout has never been so endemic.  Working with that dichotomy has been ever present in coaching conversations since the pandemic began.

Sitting at my desk, I can see a footpath across the field by my garden. The occasional walker has become a constant stream of people, of all ages, escaping from the home-schooling, home-working confines of the kitchen table. Larking about, striding out or walking reflectively as they take in their surroundings.

I became fascinated by this change.

Our nature-based ancestors lived successfully in small, close-knit groups. To seek greater wisdom, they would take their questions out onto the land. Walking out for days at a time, their observation and listening skills were infinitely more acute than our screen-bamboozled, frazzled brains now allow. They were in conversation with an intelligence that organised the complex systems underpinning their existence.

Fast forward to 2021. That systemic intelligence is unchanged. The difference is that we’re out of practice listening to it. It’s hardly surprising when we live indoors in circumstances that do not invite sensory awakening and aliveness to the intelligence beyond us – and distraction is the currency of our times. 

Yet there are moments of being touched by a greater intelligence.  When we find a stillness in ourselves outside. When we feel ‘right’ in a place of natural beauty. When thoughts come to us unbidden as we wander footpaths like the one by my office.

In-person outdoor coaching might have gone quiet during lockdown. But there’s a new opportunity that’s presented itself.  There are myriad ways to bring that systemic intelligence that we experience outdoors into our coaching online:

  • Through your own coaching presence, fed by time outdoors.
  • By inviting clients to spend time outdoors before or during coaching sessions.
  • By inviting clients into a practice of reflection outdoors with their coaching inquiry between sessions.
  • Bringing the outdoor experience into sessions through recall of moments of insight.  Where were you?  What do you see/feel/smell?
  • By raising awareness of the different ways of knowing that clients describe. Cognitive, embodied, spiritual and systemic.

Time outdoors steadies, stills and resources us in our work.  It enables us to work with that dichotomy of needing inspiration and working with burnout in ourselves and those around us.  And, the greater opportunity is for time outdoors to teach us, and our clients, to tune into a greater intelligence beyond us.

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