What develops your ‘presence’ as a coach?

“We work on ourselves in order to help others, and also we help others in order to work on ourselves.”

— Pema Chodron

As a coach, you’ll understand the importance of your “presence” during a session with your coachee, and the impact this has on your relationship and the success of the coaching.

This blog post aims to enhance your current knowledge on the topic by sharing some research I completed into the coach’s presence. In addition, it aims to provide you with some development strategies to enhance your current coaching practice. 

Definition of a coach’s presence

There are many definitions and interpretations of a coach’s presence, which have evolved over recent years in line with practice. The following is adapted from Douglas Silsbee, whom describes presence as:

“The cultivation of being and heightened and expanded awareness of the coach; characterised by the felt experiences of stillness, timelessness and connectedness.”

This definition outlines the following key points:

  • The coach’s presence is developed through their own journey of self-development and becoming more whole. It is an all encompassing awareness of themselves, their clients and the coaching conversation.
  • Coach’s who have strong presence have a sense of “being” rather than “doing,” embodying their identity and letting go of control, responsibility, process and tools. This demonstrates complete trust in the potential of the client, coaching and their moment together.
  • When present coaches and coachees often describe the sense of flow and stillness.
  • Their deep focus enables them to build deep rapport, trust and a connection to their client and the larger system.

What is the impact of the coach’s presence on the client and the relationship?

It was evident from my research that the coach’s presence has a major impact upon the relationship with their coachee.

The primary outcome of presence is a coach becomes a high performing coach, being in tune with their client and able to facilitate the client’s learning to maximum effect. This has been found to have a fundamental shift on the outcome, making the coaching transformational and providing sustainable development for the client.

A key result is also the development of trust, which is a major factor in the success of coaching. Trust means the client engages in the coaching process and opens themselves fully to self discovery.

Trust is generated through the authenticity of the coach being there in that moment, fully committed to them and the potential of them being together whilst maintaining a deep focus and awareness as though they were both at the centre of the universe.

It was also clear from my research that coachees are very aware of their coach being present during the coaching session, although many of the coachees interviewed would not have labelled this as presence. However, they did sense this as having a major impact on the success of their coaching programme. That is, if a coach is not present there will be a barrier to the coaching relationship.

How have “master coaches” developed their presence?

My research identified the following approaches for developing coaching presence and I suggest a combination of them (if not all) are used:

  1. Developing self-awareness through the practices of observation and feedback. Two of the major outcomes of this are coaches becoming aware of their own identity and purpose, and my research has shown that this is a key enabler of presence. Through this reflection coaches are also able to understand the barriers to them being fully present; a key barrier identified is simply trusting in the process and letting go of achieving a result, responsibility and tools and techniques.
  2. Developing the practice of observation through mindfulness techniques.
  3. Coaching supervision – an important support mechanism to help the coach become aware of when and how they are present.
  4. Grounding and centering the body. Somatic techniques can be used to heighten awareness of feelings in the body, which help the coaches to become present and maintain this presence.
  5. Preparing the environment. If a coach develops their awareness as to what enables them to be present or in the ‘flow’ state, they can then ensure that they are replicating these conditions when they are coaching. Coaches are also using this approach with their clients to help them be present and in flow too.

Mindfulness practice for you to try (MP3)

You can download a short mindfulness practice – 3 Part Breathing Space – that I often use to help coaches prepare for a coaching session (and post coaching too, as a way of transitioning into the next moments of their day). Why not give it a go now? You can download the MP3 here, or stream it below.

The Embodied Coach

If you’d like to develop your presence as a coach, you may be interested in our CPD event for coaches, The Embodied Coach.

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