Bringing Spring Freshness into the Coaches Mind

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In a recent issue of Forbes Magazine 23rd January 2013 I noticed an article “Three Keys to Mindful Leadership Coaching” by Douglas Riddle.

“There are countless executive coaches I would never hire for myself, no matter how wise, insightful, dynamic or experienced. If a coach can’t create an environment that dissolves the limitations of history, expectation, and assumption, I’m not interested.” says Riddle “The coaches who expand my mind, emotions and performance come to the coaching relationship from a place of inner calm. They have quiet minds. They are not beguiled by fancy techniques or elegant coaching models. They are midwives for the narrow, messy emergence into a larger world – and they rely on habits of mindfulness to accomplish that.

So how do you prepare your mind, body and soul for being in a coaching session?

A typical response might be “ I have a little routine that I go through to check I am ready and prepared then I centre myself with a few breaths before the client arrives!”

Let me ask the question again. When you are stuck on a train with only five minutes to go to the beginning of your session and you have a migraine starting, how do you take care of yourself?

Perhaps, you are sitting comfortably in your favourite chair, note pad on your lap and telephone ready and waiting. It rings, you pick it up and launch into welcoming your client but surprisingly it is another caller who launches into a long story. In that moment what happens to your sense of quiet readiness? Where can you begin to feel the panic rise or those thoughts of “How do I get her to stop!”

Life and coaching sessions can be dotted with “in the moment issues”; clients are unpredictable beings, technology can cut out communications and of course, we coaches are but mere mortals at the end of the day. If you have not taken care of your own inner resources, it makes no difference if you have every coaching model up your sleeve and a degree to prove it.

Often in supervision sessions, the question comes up, of how appropriate it is for a coach to be coaching when their personal challenges are relentlessly stressful? Reading coaching ethics and standards might guide you, talking about somatics , EQ or thinking about meditation might assist but to be able to sit with our client’s inner landscapes we need to touch deep within our own landscapes. Mindfulness gives you a deeper awareness of yourself and your inner resources.

We coaches do struggle with our own daily worries , we hide our vulnerabilities and push our physical bodies through winter flu, cancer scares and addictive behaviours. Living in “automatic pilot” with a brain full of over –activity is common to us all. I wonder how many of us slip into automatic pilot during our coaching relationships ? Cultivating an inner awareness of ourselves allows subtle changes in the way that we experience alertness in our sessions.

The introduction of westernised Mindfulness pioneered by Jon Kabit Zinn, has brought mindfulness into clinical practice and made its benefits available to the ordinary person who is suffering in some way. Large companies are engaging Mindfulness based courses for employees and we cannot ignore the huge evidence that mindfulness not only works but can hand control back to the individual. Our clients or potential clients are benefiting from the new availability to access a more wholesome way of living their lives in and out of work. Can we executive coaches celebrate and share the deeper insights, lessons of compassion and encourage our clients to “be” in this brave new world that is developing?

Can you give yourself permission to stop and just be?

Do we have a regular time that we give ourselves to sit in the present moment; a quiet moment to really recognise how we are being in our bodies, with our thoughts, emotions and senses?

Cultivating a real awareness of how we are, in our body and minds may feel like a huge commitment. What are the basic foundation stones of developing self and deepening our capabilities in that space we meet our clients in? How often are we really being in the present moment whilst coaching? Do you ever witness our own voice and its questions during sessions and sense a discord deep inside? Yes we do have inner voices which may be saying “when was the last time your walked your talk, coach?”

Mindfulness combines both formal and informal practices which can be added into our daily lives creating opportunities for coaches to adjust their way of being. There is no right or wrong way of being mindful but modern research has helped us to understand the depth of the benefits found in adopting regular exercises. The structure of our brains can change after just 8 short weeks of regular practice.

The AC have offered wonderful opportunities to learn more about Mindfulness and coaches can immerse ourselves in the plethora of wonderful books. However adding this mindfulness practice into our lives is one of the challenges that we all face. No matter whether you are a Buddhist or coming from a secular perspective, finding real time and commitment to stopping and giving attention to our wellbeing in the present moment is significant. Mindfulness is not just a new tool to be added glibly to our tool kit, it is a commitment to embody a new way of being in our lives not just in our coaching sessions. This is an ancient practice which deserves respect and appreciation.

Inviting a fresher alertness into our lives

  • Can we enter each session with the freshness of a beginner’s mind? An empty mind is key to letting something happen in someone else. It is the essence of coaching.
  • Can we sit with ourselves and develop compassion and self -care?
  • How self managed are we in our lives? Can we respond rather than react?
  • How does our self judgment play out in the coaching space?

As Riddle says in his article:

“The real question for the coach is this: how can I prepare myself to create a mental, emotional, and relational space in which someone may grow and develop? Mindfulness practices prepare coaches to really help instead of just trying to be helpful.”

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