How to Create Flow in a Coaching Session - International Coaching Federation

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How to Create Flow in a Coaching Session

Posted by Sezin A. Ninic, ACC | May 28, 2018 | Comments (3)

People are most creative, productive and often happiest in the flow state, according to renowned psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. Flow means concentrating fully on the task, being effortless with full of joy and being unconscious of time.

Artists, athletes and people in a variety of fields experiencing “optimum” flow describe the experience in following words: having no past or future but present, being one with the activity, forgetting yourself, timelessness, having optimum clarity, having no judgement, not planning a next move, daily problems melts away.

Here are some tips for coaches to create and benefit from the flow state:

Challenging Tasks

Flow state starts with a not-so-easy task that can even be perceived as challenging, but only to the degree that is suited to the individual’s capacity. If the challenge is higher than skill level, it can leads to anxiety; if the challenge is lower than the skill level, it can lead to boredom. To translate to coaching as such, the coach is knowledgeable, skilful with regards to coaching competencies and methodology, knows what they are doing, are confident and brave to go out of their comfort zone.

Clear Objectives

Another step in creating flow is “having clear objectives.” By its nature and methodology, coaching is aligned with this step, as outlined by the ICF Core Competency of “Planning and Goal Setting.” At the beginning of a coaching engagement, the client arrives with a set of objectives to change and/or improve their life, and a contract, which sets clear objectives for each coaching session, is drawn up and agreed upon. In addition to the clear objectives, regular feedback in the process contributes to creating flow.

 Focus, Focus, Focus

I can’t think of a successful coaching session, yet alone flow state that does not involve full focus. To maintain focus at your coaching session, do preparation work before the session, show up on time, minimize distractions, and conduct emotional checks to prepare the client for the session.

Focus is a state of mind and requires practice to achieve, apart from the above-mentioned tips. For instance, people who often try to multitask tend to have more challenge in focusing because they’re switching from one task to another, lowering overall productivity and quality. To better your focus, practice it at other times while doing other activities, such as reading a book or writing an article. Try to do this without allowing any distractions like checking notifications on your phone. Gradually increase your focus time.

One of the biggest distractions is actually in our head—self-talk, inner voice, saboteurs. A trained and practicing coach is well aware of these and knows how to manage the mind chatter. Practicing mindfulness and meditation, as well as assigning tasks to saboteurs are some ways to manage it.

What is expected at this focus stage is in line with the ICF Core Competency  “Coaching Presence;” it’s like dancing in the moment.

Intrinsic Motivation

There is one more crucial element to flow: loving what you are doing. You should not expect any other reward or outcome from the activity because the activity itself is rewarding enough. If you love coaching, chances are higher that you experience flow state during your sessions than if you do not love coaching.

Practice makes it perfect. By embracing these steps, you can create flow at your coaching sessions and experience the joy, effortlessness, depth and impact of flow.

Sezin Ninic headshot

Sezin A. Ninic, ACC

Sezin A. Ninic, ACC, is a Leadership and Career Coach who helps clients with their career transitions and leadership journeys, such as taking on a new regional role. She served in senior Human Resources leadership positions for 16 years at multinational companies and has worked with variety of cultures across different countries. Sezin is an ICF Turkey Chapter Member who is contributing to the development of the coaching profession as a member of the Chapter’s Marketing and Social Media Committee. Connect with Sezin on Twitter @sezininic.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (3)

  1. Chuck Gohn says:

    Nice article. I especially like: “A trained and practicing coach is well aware of these and knows how to manage the mind chatter. Practicing mindfulness and meditation, as well as assigning tasks to saboteurs are some ways to manage it.”

    I am a big fan of meditation to help calm the “thought monkeys” that tend prevent focus. Thanks for the article!

  2. This was an interesting read. I recently heard about the “flow state” research while reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” book. It is fascinating, and I definitely can see how foster this flow state during a coaching session would be beneficial to participants, and possibly facilitate a stronger commitment to discovery of internal motivations or engaging in actions towards a desired goal.

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