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The Gift of Coaching Presence

Posted by Sadhan Bhattacharya | February 2, 2018 | Comments (3)

Any coaching relationship yields the best outcomes when the client has the supreme trust in the coach and the coaching process. On the part of the coach, it’s extremely important to have an unconditional faith in the client’s intentions and abilities as well as have an open mind to explore and “flow” with the process. This brings to the fore Coaching Presence, one of the ICF Core Competencies.

The meaning of the word “presence” is to be available or to exist at a certain place or time. Coaching presence, then, is to be fully present with your client, moment-by-moment and, at times, in physical reference, too.

A typical coaching session might have a transcript that reads:

Coach: “…Hello Jim! How are you doing this evening?”

Client: “Hi Peter. I am great. Thank you.”

Coach: “Is there anything that you need to ‘clear’ out before we begin today’s session?”

Here the coach is attempting to clear out any pattern that might keep the client from being fully present in the coaching process. It’s a pattern interrupt. Similarly, for a coach to be the most effective, it’s equally, if not more, important to be fully present with the client. Being in sync and fully dancing in the moment with the client brings about the most authentic self as a coach. In the book Presence-Based Coaching: Cultivating Self-Generative Leaders Through Mind, Body, and Heart, Doug Silsbee explains presence as “… a state of awareness in the moment, characterized by the felt experiences of timelessness, connectedness and a larger truth.”

Exhibiting coaching presence as a process is essential because it:

  • Helps create a space where the client can go deep inside to dig out their innermost gifts and resources. This is critical to create a different frame of reference where solutions emerge.
  • Supports co-creation of the relationship. Master coaches follow the client’s agenda and are ready to experiment and explore vulnerabilities. The coach cares little about the process and smoothly glides through with agility, innovation and mutual learning
  • Helps establish authenticity in the coaching process and relationship. The coach moves to a state like unconscious competence in learning and coaching.

The very essence of coaching presence will allow the client to lower their guard and explore the gifts and resources deep within. The coach helps the client explore and experiment with various thoughts, ideas and plans. The coach is fully and deeply listening, without judgment.

For professional coaches, mastery of coaching presence is a journey. Every coach progresses through a maturity continuum from being trained to attaining mastery. As one moves up the curve, these skills become innate and spontaneous. However, the following logical steps might help new coaches gain proficiency faster and make this capability more natural.

  • Being actively self-aware in the initial coaching episodes and through training, a coach can take the initial journey. Reflection is a key element.
  • Humans are vulnerable to various distractions. As a coach, one must deliberately avoid judgments in the process and the content to be fully present in the moment.
  • Meditation can favorably impact the development of presence and mindfulness.
  • Filming initial episodes (and discussing with a coaching supervisor when appropriate) can help the coach review their own process.
  • Centering and deep breathing calm nerves and keep the mind fully present.
  • Developing a mindset to let go of the process without ignoring the elements and their deeper connection to help the client is vital.

With coaching presence, a coach transcends from “doing” coaching to “being” coaching. It allows the client to connect with a deeper self (being) from the superficial one (doing). Coaching presence also contributes to higher-order trust between the coach and the client and leads to superior and lasting outcomes. Finally, coaching presence helps develop presence in the client too. Research into clients’ behavior establishes that they start to unconsciously develop their own presence, thereby moving from quick fixes to permanent solutions.

With coaching presence, a coach innovates and demonstrates flexibility in the process and learning. A master coach with superior coaching presence can co-create the entire coaching experience in a magical fashion like building the aircraft while flying it.

As a coach, how do you build your coaching presence?

Sadhan Bhattacharya headshot

Sadhan Bhattacharya

Sadhan Bhattacharya is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance through the Association for Talent Development.  In his current role as head of the training and development function at Johnson & Johnson, he is responsible for creating a world-class learning organization and turning it into a true business driver.

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. Tom Manos says:

    Sadhan,

    Thanks for sharing. All valuable information. One phrase I was taught by a former coach that has been valuable was ‘slowing my thought process’, which aligns well with the points made in your article, as doing this enables people to be more present in the moment during coaching interactions and other situations.

    Tom

  2. La presencia es, sin duda alguna, la competencia más importante a desarrollar para mí. Estando presente, lo demás fluye en una danza maravillosa en la que me dejo guiar por mi cliente.
    Algo que a mí me ayuda mucho es conectarme con el cliente, conscientemente, a través de mis sentidos. Antes de la sesión inicio con un centramiento y respiración profunda; desde el primer momento de la conversación busco conectarme visualmente y en mi escucha con la persona o grupo que tengo delante, como olvidándome de mí en cierta manera, paralelamente en lo físico busco sentir el sistema, el momento, el lugar en el que estamos construyendo ese espacio íntimo de confianza y co-creación. En este primer tiempo de experiencia profesional, concentrarme deliberadamente en mi cliente me ayuda mucho, espero a otros les sirva este breve compartir.
    Saludos desde Uruguay y muchas gracias por este excelente artículo!

  3. Zorifah "Zoe" says:

    Thank you for sharing Sadhan. One thing that stands out in your post for me, is when you talk about how to help a client develop their own presence so that the change shifts from temporary to permanent. It’s a very delicate balance and I never want to make my clients dependent on me. Your last bullet point was the most useful while I was moving up into mastery. Letting go of the process and finding my own flow,

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