In coaching there is a special kind of conversation where focus is high and both coach and coachee leave all other things and step into exploring the topic together. Being completely present with someone in a conversation is a rare thing. In ordinary life we often try to do several things at once. We cook dinner and talk to our spouse about todays work. We take part in a meeting and meanwhile check our phone every now and then or we sit down with someone to make up plans and stray away in thought or in speak into something completely different.
Presence goes beyond being in the room
Being present is so much more than just being in the room. In fact it is not at all about physically being in the same room. We have all been spending time with someone who was undoubtedly physically there but seemed to be somewhere else in thought.
Listening is an essential skill to being present. But listening can be done in different ways, usually called listening on different levels. When coaching the coach needs to be able to listen on a deep level to catch hidden messages, new perspectives and unseen details. To be able to do so an absolute presence is required. Presence in appearance, mind and soul with the person you are coaching. Practice makes difference as you can notice if taking coaching from coaches at different levels of mastery. The more experienced the coach – the higher the ability to stay present and listening on all levels the coach should be and when working with a master coach it may seem magic the way questions flow seamlessly and perspectives open up.
Presence as a coach is deeper than listening. Listening is one skill idetntifyed as an ICF core competency alongside with presence. And so, they should not be confused, being present is also about leaving your own pre-conceptions and learnings aside and really be there with the client in their world. Not waiting to add your smartness but working in theirs and in what is to release the wisdom of the coachee.
As a coach I leave my interests and my thoughts out of conversation and focus on being there with you as a person and with your chosen topic and overarching goals. As a client you may lose yourself in contradictory goals, values and thoughts but as a coach I am responsible for being present, being steady and guiding you towards your desired outcome. That’s is one part of why every good coach spends so much energy in clarifying the purpose of the conversation. To be able to be present with you and with your goal equally the coach needs to be clear on the goal to avoid being drawn into your confusion but to be able to walk alongside it with you supporting your process.
Coaching, another way of having a conversation
Having someone as present as in a coaching conversation may feel strange at first. We are very used to the conversation as a shared space where we each are given a bit of time and interact on both parties’ interest. i.e. You say something, I respond to that and start talking of something concerning me and you listen to me for a while. In coaching we are both there focusing on you and your thoughts, wants and needs. You don’t have to worry about whether the coach finds the conversation interesting enough, if you are polite and give the other talking space, if you are listening good enough. You just focus on yourself and your process and the coach will do the same.
Once gotten used to it this is a very comfortable place to be as a client. A place where you can be fully yourself and accepted. A place where you are resourceful and safe to challenge yourself without fear of being judged. The skill of the coach in being present is a large part of what creates this safe space. This is one of the true gifts of coaching – to be allowed to have a moment of total presence with yourself. Clear of musts and don’ts, clear of daily struggle and little things pecking for your attention. Focused on what is important to you.
This total presence is a game changer in many ways. As a coach I spend my working hours focusing on different people and teams, being present with them in what is and what wants to be. By me being present clients also focus their own presence on what is important to them.
In that presence things are happening.
It is as simple as that once you are ready for presence - the true gift of coaching.
Try at home/work:
When you are in upcoming conversations, observe how much of your attention is on the other person and how much is on you and your thoughts. How does the differences affect conversations?