Am I adapting and expanding, or staying true to myself?

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When I lived in Kenya, I used to coach a couple who would drive together from quite a distance. I coached each of them separately under a small grass hut, and the other spouse would often be visible from inside the nearby restaurant.

They would laugh at how thoughtful, relaxed, and still I was with the husband. And how animated, vivacious, laughing, and full of movement I was with the wife. Was I a chameleon?

I’ve often thought about this dynamic - the need for my coaching presence to be adaptable, to offer the presence that’s needed for each person and for each situation.

And at the same time, to be fully myself, and bring my own thoughts, feelings, intuition, and perspective.

As you know, if you’ve spent much time in the Awaken community, coaching presence is far more than being physically present; it is one of the most essential coaching skills. Being fully engaged with the client and responsive to what arises during a session is crucial.

During some sessions, presence might mainly be about having a clear mind, complete engagement, and intent listening for what’s spoken and left unsaid. The coach's focus is completely on the client.

At times, presence might feel like the coach is stepping aside, almost disappearing in favor of the client meeting themself in a new way.

Another, often more profound presence is showing up as our authentic self - creating a space where your client can experience the other. It can take incredible courage.

My presence is based on both my core essence and on the client’s needs. In that space, I’m asking myself, "What's happening inside of me right now? How can this awareness best serve the client right now?" 

This presence might mean being a calming force at one moment and a catalyst for change at another. A coach's presence can be challenging, nurturing, uplifting, reflective, or provocative - depending on what the client needs. It can mean expressing an alternative perspective for debate. It can mean expressing an emotion coming up for me. It can mean pointing out an incongruency I notice between spoken language and body language.

It invariably means showing up in the Great Love, with unconditional positive regard and a belief in the possibility of greatness.

Some of the ways I get present include:

  • Checking in with myself before the session starts. How’s my breathing and heart rate? Do any emotions need clearing from previous sessions? Have I reflected on this client with love? How am I tapping into the divine source?
  • Checking in with the client's coaching need. What is the real need for this time together? What are they saying they need? What am I sensing they need that I can inquire about?
  • Trusting the source of all wisdom. The greater Loving Intelligence will steer us in the right direction. It’s not about me thinking I’m right, as being willing to attentively invite myself and my client to tap into a greater knowing and a greater loving.
  • Noticing if I’m people-pleasing. Am I just trying to ask a smart question? Or say what makes the client comfortable? Or what makes me feel like an expert? Instead - can I have the courage to say what needs saying, even if I get it wrong? How can I invite truth-telling and honesty in an environment that invites bravery?
  • Keep checking in with myself. This can happen in brief breaths throughout the session, and taking time after the session has ended. How did my presence feel to me? How did it impact my client? What did it invite? Mentoring and supervision are tremendous spaces for me to reflect on my own fears and desires.

When a coach can bring a deeper presence, the client experiences their situation from multiple perspectives, colors, distances, and dimensions. This creates a co-creative journey between the coach and client, not confined by individual views but enriched by the coach’s ability to address the client's deeper needs.

By adapting and expanding who we are while staying true to our core essence, a coach can provide a transformative presence that empowers clients to discover new possibilities and insights.

8 Great Questions for complex situations

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