Presence is absence. At the height of masterful coaching all you witness is a dance that the client leads. Coach is mindless and invisible.
Creating a contractual agreement for the coaching session and journey is a tactical need to ensure that a foundation is laid. Sustaining one’s presence through the session and journey is the essence of all coaching, its strategic imperative.
Coaching presence is quite similar to what one expects as executive presence from leaders. Coaching presence comprises the following parameters:
- Client centricity
- Co-creative partnering
- Congruence in values
Of all coaching competencies, presence is the competency most difficult to define, but easiest to experience and observe. You don’t need to be a coach to sense coaching presence, in the same way as you needn’t be a dancer to appreciate the greatness of the performance.
From a core competency assessment standpoint, the coach at the minimum needs to display the following capabilities:
- Systemic perspective of the client and client’s situation both in the session and for the future, connecting to the whole client and who the client is, in relation to what client needs are.
- Client situation perspective is not voyeuristic but a present moment awareness of past events affecting client outcome within the client mind frame, cognitively, somatically, ontologically, emotionally and energetically, while maintaining an objective mindless non-judgmental frame of mind.
- Curiosity, responsiveness, empathy and intuition to understand the client and explore, undiluted by own agenda and a need to perform and create value.
As an extension of its role in establishing trust coach must partner by allowing the client to:
- Choose the process of coaching and learn from it, accept any response, presenting whatever client expresses as possibilities.
- Teach the coach who is unafraid to learn
- Acknowledge and support shifts in body, voice, emotion and energy.
When present, the coach is vulnerable, willing to accept whatever client says, accept whatever client chooses in humility. This allows the coach to listen intensely and question relevantly.
When present, the coach is unafraid, explores not knowing venturing into zones of discomfort for self and client, intuitively aware of being of value to client. This would extend as shall see later to direct communication, unafraid to challenge, yet gently.
When present, the coach is congruent with the client, with no kind of own, no judgment based on values and beliefs, focused only on what the client needs.
In my experience, kinesthetic presence leads to energy presence, the highest level of presence.
Here are some tips that may help you achieve presence:
- Never sit facing the client squarely. Face the client obliquely using peripheral vision, a technique popularized by Milton Erickson.
- Mirror the client in posture, voice pattern and if possible in breathing.
- Lean forward indicating interest not backwards as if you didn’t care
These techniques establish presence at the unconscious level, where it really matters.
Questions for the coach
- Are you natural, spontaneous and at ease?
- Do you trust the process, yourself and the client?
- Have you let go the need to provide a solution?
- Do you feel and respond to the emotions and energy of the client?