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When we realize the fact that everything changes and can find our composure in it, that is the fruition of the practice.” – Master Suzuki Roshi
What is mindfulness and how can we bring it into our coaching practice? In this session, Alison Whitmire, President of Learning in Action, offers the benefits of incorporating mindfulness in our coaching and shares three practical exercises we can use with our clients for a deeper and more meaningful coaching experience.
Mindfulness is defined in many different ways by various people. When we break it down, it comes to purposely attending to our present moment experience with acceptance or without judgment. We can point to the three core components of mindfulness as present moment awareness, being on purpose, and accepting our experience. Meditation comes in as the practice we use to develop mindfulness.
How is mindfulness beneficial to our coaching clients? Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn in a hospital in Massachusetts over twenty years ago, has been studied in a clinical setting for decades. Research provides evidence that mindfulness reduces emotional exhaustion, stress, depression, and anxiety. It also improves feelings of accomplishment, self-compassion, the quality of our sleep, and relaxation.
In these incredibly uncertain and challenging times, mindfulness can give our clients the ability to maintain a degree of buoyancy or a sense of resilience and spaciousness that they would find difficult to access otherwise. This is what we are looking to foster with our clients: the ability to be with what is, no matter the circumstances.
Do you love your clients? Most of us like or love most of our clients. And most of us have or have had clients that maybe we don’t love so much. Maybe we like them or maybe we just tolerate them. And that’s OK, that’s normal.
And most of us do this work, this work of coaching, the passion path we’ve chosen because we want to do transformative work. We truly, genuinely want to impact our clients’ lives for the better. And we do that not by helping them solve the issue de jour, or providing them with tools or frameworks. We do it by creating and holding the generative space that allows them to bring their shadow into the light. And that truly only happens in the context of a loving container.
So loving our clients, truly genuinely loving our clients at the essence of their being, matters. And we know this.
So what keeps us from loving, truly loving our clients?
Bring to mind a client you have had that you just didn’t love. We all have them. Maybe we liked them alright, and we didn’t fully love them. Or maybe we just tolerated them. What was it that we didn’t love?
Maybe they stayed at the surface. Maybe they didn’t appreciate our coaching. Maybe we found some aspect of them hard to take, their personality, their triggers, their habits, the way they did or didn’t engage with the coaching or with us. There can be many reasons why we don’t fully, completely love our clients. (more…)
This article was originally published in November 2016 and updated on October 20, 2020.
Do you know the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? It’s a marvelous book written by a Seattle-area author, Robert Fulghum. I wish I could write the same book about coaching school: All I Really Need to Know About Coaching I Learned in Coaching School.
However, after 15 plus years of coaching, I’m realizing how much I didn’t learn about coaching in either of the two certified coaching programs I completed.
While I really could write a whole book about what I didn’t learn about coaching in school, I’m focusing this article on four key insights I’ve gained from thousands of coaching hours, much of which has felt like trial and error. I’m hoping these four key concepts that most coaching schools don’t emphasize will help make your learning curve steeper than mine was!
As coaches, we are always creating awareness in our clients. While all the ICF Core Competencies are important, creating awareness is perhaps the most central competency to coaching.
Our clients hire us because they want something to change, about themselves, their lives, their careers, their leadership, and/or their relationships. If they could change it themselves, they would. And often our clients can’t change what they are wanting to change because they can’t see what’s getting in their way.
Oftentimes, what’s in their way —the obstacle lying between where, how, and who they are and where, how, and who they want to be — is some aspect of themselves.
Our clients typically can’t see what’s getting in the way of their change. The obstacle to their growth is so ingrained, so conflated with the frame and lens through which they see others, themselves and the world, that they can’t see it. It’s in their blindspot.
After thousands of coaching sessions working with hundreds of clients, I’ve learned to spot a few common blindspots that create obstacles to a client’s growth. It was only after seeing these blindspots over and over through the lens of attachment theory and relational intelligence, that I began to see some obvious patterns emerge.
Here are three of the most common client blindspots:
We all have blindspots. Even us coaches. It’s part of how we humans have learned to survive – narrowing down what we focus on, labeling our experience to reduce energy drain, projecting our past onto the present to increase predictability. It’s normal.
Part of our role as coaches is to be doing our own work constantly – identifying our own blindspots, understanding our habituated patterns, expanding what’s above the line and shrinking what’s below the line of our conscious awareness. We do this work in coach training. We do this so that our blindspots, our patterns, our conditioning don’t get in the way of our coaching.
And yet, they do. We can’t rid ourselves of all of our blindspots. Because we’re human. All we can do is to keep looking for them.
After having worked with and trained coaches for many years, we’ve identified three common coaching blindspots – coaching choices made by coaches that reflect the patterning of the coach and negatively impact the coaching. (more…)