Gaye Kuelsen, PCC • July 22, 2022 • 5 Minute Read
You may be aware that the ICF recently announced that from 1st August 2022, any new applications for the ACC, PCC, and MCC will be assessed using the updated application pathways. As we move closer to using the Updated ICF Core Competencies model, this month we will focus on the fifth competency:
5. Maintains Presence
Definition: Is fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident
1. Remains focused, observant, empathetic and responsive to the client.
This is the game changer! The level of attention we give our clients when fully maintaining presence is so much greater than most other conversations or professional interactions. This single difference makes coaching so effective and transformational. Quite often a client has expressed to me, that the experience of truly being heard was during a coaching session. This opens the opportunity of deep connection with another person which is open, flexible and compassionate.
Notice the first word here – ‘Remains’. This is a common challenge with emerging coaches. How do you remain and maintain presence for the entire coaching conversation? The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned and developed. Think of your presence as a mental muscle that you can develop and strengthen. Start with spending a few minutes intentionally focusing on one thing – it could be a type of meditation, on a picture or scene, or a candle flame. Then build up your time as you become more able to maintain your focus for longer periods.
2. Demonstrates curiosity during the coaching process
When we are curious and want to know more about our clients, we ask questions that invite the client to truly emerge as their authentic self. With curiosity, judgement cannot co-exist. This means that when we are engaged curiously with our clients, our focus is on them, which does not allow space for any focus on our own assumptions or judgements. The depth of curiosity demonstrated can be an indicator of coaching at an ACC or PCC level. Some emerging coaches need time to gain a sense of comfort being in unknown territory and often progress too fast into action or solutions. Moving towards PCC competency, the coach often displays a greater confidence and spends more time in the exploration and discovery phase for the benefit of the client, and moves into inspired action when the client is clear and ready to progress.
3. Manages one’s emotions to stay present with the client
Creating a pre-session ritual or routine will support you in being in the optimal mindset to offer the best service to your clients. Also consider if the time of day impacts on your energy levels, and your ability to maintain presence. This consideration may help you decide the best time for you to schedule your coaching sessions. The issue of managing our own emotions, is often the result of being triggered during the coaching conversation. Developing your own practice to acknowledge and ‘park’ your trigger, is essential, so you can return your focus quickly back to your client.
I firmly believe all great coaches have a coach! Regular support from your coach will enable you to explore and understand your own emotions during the time dedicated to you, so you are in a better position to manage yourself when you are coaching your clients. Sometimes our emotional reactions stem from our areas of development within our coaching practice, and learning new skills and strategies is a fabulous advantage of working with a Mentor.
4. Demonstrates confidence in working with strong client emotions during the coaching process
Don’t panic! … OK, more effectively – Stay Calm! This is where confidence will enable us to hold the space for the client as they experience their strong emotions. Being in a place of deep emotion, your client is likely lost for a time, and unable to think clearly or make any decisions. In terms of brain science, the Survival Response of fight, flight or freeze has been activated. Therefore, my suggestion at this time is to avoid asking any questions, as this may put unnecessary pressure on your client to provide answers that they are unable to formulate.
Hone into your presence to become aware of what you notice is coming up for you. Tapping into your intuition and ask yourself what do you see and sense and feel. Then you have something to share with your client, like – I notice that this is really upsetting/challenging/hard for you. Also take time to observe your client, as that may be something to be curious about and ask when your client is ready to proceed – What is behind the tears? What is that sigh about? etc
5. Is comfortable working in a space of not knowing
If you are someone who is excellent at planning and being organized to create certainty, then this may be a challenge for you. These skills are very useful and helpful in most areas of life. Though as a coach, being at ease and relaxed when you or more importantly, your client does not know the answer or solution, enables you to hold this space safely for your client. Another perspective which may provide some relief for you, is that if you don’t have to know the answer or solution, then the pressure is off you. This is an opportunity for you as the coach to sit back, relax and completely focus on your client. You will know when you have expanded your comfort zone when you find a flow in this discovery phase and a willingness to remain curious which will avoid progressing too fast into solution and action.
6. Creates or allows space for silence, pause or reflection
The dreaded silence is something many of us wish to fill with words, any words, during our conversations. Though in a coaching conversation, “silence is golden”. This applies to both the client and the coach. Staying silent when you notice the client is thinking, or taking notes, creates this space. Pausing before asking your next question, and taking extra notice to ensure your client has finished speaking, gives your client time to continue to think at a slower pace. Quite often, it takes time for our inner wisdom to bubble to our conscious surface, and you granting this silence is a remarkable gift for your client. When we feel uncomfortable with silence, we may get nervous, which can show through the delivery of our questions. Therefore, I encourage you to grant this same gift of silence for yourself. Take a few moments, so you can process what your client has just shared, then formulate the question in your mind, so that you can deliver your question fluently and confidently.
Sharing these mentoring moments with you,