In this article, we take a closer look at competency 5: Maintains Presence. ICF defines this competency as “Is fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident.” The first two that show the coach is competent in maintaining coaching presence are:
Remains focused, observant, empathetic, and responsive to the client
Demonstrates curiosity during the coaching process
Coaching presence starts with being “present” with the client. To do this, the coach has to have the ability to bring themselves into the coaching space, leaving everything else behind, and be fully attentive to the client. It is only when we are fully present with the client that we are able to hear the whole of what the client is communicating. We hear their words, what’s behind their words, what they say with their facial expressions, their vocal patterns, and body language. We hear what they say with their hand movements, their breathing, and their eye cues. Are they thinking? Are they feeling? Are they remembering? What are they processing?
When we are fully present with the client, we are able to step in and be in the moment with the client where we can allow ourselves to be empathetic to what must be happening for the client. We are curious about what the client can discover and uncover. Not for our benefit, but for theirs. We are also able to take a step back and look at the client’s world from an external vantage point that allows us to see patterns, inconsistencies, distortions, deletions, generalizations, and limiting beliefs that seem to be getting in the client’s way of moving forward. Being observant and responsive to the client not only requires that we listen and notice but that we bring those things that we observe into focus for the client to decide what they wish to do with them. Being responsive also means that we can’t be stuck in our own ideas or conclusions about what the client is communicating. We have to be flexible enough to see and hear when how we are working with them is resonating and moving them forward or not. Being curious means that we aren’t listening to what the client says and internalizing it, analyzing it, and telling the client what we are learning and discovering through their words. Rather, we must have enough presence to hear their words and bring that curiosity to the client to analyze their own thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and ideas to see what they can discover. Being curious means pulling the information out of the client for them to speak out loud. So, when they start discussing it, they peel back the layers of their understanding and reveal something that was always there and yet remained undiscovered. In short coaching presence is being there with the client, for the clients learning and growth.