Here is a mini-script of coaching dialogue with likely ‘coach thoughts’ (referred in the bracket) with her client Susan. All characters appearing in this dialogue are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
Coach: Susan it is great to speak with you too. So what’s alive for you today (should I have asked her to take a few minutes of silence, no, let’s go with the flow…)
Susan: Things have been good. I have just been offered a new role in the Sales department; I am excited but very anxious. Some days I feel I can do it but most of the days I feel gosh this is not meant to be. It feels great to be noticed and get a new role, but it is new (pause), I have never done it before (silence)
Coach: I sense an excitement that the newness will bring, but also some fear (is it fear? Or should I have stayed at anxiety?)
Susan: It is not fear, I am just anxious
Coach: Silence (Oh gosh, I knew it was not fear, I should have just stayed with anxiety!!)
Coach: (silence) so you feel anxious, what’s beneath this anxiety?
Susan: (silence) I just feel uncomfortable with something new, I don’t know the job well, the people are new as well, most of all I don’t know my boss well, I have no connection with him!
Coach: Ahh, Are you anxious, because you need some stability and safety? (I hope there is an alignment; I hope I got it right; Let me just stay with Susan, let me go with the flow…)
Susan: Yes I need some safety, am unsure how this new department will be. I felt more in control and safe with my old colleagues and my supervisor
Coach: (Phew, Thank God!)
Well, the coach’s self-dialogue can sound something like this, with strong voices that show up faithfully. A coach could think about whether to be with the client completely, or analyse a response, to judge himself or the client, to just stay and flow with the dialogue, or to step in and move to action. There are critical moments of choice; moments of whether to think, do or just be. These choices can be most effective as a coach becomes mindful of the decisions being made or not being made.
Being mindful is not a new concept, it has been with us through religious teaching, scholarly influence, or the Gestalt psychology. It is about being present in the moment, to what is really happening right now, in the body, emotions, and thoughts. It is about just being consciously curious of what’s happening in the moment, and not anticipating future, or ruminating in the past. Mindfulness is about noticing things around you, your thoughts and feelings, thoughts and body sensation. Kabat-Zinn (reference? ) defines mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Ellen Langer a Harvard social psychologist, with 30 years research talks of how mindfulness improves performance, health, leads us to be more innovative, and is visible to people that we interact with. Neuroscience research also proves that regularly practicing mindfulness results in strengthening of brain areas which help us function effectively.
Here are three benefits I experienced as I coachmore mindfully
Being a listener:
As I practice mindfulness during my coaching sessions, I notice that I am listening more powerfully not just to the voice, but to the language being used, the body movements, and the tone. Mindfulness allows us to stay with the clients experience and reflect back the soul of the conversation. It allows us to notice what the dialogue is doing to the body of the client or our own bodies, and to call it out loud. As a coach, there are times when I feel the stress on my neck, as the client shares their pain – honouring it and calling it out loud, brings us into a deeper moment of authenticity during coaching.
It is teaching me to be mindful of movements – drop in voice, raised tone, slouched shoulders, tears, and being curious as to what is really happening to the client. I use simple questions like, ‘what is in the tears? As you spoke you clenched your fist, what does that mean for you?
It also pushes me to look at what is being said differently and uniquely not trying to categorise the client into what I have known or a familiar experience. This helps me deal with my stereotypes, biases and suspend my judgements, allowing me to begin to see each experience in isolation
It has taught me to strive to be more authentic, to work with whatever emerges. I am more intuitive and willing to risk my significance, as I share what comes up for me during the dialogue, like taking a leap of faith. It’s allowed me to freely use my coaching skills, acknowledging, appreciating, asking empowering questions or just staying quite with the client.
Roger Martin, in his book ‘The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking,’ states that there is no “right” way and to believe that there is a “right” way locks us into mindlessness. We narrow our focus instead of broadening it, which reduces creativity and openness. In one of my coaching sessions, I felt disconnected with my client, and we were going all over the place. It is at this time that I was mindful of the shift and just acknowledged what was happening in the present to the client. This allowed us to accept what was working and what was not, and to move into a more open and honest relationship.
I have learnt to go with the flow, to be mindful of what the client presents, to be curious about what lies beneath and how it transforms the client. It is like a river, forming its own direction, making a new path and exploring possibilities that may have been missed. This allows me to look for newer possibilities along with my client.
I also have begun to realise that it’s a journey, to be practiced daily. It’s a skill, that I need to sharpen, as I eat, exercise, pray- just as I live. To watch my thoughts and bring myself to the present. Quite ‘Me time’ has also helped me in this journey, just staying with myself, which many of us are so not used to. I have begun to notice, what’s new with awe, in things and relations around me just taking it in as a gift.
- How can you build mindfulness into your daily routine?
- Write down three ways you can be more mindful while engaging with your client
- How can you share the impact of being mindful with your client?
- Langer, Ellen J. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.
- Kimberly, Schaufenbuel (2014). Bringing Mindfulness to the workplace, retrieved from URL
- Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michael and Sharon Brown. (2011) Coaching for Transformation – Pathways to Ignite Personal and Social Change
- Roger, Martin. (2007). The Opposable Mind : Winning through Integrative Thinking
First published on SHRM