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Coach, Can You Really Think Outside the Box? … and Still Be in Your Comfort Zone?

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Some of the most frequently asked questions I get after delivering a coaching demo is:
‘Can I really ask my client THAT question?’
‘Can I really give THAT feedback?’
‘Can I really laugh like THAT?’.
Well, my answer tends to be "Yes, if you’re present to think outside the box and still feel in your comfort zone’ …
ICF (International Coaching Federation) defines coaching presence as the ‘ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.’ (ICF, International Coaching Federation) Following my PhD research (Erdös, 2021) on workplace coaching and in particular on movement synchrony in coaching, in which we analyzed a massive amount of video-taped coach-client interactions over time, I define coaching presence as ‘the capacity to spontaneously respond to needs any given moment in any given situation. This capacity shows in our body before we even utter a word. Our body comes before our brain.’ (Erdös, 2021; Erdös & Ramseyer, 2021)

What is that spontaneity in coaching presence?

Spontaneity seems to mean that we are able to ‘respond’ without any conscious effort. This absence of conscious effort means that we do not ‘react’, which is acknowledged to be presence that is shaped by our defensiveness (Wilber, 2006). Instead, we respond either to some stimuli in us or in our interaction partner(s) or in the narrower or larger context that we are in. Spontaneity requires that the absence of conscious effort is only possible if we stop thinking and start being in our body, connected with our sensory intelligence (Erdös, 2021). Spontaneity based on sensory intelligence seems to also imply that we have a well-balanced capacity to hear, smell, taste, see and be touched by what is going on any given moment: no reactions but responses.
In other words, presence as an expression of spontaneity is some:
  • embodied relational process between coach and client: it is non-verbal motion energy in action;
  • mutual needs exchange: spontaneous responsiveness to meet needs in the moments for both or all interaction partners;
  • authenticity: how well vs. how much we are able to adapt to what is needed;
  • four spheres of presence: what is needed in the I (in myself), the WE (in the relationship), the ALL (our context and environment), and the OMNI (all the other things we bring into the room including our biological state, philosophical attitudes, or cultural heritage).
Eventually, this expression of presence means that we listen beyond words and stories.

What Is Spontaneity to Do With ‘Thinking Out of the Box’?

A lot, I'd say. Spontaneity implies that we
  • can let go of what we ‘should be’ and are expected to do in coaching
  • are fully anchored in our genius self beyond merely aware our ‘why’ in coaching
  • can be authentic in how we are authors of our coaching, which will show in our adaptability to the four spheres of presence (I, WE, ALL, OMNI)
  • are aware of how our needs (e.g., certification, existential, relational) shape how we build comfort zones
  • can color outside the lines of learned rules and regulations serving clients rather than serving a certification system all in line with ethical standards
  • are ready for deep learning to serve clients rather our own, let’s say certification needs

That’s a BIG ASK, I guess. Well, that’s personal mastery in action

Personal mastery, which ICF states as being just as important as coaching competences, is about constantly working on thinking out of the box to be present to precisely what is needed in the four spheres of coaching: I, WE, ALL, and OMNI (Erdös, 2021). 

What Is Spontaneity not to Do With ‘Thinking Out of the Box’?

Presence as an expression of embodied spontaneity (Erdös, 2021) is not to do with leaving the comfort zone. On the contrary. It is about being and staying in the comfort zone. Paradoxical?
No. Let’s think out of the box.
Being in a certain comfort zone, in our context here, means precisely that we have personal mastery as we
  • feel safe to color outside the lines when coaching even if our coloring is contrary to what we were taught in our coach training
  • feel comfortable leaving some well-trodden path and breaking learned cycles of asking questions or being a coach
  • feel anchored to lose our safety and security blanket of ‘these are the MCC markers’ or ‘these are the PCC markers’ or ‘ACC markers’ I need to abide by.
So, I invite us coaches to reflect and keep reflecting for ourselves: 
  1. How well am I coloring outside the lines? How authentic is my presence really? How much conscious effort is in my practice? 
  2. How solid and anchored is my comfort zone to allow myself to color outside the lines of my current knowledge and practice?
  3. How well am I serving my clients’ needs beyond my own needs? 
You don’t have needs as a coach? You only serve clients?
Let me challenge that perception.

– How many times have you thought of attending a webinar where you can receive CCEs easily and conveniently? 

– How many times were those webinars or ICF CCE-ed programs really the ones that would hone your personal mastery? 

– How often were those webinars or programs the ones that would get you easily re-certified? or, 

– How well are you aware of the shadow sides of digital coaching? 

– How many times do you rejoice as working digitally as a coach is convenient?

We all have needs as coaches. And that’s OK. What is important is to wonder, after all we are in the business of ‘curiosity’:

Staying in the Comfort Zone: What is My True Love Story Being a Coach?

This question has the capacity to reveal insights for us to 

a.)  explore our personal mastery while connecting with our comfort zone

b.)  be present to our true capacities to develop our coaching business without external motivation mechanisms (i.e., scarcity flag, sticks and carrots or reward and punishment cycles) being the drive to ‘sell’ our services 

c.)   discover how we can be grounded in an ever-changing market as we are more than a set of our competences 

d.)  learn to think outside the box, color outside the lines of predefined coaching practices while staying in the comfort zone being fully ethical.

Let's Take Things Further to Learn and Practice

If the topic of personal mastery is something you wish to explore to enable your coach business development, you’re welcome to join our community and be part of an initiative that promotes social impact through coaching as the event fee will go towards funding coach training for women in Kenya. Why? Because we are committed to use coaching as a tool of empowerment for women as they strive to become more entrepreneurial in their communities. Carin H. Bladh ICF MCC and I, we welcome you to something that the coaching world has never seen before.

If you wish to hone your presence through spontaneous responsiveness, join us here www.integrative-presence.com to learn in an experiential online and offline set with coaches and leaders in a boutique setting. Deep-dive through our experiential approach into the power of presence learning the difference between virtual and in-person presence through spontaneous responsiveness. Claire Venetsanakou and I, we will hold the space for you to experience presence beyond your imagination, beyond the practice of improvisation, beyond your mental capacities of brilliant thinking to embrace sensory intelligence working with leaders online and offline.

References

Dr Tünde Erdös (2021). Coaching Presence: The Power of the Non-Verbal Relationship. McGraw Hill, Open University Press.
Dr Tünde Erdös, & Ramseyer, F. (2021). Change process in coaching: Interplay of movement synchrony, working alliance, self-regulation and goal-attainment, Frontiers in Psychology, DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.580351
Dr Tünde Erdös: www.tuendeerdoes.com

This article was first Published on LinkedIn in December 14, 2022

Dr Tünde Erdös (2021). Coaching Presence: The Power of the Non-Verbal Relationship. McGraw Hill, Open University Press.
Dr. Tünde Erdös is the mastermind behind Integrative Presence. Her Harvard-Grant-based research sets a benchmark in the field. She is an author and sought-after speaker on leadership and coaching.
Dr. Tünde Erdös - Integrative Presence™ Founcer
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