If a coach can’t create an environment that dissolves the limitations of history, expectation, and assumption, don’t be interested.
How does a coach do that? According to Douglas Riddle in his Forbes Blog, “By creating in the conversation with the coachee a sense of open, reflective exploration. The coaches who expand the mind, emotions and performance come to the coaching relationship from a place of inner calm. They have quiet minds. They are not beguiled by fancy techniques or elegant coaching models. They are midwives for the narrow, messy emergence into a larger world – and they rely on habits of mindfulness to accomplish that.”
Riddle says that Mindful Coaching is Better Coaching.
Mindful coaches perfect a form of conscious and comfortable simultaneous attention to themselves, their coachee, the relationship between them, and the mental, emotional, and relational dynamics occurring in the moment. Mindful practices have shown benefits for clients in health, decision-making and leadership. Riddle goes on to explaining three aspects of mindfulness that have particular pertinence to leadership coaching:
1) an empty mind
A “stilling of the persistent chatter and the cognitive ticker-tape of commentary” in the coach’s mind i.e. an open and empty mind allows the client to sense their own substance and value says Riddle.
Getting the client to be “present” by letting go of thoughts and feelings that are occupying their present consciousness, by making an immediate decision about what is occupying their presence or merely be letting go in order to be ready for the coaching, is equally key.
Coaches are free to perceive the needs of their clients and respond – without escalating the emotional content or misinterpreting any intent according to Riddle. He says fostering a non-judgmental attitude as a coach does not mean “surrendering judgment”.
Coaching is a partnership that provides the context in which the client is free “to roam from perspective to perspective, from one incomplete thought to another until they begin to become whole thoughts and the basis for growth”. The coach has to exercise a compassionate approach of demanding the best from the client while still getting what they are going through. The coach has the responsibility in the coaching partnership to keep the client in the reality of the situation rather than their interpretation of the situation.
3) permissive attention
Riddle suggests the effectives of permissive attention in drawing a client’s attention to (rather than away from) an issue as a matter for discovery rather than concern.
Riddle says that a mindful coach can draw a person into a moment of connection in which all distractions disappear. This in the business context where the ultimate challenge for most leaders is staying focused for more than a moment on any serious line of thinking, perceiving, judging or acting. The coach is repeatedly able to draw the attention of the coachee to those things of importance to him and return the attention to it without coercion.
Modern brain research has shown that we move in and out of various states of focused or unfocused attention throughout our day. Coaching allows someone to stay on a line of thought until it yields new perspectives and answers. It proves especially powerful when these are questions that might have stymied us for a long time. The coach wants to create an encounter in which the two people are in synchronized attention and vast amounts of mental and emotional energy can be directed at the development of the person being coached, concludes Riddle.
Douglas Riddle is director of the global coaching practice at the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of leadership education and research, via Three Keys to Mindful Leadership Coaching – Forbes.