Cultivating Coaching Guidance

I don’t think anyone can learn how to deeply powerfully, lastingly coach someone solely by watching others do it. Here’s why: it’s like watching a skillful, experienced chess players or masterful jazz musicians and trying to determine why each is taking the action they are.

In these examples, each observed person is freshly responding to the unique wholeness of the situation, not following rules and not acting randomly. What guides these performers to take skillful action? That’s our question.

We may too readily answer “experience and intuition.” We all know people, though, who have been doing something for quite a long time, accumulating lots of experience, but not improving at the task (e.g. maybe you washing dishes). And as for intuition, isn’t that just another name for the mysterious guiding principle that we are attempting to reveal? Using the word “intuition” doesn’t seem to help us much. We can’t generate an inner guiding principle from it nor from repetitive action. So, let’s ask some questions.

Where does this guidance come from? Why do some people have it and others not? And how do we cultivate it?

Absent this guidance, the chess player would be summarily defeated and the jazz musician would sound stale, rote, clichéd and out of sync with her band mates.

Absent this guidance, we coaches:

  • mechanically ask questions we saw others ask,
  • force conversations that follows rules we learned,
  • feel at sea when the unexpected happens,
  • fall into confusion and powerlessness when our client doesn’t take up the program we designed.

Perhaps odd to hear, I claim that coaching guidance already exists—albeit in embryonic form—within each person who can initiate and sustain personal relationships. I say this because in satisfying relationships that last, somehow we know—we feel guided—when to speak and when to be silent, when to help and when to stay passive, when to give and when to receive. We don’t follow rules and we don’t do what we did last time. What is guiding us when we are doing this well, and what is in the way when we fall short?

Can you tell from this example the territory I’m pointing to? Where are you guided in your life?

Coaching guidance means an inner sense that extends to include our experience, what is happening for our client, the mutual co-creation of these two phenomena, and the physical surround. It arises naturally from our being present and from being consciously in relationship. Its depth, clarity and inclusiveness are determined by these two qualities of being.

Cultivating coaching guidance requires us practicing returning again and again to presence and becoming skillful in our attunement to others. We must learn what our conceptual, emotional, relational blind spots are and correct for them—because they will interfere with our close contact with ourselves and with our client. Consequently, self-knowledge and continuous practice, including candid self-reflection, are indispensable.

I propose that cultivating coaching guidance ought to be centrally important in any coaching training. It cannot be replaced with learning a method, becoming skillful with models, charisma, force of personality, or cleverness.

I will be writing about it here for a while but only you can bring it alive for you.