3 Key Coaching Pillars

By Toku

I believe coaching is an art form. There are SO many ways to coach and none are inherently good or bad. The choices are dependent on the situation, the coach, the client, the delivery, the emotions, the container, the context, and so much more.

However, amidst all of the choices, there are 3 “pillars” that create a powerful foundation.

If one of these pillars is underdeveloped, your coaching will suffer as a result. And alternatively, you can continue to strengthen each of them to improve your coaching.

Pillar #1 – SEEING

We all have the ability to “see”. But, not everyone is willing to or has developed the skills to see beyond the surface. To see the unseen.

First, you must prepare yourself to see. Meditation and mindfulness are great at helping to slow down and really look at things in a way you may never have before.

Then, you must know what to look for in your sessions with a client. After enough sessions, you’ll begin to see there are common things to look for. Things such as: identify stories, listen to language cues, watch for nonverbal signals, find belief patterns, recognize systems of belonging, energetic dynamics, as well as notice the areas they are avoiding.

Our cognitive biases play a huge role for this pillar. We don’t see what we don’t see. And, our biases affect what we DO see. There’s no escaping this, but we can be conscious to practice challenging our bias.

One of my favorite resources in exploring seeing is through the lens of an artist. Someone who picks up a pencil and draws an apple doesn’t actually draw what they are seeing, they draw a representation of the apple they know to be true. However, a developed artist intentionally practices their clear seeing and to draw based on the shadows, highlights, shapes, and dimensions.

Click HERE to read a beautiful excerpt written by a master artist on “seeing”.

Pillar #2 – TRUSTING

If you do not trust what you are seeing, then you are missing out on all the gold!

This trust can happen on a few levels:

Your SELF – Trust the things you can point to, but also the things you can’t such as your desires, gut instincts, and body sensations.

Do not underestimate what you feel (especially if it might not make any “sense”), and be willing to bring what you feel to the conversation as this can foster greater connection with your client and shake up their default patterns.

Your CLIENT – Trust your client’s process. Empowering them and believing they already have the answers. Sometimes it’s actually about helping them to remember and reconnect with themselves.

I have coached many people around topics I am personally not savvy in. This is because I trust my client and I can be a navigator supporting them as the captain of their own ship.

The PROCESS – Trust the process that you may not get to a big breakthrough for months, yet their experience is exactly what needs to be happening. The process may not look the same for each client, and that’s totally OK.

Toku has a great example of a client he was feeling stuck with: he kept coming to me trying to figure out why they weren’t “getting anywhere”. Then, 6 months into their coaching, she had a massive breakthrough. For 6 months, he’d been developing rapport and connection so she was willing to go deeper with him.

Pillar #3 – GUIDING

As a coach, you are a guide. From the moment you invite them to a conversation.

There’s a difference between the way you BE and the mechanisms you utilize for guiding.

The being is your style, your personality, the way in which you choose to show up in the world. Some people are more confrontational and directive, others more subtle and invitational, others more playful and free-spirited. Ideally you’re a unique combination and continue to expand your range of being.

The guiding mechanisms fall into two main categories:

HOLDING – using presence, attention, and spaciousness you “hold” the energetic space for your client to explore and discover for themselves. Sometimes, you might be holding so you as the coach can collect some information on “seeing”. And other times, you might see something, yet the most powerful thing you can do in that moment is let them discover it in their own way. Holding might look like: being silent, using reflection to summarize what you hear and asking for clarification, offering reassurance, or asking curious questions.

LEADING – this is a shift from holding because you intentionally take the client somewhere in particular. It might be leading them for one moment or might be for longer. Leading might look like: being direct in what you see from the outside, sharing a story, challenging a belief / pattern / behavior, teaching about something you have expertise in, or inspiring them into action with a specific practice or experiment to take into the world.

It can be useful in a conversation to focus on holding in the beginning and then switch to leading when they are going in circles or when you as the coach have a clear “seeing” you want to call out for them.

The most artful coaching is a fluid dance of holding and leading, where they flow together throughout the conversation.

For those who are more comfortable holding, you can practice leading by being direct about what you see in a loving way.

For those who are more comfortable leading, you can practice holding by asking more questions and staying silent more (even if it feels uncomfortable).

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