Mastering Mindfulness in Coaching

Mastering Mindfulness in Coaching

As a lifetime Social Worker, who also experienced living in a contemplative convent for over 2 years, I was intrigued with how I could bring these two world together. So I dedicated my career to training as a Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation and also became an active Mindfulness Practitioner. In reality, how can these two practices co-exist? In theory and in practice, lets explore the impact that coaching and mindfulness could have on coachees experience and more fundamentally on one’s own coaching style. 

The ICF core competencies guides and trains coaches in developing the skills of active listening, creating awareness and establishing trust with the client. While Mindfulness Practitioners are trained in developing their mental faculties of attention, intention and reflection, in order to bring a non-judgemental attention to their daily experiences. As mindfulness master Jon Kabat Zinn explains, “mindfulness is moment to moment, non-judgemental awareness.” 

With this understanding, how can mindfulness compliment both the coach and the coachee? Director of the Global Coaching Practice at the Centre for Creative Leadership, Douglas Riddle states that, “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.”

To highlight the impact of mindfulness for the coach and coachee, the author of Mindful Coaching, Liz Hall conducted an online international survey of over 150 coaches from regions including the UK and the US. The survey revealed the top reasons why coaches practice mindfulness: to help them live more in the moment (74%), be more self-aware (73%), manage/prevent stress (67%), and be more present for their coachees (65%). And the main reasons they use mindfulness explicitly with coachees: to help the coachees become more self-aware (70%), be calmer/less anxious (59%), better manage stress/be more centered (55%) and better manage reactions/responses (51%).

When working in partnership with coachees who are experiencing the inability to relax, have low self esteem, or are working through stressful situations, the benefits of mindfulness have the capacity to shift each of these areas. In fact, the proven benefits of mindfulness have been to increase an individual’s ability to relax, to develop greater self-esteem and to positively work through stressful life situations. Mindfulness is a practice of exploring how to consciously and systematically work with stress, and the challenges and demands of everyday life by not turning away from them, but learning to be resilient with and through these challenges. Coachees often find that space to think, feel and explore while staying invigorated within the relationship. In addition, this dynamic has the potential to create true collaboration between coach and coachee. 

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 powerful especially 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, where vast amounts of mental and emotional energy can be directed at the development of the coachee. This is a kind of mutual trance state, along the lines of being “in the zone” in sports, and most people have experienced it only briefly. The mindful coach can elicit this state and maintain it for the growth of the coachee.

The value of a meditative practice within coaching, is a way to master one’s mind, to silence the ramblings of our everyday life and agenda. This approach can train the coach, as they journey into a vast mental and emotional journey with their coachees. Coaches are committed to co-creating a relationship with the coachees, to be mindful in listening to the coachees concerns, gaols, values and beliefs. Mindful coaches provide coachees with the space to wander from viewpoint to viewpoint, from one incomplete thought to another until they begin to become aware of the whole thought and the basis for clarity. Entering the coaching conversation with a “still mind” is a key to letting something happen in someone else. For all conversations, when someone hears us with an open, still mind, we have the space to sense our own worth and value. This is the substance of coaching.

Mindful Coaching is continuing to make its mark in the coaching world. With society having an ever increasing demand on our time and energy, taking a few moments in our day to be centred and to centre our coachees has rich benefits in gaining clarity, finding solutions, managing stress and living with more depth.