Presence – a Gift

We’ve all had this experience. We are at a cocktail party and we’ve just started a conversation with someone we’ve just met. We exchange a few questions and then they start glancing over your shoulder or their eyes glaze over. Sound familiar?

Think about a conversation you’ve had with someone in the past few days. What told you loud and clear that they weren’t present? Did they seem distracted or ask questions that missed the mark? Were they more focused on saying what was important for them rather than being attentive to what was important for you? Think about how this made you feel.

How about you, were you hearing the words but formulating your clever response at the same time? Were you thinking about what to cook for dinner while they were telling you all about their weekend? Yes, we are all guilty of losing focus and losing ‘presence’ and the impact of this is not conducive to building strong relationships.

As a coach, presence is the best tool you have and it’s the best gift you’ll ever give to your clients. Presence informs everything that we do as coaches including how we listen, the questions we ask, the messages we give, and our ability to quickly build trust and connection with our clients.

Through our presence, we are able to sense the right moment to ask a question, and the most powerful question to ask at that time. Our presence will help us to know how long to hold connected silence with our client or whether the time is right to ask another question or offer an observation.

Presence enables us to meet our clients where they are (rather than from our perspective of the world) and gives us the best opportunity to connect with our clients’ issues, challenges, goals or ambitions through their unique perspective.

The type of presence that we want to have as a coach is presence that allows us to focus fully on the client. It’s as simple as that. Your intention to be in full connection with your client will maximise the effectiveness of the coaching.

True coaching presence is about being able to work with your client in the moment in a way that will best serve their forward movement. It means being open to different perspectives, being okay with not knowing, being adaptable to what might come your way and being confident in yourself and in the coaching process. Trust is a major part of this. Always trust that your client is capable and that the coaching process will get them to where they need to be at that moment in time. The more trust you have, the more present you can be as a coach.

Being present isn’t always easy but working at this skill – through mindfulness, meditation, breathing or just simply being in the moment for as long as you can – is truly worth it. Your clients will benefit enormously and your conversations with the people you care about will be so much better too.

Here are a few simple tips as you develop your presence as a coach:

  1. Find a routine for becoming present before you coach and practice it
  2. If you notice yourself being distracted when coaching – or for many new coaches getting caught up thinking about the next question to ask – refocus on connecting with your client
  3. If you do find yourself losing your presence, it’s ok to say “Sorry, could you repeat that? I just got a bit ahead in my mind.”

When you are present with others you pick up on so much more than just the words they are saying. You notice their energy, their shifts in tone, speech cadence, emotion and mood. You show respect and become a better communicator. You ‘hear’ in 3D and connect more deeply.

So, in the next few days, really notice how effectively present you are in your conversations at home or at work. Try to avoid interrupting and truly focus on the person. The more you practice, the more natural it will become.

By Sam Patterson, MCC, Director of Training, Health Coaches International. Join Sam to learn more about Coaching Presence and so much more in his Mastering Coaching Presence Course: