Core Skills – Presence

Core Skills – Presence


​The ICF defines “Coaching Presence” as the ability to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the student using a coaching style that is open, flexible and confident.

Presence is about being there for your students. Really being there, not just your body in the room but all of you; your mind, your emotions and most importantly, your intuition.

You can call yourself present when you are dancing in the moment, allowing what you are feeling to influence the coaching process in a light and energetic way, and yet not being knocked over or in awe of what’s going on. The coaching is a dance and you are an active partner in it.

What we are aiming for in Presence is a child-like openness for whatever wants to discovered, experimented with, changed. You will be exploring and uncovering things that only the student knows about themselves, at a deeper level than in ordinary conversations.

In order to develop your coaching presence you probably need to be more outside your head than usual, and more into your emotions than in an ordinary classroom situation. And you will be relying on your intuition to show you the way. Have you considered the balance between how you use your Intellect, Emotions and Intuition?

You will know that you are Present when the coaching has a number of lighter and humerous moments – not jokes that you recall and tell, but moments of recognition that come from seeing things in a new way. You and your students will both feel uplifted by the Presence that you bring to the coaching, and it is your confidence in the coaching process that makes change possible for your students.

On many occasions, when you are present, you really don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You have no control. You aren’t in control, but you are in charge. And that means you need to stand in this place of not knowing, in confidence, with your student and allow whatever change wants to happen to make itself known. At times like these, when the winds of uncertainty are blowing more strongly than usual, I find it useful to repeat to myself “Trust the Process” three or four times in my head. This repetition gives the process a little more time to have its effect, and keeps me from saying or doing anything that might upset the process. Sometimes nothing happens, at least not on the surface. Always, a lot has happened. You can consider yourself priviledged if you get to see changes during the coaching session.

Another aspect that you will notice when you are Present is that a lot of different possibilities open up, lots of ways of working with the student. As coach you get to choose which way to work. Just go with the flow and you can’t be wrong. By trusting that your intuition has made the right choice, you will have a huge positive impact on the student. If however you make a logical choice – one that seems right in your head, you may risk having no positive impact at all.

You will notice that you are not present of you hear yourself telling the student things that come from your own experience and thoughts… just stop. It’s OK to go there from time to time, and as you do this less, you will become more Present in the coaching and be of more value to your students.

Another sign that you are fully Present is that you are not drawn into the student’s emotions when they react to their change process. You will simply stand there with them, eyes staring, tears flowing, voices hollering – oh and that’s the student I am describing. You will have a neutral expression, with a touch of wonder, like a child who’s just woken up a sleeping bear.

A situation that lends itself to developing Presence is having a meeting with angry parents, and perhaps their angry son or daughter too. Going into this situation head first, with your intellect, is likely to inflame their anger, result in a argument and leave you all exhausted after some time shouting at each other, and with probably little positive results. If you’ve been there, you’ll know what I am talking about.

In order to get the greatest benefit for all concerned in such a situation you can ask yourself to be more Present, include your emotions and intuition in the meeting and that will automatically include their emotions and intuition in their meeting with you.

By using open questions to uncover what’s really going on, and confidently standing in the storm of uncertainties and fears that they have brought with them, you stand a greater chance of bringing their process into view and enable them to deal more clearly with it. Repeating to yourself “trust the process” will help to keep you balanced in intellect, emotion and intuition; and will keep you from responding too quickly.

By being Present you will be able to access subtle clues in the spoken and non spoken communication that will help you name what’s going on. This might include taking a bit of a risk when you name something that’s likely to be uncomfortable for the parents and student to hear. There are ways to phrase yourself that are both confident and respectful, and avoid being accusative. We are focusing right now on being present rather than politeness. We will keep our focus on being spontaneous.

When you are Present you will notice that you find lots of ways for working together, so expect it, look for it, listen for it. If you consult your head at this time, you risk not being Present.

When you are Present you will notice that the conversation becomes lighter, humerous, so expect it, listen for it, look for it. If you consult your head at this time, you risk not being Present.

Here’s a simple tool for developing your sense of Presence over a period of weeks and months.

At the end of the meeting / day / week ask yourself “How Present was I?” How much humour was there? Were there many solutions popping up? Was I spontaneous? How much did I trust the process? You can score yourself from 1-5 and expect that the scores will go up over time. Like any muscle Presence responds well to repetition.

This is part of a series of 12 blogs about the ICF Core Coaching Skills