In this blog post, we define the term ‘coaching presence’ and share some of our research on presence with a view to enhancing your knowledge of the area. We also highlight some development strategies to enhance your current practice. 

Definition of a coach’s presence

There are many definitions and interpretations of a coach’s presence, which have evolved over recent years in line with practice. However, from our research we define a coach’s presence as:

“The cultivation of being and heightened and expanded awareness of the coach; characterised by the felt experiences of stillness, timelessness and connectedness.”

This definition is based on work by Douglas Silsbee and outlines the following key points:

  • The coach’s presence is developed through their own journey of self-development and becoming more whole. It is an all-encompassing awareness of themselves, their clients and the coaching conversation.
  • Coaches who have strong presence have a sense of “being” rather than “doing,” embodying their identity and letting go of control, responsibility, process and tools. This demonstrates complete trust in the potential of the client, coaching and their moment together.
  • When present, coaches and coachees often describe the sense of ‘flow’ and ‘stillness’.
  • Their deep focus enables them to build deep rapport, trust and a connection to their client and the larger system.

What is the impact of the coach’s presence on the client and the relationship?

It was evident from our research that the coach’s presence has a major impact upon the relationship with their coachee.

The primary outcome of presence is that a coach becomes a high-performing coach, in tune with their client and able to facilitate the client’s learning to maximum effect. This has been found to have a fundamental shift on the outcome, making the coaching transformational and providing sustainable development for the client.

A key result is also the development of trust, which is a major factor in the success of coaching. Trust means the client engages in the coaching process and opens themselves fully to self-discovery.

Trust is generated through the authenticity of the coach being there in that moment, fully committed to them and the potential of them being together whilst maintaining a deep focus and awareness as though they were both at the centre of the universe.

It was also clear from our research that coachees are very aware of their coach being present during the coaching session, although many of the coachees interviewed would not have labelled this as presence. However, they did sense this as having a major impact on the success of their coaching programme. That is, if a coach is not ‘present’, there will be a barrier to the coaching relationship.

How have “master coaches” developed their presence?

Our research identified the following approaches for developing coaching presence and we suggest that a combination of the below tactics (if not all) are used:

  • Develop self-awareness through the practices of observation and feedback. Become aware of your own identity and purpose – research has shown this to be a key enabler of presence. Through this reflection, coaches are also able to understand the barriers to them being fully present. A key barrier is simply trusting in the process and letting go of achieving a result, responsibility and tools and techniques.
  • Develop the practice of observation (through meditation techniques).
  • Supervision is an important support mechanism. This can help you become aware of when and how you are present (centred) and to deepen this in your practice.
  • Ground and centre your body. Somatic techniques can be used to heighten awareness of feelings in the body; this can help you to become present and maintain this presence.
  • Prepare the environment. It’s important to develop an awareness as to what enables you to be present or in the flow state. You can then ensure that you are replicating these conditions when you are coaching. Coaches are also using this approach with their clients to help them be present and in flow too.

For more information, or to discuss your own development, please get in touch.