Reflecting and intention setting

As we come towards the end of 2020, we can pause to reflect on what has certainly been a year to be remembered and think about our intentions and hopes going forward. 

We are currently living through a remarkable time in our collective history.  Containing and treating the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has created an unprecedented set of circumstances that has had an enormous impact for many friends and colleagues around the world.  It has been new territory for all of us, both in dealing with the practical tasks associated with addressing the public health challenge; and in managing the emotional impact caused by its scale and immediacy.  

I know many of you have been impacted through personal illness, the illness or loss of loved ones, strain on mental health and wellbeing, threats to livelihood and very uncertain futures.  For many of us it’s new to experience our countries in turmoil, and it is very challenging to maintain a sense of perspective amidst the uncertainty.

It’s important to recognise that during the pandemic and the collective response to it, there have also been many other things going on this year.  We’ve seen widespread political chaos, gross inequalities and injustices in health and economics, further environmental degradation, and a spotlight on the endemic racism and institutionalised violence that is so deeply rooted in many of our social and political systems.  I am sure many of you have also experienced plenty of local crises and personal challenges that have contributed to making this a very challenging year indeed.

And there have also been opportunities for joy. Personal experiences that have provided a sense of positivity, hope and meaning.  Every-day “life goes on” experiences where we’ve touched happiness, humour and beauty.  Collective opportunities where we’ve demonstrated kindness for each other; where in groups we’ve come together to support important causes and take a stand for what is important; and where facing enormous challenges people have pulled together to take care of each other beyond personal benefit or gain.  In difficult times the human spirit can also soar, expressing more of its collective nature through the qualities of Love and Goodwill. 

As we begin a new calendar year there’s an opportunity to recognise our personal capacity for leadership, beginning with self-awareness and how we lead ourselves.  You could say that there has never been a better time to consider our relationship to the quality of individual and collective leadership we express.

What we focus on and how we direct our attention is an act of Will.  How we face ambiguity and hold in our awareness our choice to regulate the quality of leadership we embody requires maturity.  It seems to me that our communities are crying out for more centred people who are focussed on expressing compassionate leadership.

Being just a little more centred, and making more conscious choices about what you do and say, and where you focus your attention, will make a difference for yourself, others and the communities we are part of.

Current events present a unique opportunity to actively reflect on, plan and take action for the kind of leadership that we want to contribute to as the future unfolds.  In this period where many have paused or changed their usual day to day activities, there’s an opportunity to encourage deeper consideration of who we are and what we value, both individually and as a wider collective. 

I encourage you to use this time of passing into a new year to reflect on the year that has been and consider the year that will come, with all its uncertainty, and focus on how you want to express yourself during it.  There is no doubt in my mind that our communities need people of good will with open hearts to take a stand about what is important to them, to share it with others and collectively make a positive impact. 

With this in mind I offer below some of the core leadership principles for your consideration.  They represent for me a “back to basics” approach, and are phrased as an opportunity to think about the concept, reflect how you’ve been living it, and consider intentions for the coming year. 

While there is no certainty in the coming year, you can consciously choose how you want to be, how you want to express leadership, and what you want to take a stand for.

Some principles to consider and questions to reflect on…

Listening with an open heart

Take some time to reflect on “listening with an open heart”.  Through listening to each other we create opportunities for people to be truly recognised, valued and heard.  Listening with an open heart creates space for acceptance and understanding, where insight and creativity can emerge.  Being listened to helps us to order our thinking, process strong emotions and gain a sense of perspective.  Choosing to listen with an open heart is an act of leadership which can support people to access their inner wisdom while creating space for healing.

Ask yourself:

  • How has the quality of my listening been during the passing year?
  • How can I listen with an open heart to myself at this time?
  • What parts of myself do I need to listen to that I haven’t given space to yet?
  • Who could I offer more of an open hearted listening space to, and how can I listen more deeply to them?
  • How can I stay open to what they need to say and what they need to express in order for them to access their resourcefulness?
  • What intentions do I want to set for myself around “listening with an open heart” for the coming year?

Compassion for self and others

Take some time to reflect on your connection with “compassion for self and others”.  As we move into a new cycle, we have an opportunity to create space to recognise how recent events have impacted ourselves and others.  It’s important to acknowledge that how we feel is likely to be very different depending on our circumstances.  Offering kindness and understanding transcends the judgements of a right or wrong valuing of experience. Choosing to bring an attitude of compassion is an act of leadership and real service.

Ask yourself:

  • How have I experienced my connection with “compassion for self and others” during the passing year?
  • How do I need to show love for myself and what I have been experiencing?
  • What could I do to open my heart to those around me and acknowledge what they have been experiencing?
  • How can I express more compassion and kindness to my community?
  • What would support me to learn from my experiences and be even more compassionate?
  • What intentions do I want to set for myself around “compassion for self and others” for the coming year?

Taking responsibility for your inner world

Take some time to reflect on how you have been “taking responsibility for your inner world”.  Uncertainty and complexity can play havoc with our thoughts and feelings. While it is right and healthy to respond authentically to whatever is activated, we can consciously work with what is emerging and use it to learn more about our inner world, our patterns and habits.  Being aware, and owning our projections is a way of taking responsibility.  Choosing to take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings is an act of leadership and an opportunity for growth.

Ask yourself:

  • How have I related to the concept of “taking responsibility for my inner world” during the passing year?
  • What thoughts and feelings that I have been predominately identified with over the last year?
  • What thoughts and feelings do I want to include more as I move into a new cycle?
  • What do I know about how I can process and regulate my experience from a centred place?
  • How could I consciously choose the thoughts and feelings I want to focus on, energise and experience more often?
  • What intentions do I want to set for myself around “taking responsibility for my inner world” for the coming year?

Staying in relationship with what’s uncomfortable

Take some time to reflect on the concept of “staying in relationship with things that are uncomfortable”.  We don’t like not knowing, and we can easily collapse into right and wrong thinking in an effort to create a false stability.  Staying centred while managing the dissonance of not knowing, and holding multiple narratives while dealing with an uncertain future requires maturity.  Choosing to stay engaged with what’s uncomfortable is an act of leadership which can be a catalyst for new thinking that is potentially more inclusive and creative.  

Ask yourself:

  • How have I experienced “staying in relationship with what’s uncomfortable” during the passing year?
  • How am I experiencing dissonance in how I am processing my experience?
  • How could I seek greater diversity in the narratives I am allowing myself to be attuned to?
  • How might I hold a space to think more deeply about what’s happening in the world and engage with the many inherent complexities?
  • What other local and global challenges have I stopped thinking about that are important to me to reconnect with?
  • What intentions do I want to set for myself around “staying in relationship with what’s uncomfortable” for the coming year?

Appreciating resourcefulness

Take some time to reflect on how you have been “appreciating resourcefulness”.  In times of uncertainty, it is so easy to fall into lack-based thinking.  We can regress to focus on what is missing, what we can no longer do, and what is not working; while it takes discipline to adopt an appreciative mindset, seeing what is working, and recognising where people are making a difference.  Taking control of our thinking and appreciating resourcefulness in ourselves and in others is an act of leadership that builds confidence, creates space for innovation and empowerment.

Ask yourself:

  • How have I been “appreciating resourcefulness” during the passing year?
  • What can I appreciate about how I have responded to the pressures of the last year?
  • What opportunities are there to focus on how I have been resilient?
  • How could I be more appreciative in how I relate to the resourcefulness of others?
  • What might need to shift in how I relate to the concept of “appreciating resourcefulness” so that I can live it more fully?
  • What intentions do I want to set for myself around “appreciating resourcefulness” for the coming year?

The power to begin again

Take some time to reflect on how engaged you have been with “the power to begin again”. When things don’t feel like they are changing, it’s easy to become passive, making discontent the norm. While you may not be able to change your outer circumstances, at any time you can make a choice to change the way you are relating to it; or to make a plan and change it as is needed.  Consciously using your Will to re-evaluate and start again is an act of leadership that brings agility, supports adaptability and builds resilience.

Ask yourself:

  • How have I related to the concept of “the power to begin again” during the passing year?
  • Where have I become “stuck” in how I am relating and what do I choose to “begin again”?
  • Where have I already exercised my Will to change the way I am relating to my experience?
  • How can I stay flexible and supple in my approach and remain open to change?
  • How could I be of service to myself and others by expressing a more agile mindset in my interactions?
  • What intentions do I want to set for myself around “appreciating resourcefulness” for the coming year?

Influencing positively

Take some time to reflect on the idea of “influencing positively”.  We influence each other all the time; what we do and how we do it does affect others either both directly and indirectly.  The words we choose, the actions we take, and the emotions we radiate, can lift up, pull down, inspire and discourage.  The challenge is to express yourself authentically, while aiming to influence positively rather than causing harm.  Choosing to be consciously aware of your impact on others is an act of leadership that creates opportunities for positive influencing and collective growth.

Ask yourself:

  • How have I related to the concept of “influencing positively” during the passing year?
  • When do I feel I have made choices to make a positive impact?
  • In what circumstances have I been unconscious to the impact I have created?
  • What could I do to be more authentic in how I express myself while holding to the principle of harmlessness?
  • How could I be a more stable and empowering centre for positively influencing others at this time?
  • What intentions do I want to set for myself around “influencing positively” for the coming year?

How to use these questions…

There are many ways of reflecting and intention setting and it really comes down to what works for you. Some useful alternatives include:

  • Set a dedicated period of time to “retreat” and focus on the process
  • Consider one section each day, or over a period of weeks
  • Write about or record your responses and then swap and share them with others
  • Talk the questions through with a colleague or loved one
  • Discuss the topics with a group

Whatever works for you, I hope you enjoy the process.  The important thing is to do something to reflect on your experience and continue to evolve in your capacity for self awareness and leadership.

Thank you

I appreciate that all of you are already playing a leadership role in many different ways.  I hope that in the coming year you can continue to engage with the many opportunities to further develop your understanding of yourself and the leadership contribution that you can make.  At this particular time in our collective history, my sense is that the world needs as many of us as possible to consciously lead ourselves and positively influence each other to make changes that can serve all of humanity.  Thank you for the work you are doing.

My very best and warm wishes for the coming year.

Andrew McDowell, December 2020

8 reasons why health coaching skills are an integral part of a Link Workers’ toolkit

Health coaching skills are integral part of the tool kit for Link Workers and other’s working in social prescribing roles.  

Effectively, being a Link Worker involves doing what is suggested by the role name.  A Link Worker makes links, they create connections, they support information sharing, and they build relationships.  The role is all about collaboration and communication; and all of this requires them to be very effective in having high quality conversations.  

Link workers are at the leading edge of working with people to find out what the issues are that impact their lives, identify what is important to them, and then create the connections and relationships needed to support them to engage with the pursuit of what they want.  And while this sounds relatively straight-forward, it is made more complex by the fact that Link Workers and others involved in social prescribing roles, must have these conversations in a way that also supports people to engage with the change process.  They have to structure conversations that support people to access their personal sense of agency and resourcefulness so that they can take action.  This is where health coaching skills for Link Workers comes to the fore.

The need for high quality conversations was summarised clearly by Angela Coulter, when she wrote: “Instead of treating patients as passive recipients of care, they must be viewed as partners in the business of healing, players in the promotion of health, managers of healthcare resources, and experts on their own circumstances, needs, preferences and capabilities.”  (Coulter 2011). And while Dr Coulter was writing specifically about the health care system, the same principles translate to working how we work with people across all health and social care systems in communities.

With its origins in a strengths-based approach, health coaching fits with the holistic approach used by Link Workers. It recognises that people’s health is determined by a range of social, economic, environmental and biological factors, the wider determinants of health and wellbeing. Skills in coaching enable practitioners to have conversations with people that supports them to take greater control of their own health and wellbeing

So, if you work in social prescribing and haven’t yet explored health coaching, here are 8 reasons why health coaching skills could help you in your role:

1. Structure your conversations effectively

Health coaching is all about learning how to have conversations so that they can engage people to talk about what is important to them in a way that encourages commitment to change.  The way we open a conversation, the emphasis we place on different topics, and how we ask questions; all influence how likely it is that the person engages with the conversation and generates motivation.  A core aim of a health coaching conversation is to structure the conversation so it can lead to an outcome that is meaningful and satisfying for the person.

2. Understand what’s important

Lasting change comes when people make their own decisions about the things that are important to them. We’ve all heard of the idea of moving from a mindset of “what’s the matter with you” to “what matters to you”. Skills in health coaching enables people to operationalise this ideal. Health coaching equips practitioners with the ability to undertake agenda setting conversations effectively by asking questions and then listening deeply, gaining a complete understanding of what is important to the people they work with. An integral part of health coaching is supporting individuals to understand what they want, and to make their own decisions, rather than telling people what they should do

3. Build trust and rapport

Social Prescribing roles require people to build trust and rapport quickly. Low trust and rapport between a Link Worker and their client will most likely lead to a transactional relationship, where information is exchanged, but it doesn’t support the level of honesty or disclosure needed to create change.  Developing your health coaching skills will give you the tools needed to engage your clients in high trust and high rapport conversations where they tell you what’s really going on for them, what they really want and what’s at stake; the ingredients needed to support a more transformational exchange that leads to behaviour change.

4. Enhance your listening skills

When was the last time you really felt listened to?  Effective listening from someone who is truly present to you can be a tremendous gift, which can be enormously healing in its own right.  Unfortunately, we all think we are better than listening than we actually are.  The quality of your listening can directly impact the quality of the thinking in the person you are working with. This is particularly important when the people you are working with may be less confident or lonely and disenfranchised. For these people, feeling that they are being heard and understood is vital. Health Coaching helps you to hone your listening skills, it enables you to listen attentively, accurately, empathically and generatively.

5. Challenge thinking

To elicit change we often need to challenge people to think differently about their situation and the alternatives that they have.  It is natural for people to sometimes become a little fixed or set in their thinking.  In such situations, some supportive challenge is often needed to gently encourage individuals to think more and differently about their situation, and to reach outside their current understanding or comfort zone. To effectively challenge someone, you need to first build rapport. Only then can the challenge lead to a greater awareness and insight. A significant focus in health coaching is how to structure conversations and ask questions that supportively challenge limiting beliefs and encourage people to understand and think more clearly about their current experiences so that they can generate insight.

6. Generate meaningful options

Have you ever worked with someone where it was very difficult to engage them in collaborative problem solving?  Where they couldn’t contribute new ideas or options?  In such situations it is very tempting for most of us to make suggestions or recommendations.  And while there really isn’t anything wrong with contributing to the possible options for intervention, when the practitioner does it routinely, and is unable to engage the person they are working with in coming up with some ideas for themselves, it is particularly difficult to then engage the person in following through on potential actions.  To generate new ideas and meaningful options, we have to first help people generate awareness and insight.  One of the key tenets of a health coaching approach is the belief that “people are experts in their own lives” and that they are resourceful enough to contribute to generating their own solutions.  Effective health coaching training provides the techniques, skills and conversation frames needed to support people to think for themselves and discover that their own ideas and potential ways forward might just be worth trying out.

7. Support behaviour change

A fundamental test of any intervention is whether it actually contributes to people making a demonstrable change that improves their health and wellbeing.  While a Link Workers role is all about setting up links and creating relationships, an often under-appreciated aspect of the role is the focus on behaviour change.  This could be either through a specific health coaching behaviour change conversation where an individual decides to make a change in their lifestyle or in some aspect of their behaviour, or if it’s simply about following through on an agreement to access another service.  Health coaching training equips people with the know how to create behaviour change by structuring conversations that lead to outcomes, generate intrinsic motivation, and gain commitment to follow through on their agreed actions. 

8. Utilise a positive psychology approach

As a Link Worker, the use of a positive psychology approach can be a game changer. Are you sometimes stuck in seeing the person you are working with as a problem?  Or are you seeing them as at least holding part of the solution?  Do you see the asset or the liability? High quality health coaching training understands the value of the positive psychology approach.  It recognises that people are more resourceful than they think they are, and it supports practitioners to learn how to elicit people’s resourcefulness. Health coaching training can equip Link Workers with the skills needed to see the client both through the lens of their presenting issues, and at the same time as a person with deep potential.  

If you’d like to learn more about the programmes we run specifically for Link Workers and people who work in Social Prescribing roles, you can take a look here.

How are you listening?

“Listening of this calibre ignites the human mind. The quality of your attention determines the quality of the other people’s thinking.” – Nancy Kline

To be truly listened to is an incredible experience – this is because day to day it is so rare.

When another person is listening to you with interest and to understand, leaning in, empathising, you feel known and understood. You feel safer and secure and so can begin to trust in the process. This is the reason that listening is so important in a coaching approach, and why it can be transformational in health and care situations.

The quality of your listening is critical, especially listening with the other person’s goals in mind. For example, you are listening for signs of motivation and energy, signs of resistance in the process, the choices that they are making and how these choices move them towards their health outcomes or away from them. 

There are all sorts of reasons for it being difficult to listen during clinical and care conversations. Time pressures, the need to record information, interruptions, etc., all make it difficult to be fully present to the patient and really listen to them.

However, one perspective is that the more you can achieve a deep level of listening the better the information flow will be and the more engagement is possible.  

Listening is not just passively hearing; there is action in listening as confirmed by the following model.

When we train health and care practitioners in coaching skills we talk about 4 different Levels of Listening:

Listening attentively

  • Is the person giving me their full attention?

Listening accurately

  • Has the person fully understood my issue?

Listening empathically

  • Does the person really appreciate my feelings about this / can they stand in my shoes?

Listening generatively

  • Can I think more clearly and positively when this person is listening to me?

We have found that most of the time practitioners find it straightforward to listen attentively and accurately, but moving to listening empathically and generatively is more of a challenge in the context of most health and care environments. 

Everything in a coaching conversation hinges on the quality of your listening, especially listening with your client’s goals in mind.  For example, you are listening for signs of motivation and energy, signs of resistance in the process, the choices that they are making and how these choices move them towards their health outcomes or away from them.  Or are you only listening for the redflags you need to be concerned about, the evidence you need to confirm your diagnosis, or just for a break to say what you need to say?

As you listen you are making choices that change the direction and focus of the conversation. Communicating a more empathic and generative approach in your listening can support patients to be more active participants in managing their own health.

Unfortunately, it is a very common human flaw to think that we are better listeners than we actually are.  And we can all learn to improve the quality of our listening. 

To develop your listening skills, take a few moments to reflect on the categories we listed above and reflect on your own experience of listening …

  • At what level (Listening Attentively, Listening Accurately, Listening Empathically, Listening Generatively) do you spend most of your time listening day to day?
  • If you were going to score yourself 1-10 (10 being I always listen this way, 1 being I never listen this way) how would you score yourself against each of these levels?
  • How do you know that your score is reasonable? What evidence do you use?
  • Are there some times when you find it easier to listen in certain ways? Are there some times when it is harder to listen?
  • How would your clients rate your ability to listen?
  • What would your team members say about the depth of your listening when they are discussing matters with you at work?
  • What do you need to do to develop your listening skills further?

Please do contact us if you have any comments or questions.

Enhancing resilience through developing self-awareness

Having resilience effectively means that we have learned ways to deal positively with the gap between the demands of situations and our sense of the resources we have to cope. 

Resilient individuals have found ways to actively and consistently engage coping strategies to deal with the demands of stressful situations, whereas less resilient individuals tend to find themselves worn down and negatively impacted by stress.

The good news is that research shows that resilience can be learned.  Resilience is a dynamic quality that can be developed over time, meaning we can learn to enhance our capacity to both become resilient and to grow our level of resilience over time. 

From this psychological perspective the 3 core elements that are essential in developing resilience are:

  1. developing the capacity to cope well with stress and employ appropriate coping mechanisms as they are required
  2. developing the ability to bounce back to homeostasis after disruption
  3. learning and adapting from our experiences of stress, thereby providing resistance to future challenging events. 

There are many ways that people can learn to develop these capacities and generate a positive process of adaptation to stressful situations.  Developing a high degree of self-awareness about what it takes to be resilient is an excellent place to start. 

You can begin this process by asking yourself (or someone else!) some of the following questions that have been designed to support people to build self awareness of how they develop resilience and greater inner stability. 

Awareness about your relationship with resilience

  • What does being resilient mean to me?
  • How has my relationship with the concept of resilience changed or grown?
  • What is important to me about being resilient?

Awareness about how you experience “being resilient”

  • When I experience being resilient …
    • What do I do and how do I behave?
    • What do I say and how do I speak?
    • What do I think and how are my beliefs?
    • What do I feel and how are my emotions?
    • What do I sense physically and how does my body feel?

Awareness about how you experience “not being resilient”

  • When I experience not being resilient …
    • What do I do and how do I behave?
    • What do I say and how do I speak?
    • What do I think and how are my beliefs?
    • What do I feel and how are my emotions?
    • What do I sense physically and how does my body feel?

Awareness of what challenges your sense of resilience

  • What challenges my sense of resilience?
  • What experiences tend to erode my resilience?
  • What kind of circumstances are likely to threaten my sense of being able to “bounce back”?

Awareness of what enhances your sense of resilience?

  • What do I do to stay resilient?
  • What do I do to accelerate my ability to bounce back from stressful situations?
  • What have I learned is important for me to stay attuned to feeling resourceful and resilient?

Awareness about your coping skills

  • Where am I coping well with pressures, what am I doing and how am I being?
  • What emotional coping strategies really work for me?
  • What cognitive coping strategies really work for me?

Awareness of learning from experiences of stress

  • What have I learned about how I best cope with pressures or stress?
  • What has been a useful tactic or approach that I have used more than once?
  • How can I use my learning from previous experiences of stress to build a greater sense of inner stability and resilience next time I face pressure?

Developing resilience is a complex psychological process, that requires some kind of conscious awareness and management of your experience.  We are not born as either more or less resilient, rather the literature clearly demonstrates that resilience can be learned and developed.  As with many things, all change begins with self-awareness.  Understanding ourselves and proactively raising awareness about our processes and patterns can enhance our capacity to both become resilient and grow the extent to which we feel more resilient over time.

We hope these questions are useful both for your own development, and for your work with others.

Please do contact us if you have any comments or questions.

Enabling Personalised Care

Enabling personalised care: the art of health coaching

Extracts from the Future Hospital Partners Network piece to introduce the article Health changing conversations: clinicians’ experience of health coaching in the East of England in the Future Hospital’s Journal. by Dr Penny Newman & Dr Andrew McDowell,

What is Health Coaching?

Health coaching is defined as ‘helping patients gain the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to become active participants in their care so that they can reach their self-identified health goals’.

There is growing evidence that health coaching training can enable clinicians to deliver more personalised care to patients. There are also indications that health coaching can help increase patients’ levels of satisfaction, motivation and confidence, which in turn results in changes in health-related behaviours.

There are benefits for clinicians from using these approaches too.  We have all felt overwhelmed by our work in the NHS at some point. We are being asked to care for more and more patients with fewer and fewer resources, and there are times when it can feel as though we’re failing to make the difference we want to people’s lives. There are also times when it can feel like patients’ expectations are at odds with our own, or we sense people could do more to help themselves.

Expectation vs reality

As a clinician, a natural response to these situations is frustration. As a result, we may try to tell patients what to do, make decisions for them, and fall back on the ‘doctor knows best’ model, especially because of the time pressure we experience. But, in the words of Dr Angela Coulter, of the Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH) at the University of Oxford, ‘paternalism breeds dependency, encourages passivity and undermines people’s capacity to look after themselves’.

Instead, one option is to ask ourselves whether the way we communicate information could be different. The evidence suggests that only a third of patients take their medication as instructed and only half feel sufficiently involved in decisions about their own care. This suggests there is a mismatch between what patients want, what is realistic within the context of their lives, and what we as clinicians expect from them.

The power of effective communication

In our view, effective communication is the most overlooked skill in the clinical workforce. Our work in the East of England has shown that health coaching skills have helped:

  • clinicians feel better equipped to structure difficult conversations
  • patients and clinicians to share responsibility.

Clinicians who understand the needs, motivations and goals of their patients will be far more likely to be able to identify and tailor support that will be genuinely useful to achieve behaviour change. Equally, patients who are supported to identify their own strengths and resources are more likely to develop the skills, confidence and understanding to become motivated to manage their own health and care – potentially reducing the need to revisit their doctor.

Delivering sustainable behaviour change

Some people think that health coaching is simply about teaching clinicians to do coaching, but it is far more than that. Through our work we are encouraging clinicians to use their clinical skills and abilities in a way that uses coaching to deliver behaviour change. Health coaching should also be considered a component of the leadership toolbox. The skills and techniques can be applied to other situations too, such as with colleagues or in appraisals.

We believe that adopting health coaching approaches can lead to greater satisfaction among clinicians, enabling us to share responsibility with patients and better manage difficult conversations to help patients improve their health. By reframing conversations and getting the most value out of them, we can help patients identify and make the changes that are important to them.

To find out more about health coaching read: https://www.rcpjournals.org/content/futurehosp/3/2/147

Please do contact us with any comments or questions.

Developing Presence

“We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.”  Pema Chödrön

Thinking about how “present” you are in your interactions with others is definitely a worthwhile endeavour.

For many of the coaches that we work in the health and social care system who are clinicians and practitioners, the quality of “presence” they bring to their interactions with both the people they coach and the communities they serve, can have wide and lasting impact. 

We define a coach’s presence as:

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

This way of thinking about presence involves the following key premises:

  • That someone’s presence is developed through their own journey of self-development and becoming more whole as an individual.
  •  The expanded awareness of the individual includes their awareness of themselves, their client, the communities they serve, and the coaching conversation.
  • People who have strong presence have a well developed sense of “being” underpinning their approach.
  • They tend to demonstrate a deep trust in the potential of the client, the coaching process and the purpose of their time together.
  • When present, coaches and clients often describe experiencing a sense of flow and stillness.
  • People who have a developed sense of presence tend to be able to quickly build deep levels of rapport, trust and a connection to their client.

We have found that the primary outcome of being “present” is the sense of being in tune with, or in good rapport with, the client – which has been found to make a fundamental shift on the quality of the coaching process. 

Trust is generated through the authenticity of the coach being deeply available in that moment, fully committed to the client and the potential of them being together.  A key result is also the development of trust, which is a major factor to the success of coaching. Trust means the client engages in the coaching process and opens themselves fully to self discovery.

When someone is truly present, and rapport is strong, more disclosure and expanded awareness is possible; making the coaching much more likely to lead to transformational outcomes.

How can you develop “presence”?

The following approaches for developing presence are recommended:

Develop self awareness through observation and feedback

We have found that coaches who have the opportunity to regularly experience observation and feedback can build their awareness and understanding of the barriers or interferences to them being fully present. Getting some help to notice where your thinking is when you are slightly out of sync with your client, or getting some feedback about “how present” you felt to your client is a great place to start.

Develop your sense of identity as a coach

Coaches that have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for in their role as a coach tend to be perceived as having greater impact and presence.  Spend some time reflecting on what is important to you as a coach, what your values are and what your role is.  Take some time to prepare for each session by reflecting on your philosophy as a coach and how you want to embody that in the session you are about to participate in.  

Bring it to Supervision

All coaches need regular supervision.  Whether it is as part of a supervision group, with a peer, or in a more formal 1:1 setting with a coach supervisor, having supervision and continuing your development as a coach is fundamentally important to developing presence.  When you take some time to explore more of the conscious and unconscious processes that inevitably impact our coaching with, you get to know yourself better as a coach, and generate the ability to focus more in the here and now and be present. 

Practice mindfulness or meditation

Developing the practice of observation of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations through some form of regular mindfulness or meditation technique is another great way to develop the ability to focus and be present.  There are many practices to choose from, and it doesn’t really matter what you do, just find something that makes sense to you.  The important thing to do is create space for regular practise. We have found that coaches who can undertake this discipline, will definitely be developing their ability to be present.

Developing the ability to be present is very worthwhile, particularly in times of crisis or difficulty.  People tend to remember the people who were really there for them, the people who really listened and showed compassion through just being presence. 

It reminds me of what Maya Angelou once said:  “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Please do contact us if you have any comments or questions.