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.