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Coaching Presence

ICF definition: Ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.

1. Coaching Presence.

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It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Coaching Presence as the foundation of all great coaching. As we progress towards mastery, techniques will be valuable and we will constantly gather them, but the power in our coaching will be in the ability to be present – to be able to meet all that is occurring with openness and intelligence: ‘the capacity to meet experience fully and directly without filtering it through any conceptual or strategic agenda’ (Welwood). A coach who can do this, will find techniques popping up like old friends during sessions, rather then having to stretch for them. Techniques and tools arise from profound, sustained presence. This sometimes requires a measure of faith. We can be taken into the heart of not knowing with a client – a fertile, if somewhat unnerving place! ‘What do I say/do now?’ Learning to BE there with the client (sometimes in silence), so that they can learn to be present with their own experience, and feel it fully, is a great gift for the client. It is a very subtle kind of modelling which gifts a client contact with their inner life and consequently, independence from the coach’s perceptions. It is truly empowering.

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Coaching Supervision supports the development of Coaching Presence by inviting the coach to explore the minutiae of his/her presence in life and during specific sessions, by the supervisor being present to these explorations, offering insights and collaboratively creating specific training games/experiments which will deepen the coach’s capacity to be present.

2. Personal Development – EQ and SQ

EQ – emotional intelligence. Personal Presence.

Here at CSA, we often say, ‘Who we are is how we coach.’ The business of who I am in life, in the coaching moment, has a major impact on how I am coaching in that moment. The following questions are central when we address notions of EQ. What is the range of my own life experience? How connected and comfortable am I with my inner world? How well researched is it? Have I sufficient confidence to meet all client situations with truth, confidence and grace? How do I relate to glitches in clients’ personalities and behaviour? How do I relate to my own fears and other strong feelings which can arise in coaching? How much/little am I aware of the energetic exchange between myself and clients? Can I respond to what I know about this? Am I working at a level which is consistent with who I am – or am I edging beyond my personal limits? Can I hold Self and Other in the same frame of perception/thought/imagination as I speak with clients?

Coaching Supervision works powerfully to strengthen coaches’ EQ., so that they develop key internal skills that will lead to an increase the range of clients that they work with. The happy result will be that coaches can meet more client situations with confidence and competence.

SQ. – spiritual intelligence. Transpersonal Presence.

This is a major source of strength and insight in Coaching Presence. When we nurture our SQ., we can be present to the heights and depths of human life. We are also opening the possibility of working transformatively with clients. Developing SQ is becoming a key feature of training as the coaching profession matures. Coachville and Newfield Coaching are two coaching schools which emphasise the need for coaches to be cognisant of, and skilled in, working with SQ.

Here at CSA, we all have significant training and experience in working in this way and teaching it to others. As Coaching Supervisors, we use the powerful insights of SQ to greatly expand coaches’ consciousness and all-round awareness. D. Zohar defines SQ as: ‘the intelligence with which we access our deepest meanings, values, purposes and highest motivations. It is how we use these in our thinking processes, in the decisions we make.’ We might add that it is how we use these in our coaching conversations that will determine both the range of life situations in which we are able to be comfortably present as coaches, and the depth to which we can take our clients. ‘LIFE coaching’ does invite us to be conversant with as many aspects of life as possible. To ‘have’ SQ., is to be working at a soul level. At this level we are enabling our clients to touch the heart of their lives. People in all contexts benefit from coaching conversations which move towards soul-making – that which reconnects us with the imaginative possibility in our natures, which ‘turns events into experiences’, which helps us to align with emergent potential, which makes positive use of adversity and which establishes awareness of field consciousness.

‘The soul is dyed the colour of its thoughts. Think only those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny. – it is the light that guides your way.’ Heraclitus

3. Practical Preparation for Presence

Sometimes it is the distraction of compulsive thinking which takes us away from the present and out of Presence. There are many Energy Management tools which help to bring us into the NOW, into Presence. A basic guide is that the best way to get out of your mind is to get into the body. The following simple and quick exercise has the effect of slowing you down, clearing your mind and enabling you to be fully present in any situation. It is particularly useful when working with clients.


  1. Grounding.
    Whether you are walking or sitting, become aware of where the ‘ground’ touches your body – through the soles of your feet, the back of your legs and bum, and your back. Bring all of your attention to that physical sensation for a moment. Feel the ground holding you up.
  2. Centring.
    Now bring all your attention and awareness closer to home – to the trunk of your body. Be in the centre of your body – let the trunk straighten and feel its strength.
  3. Breathing.
    Finally, bring your awareness to your breath. – let your breath breathe you. Notice the rise and fall of your chest or the flow of air as it enters and exits your nose. Ride on the breath.

Practise this sequence slowly and regularly until you are able to use it effectively in a few seconds. Use it in your life and before and during coaching sessions.

Edna Murdoch – Director CSA, 2005