Top Menu

‘Change happens in the crucible of relationship’ B Critchley

Coaches are in relationships every day. Coaches say things like:

‘It’s hard to be objective with him

I love working with this client.

When she’s angry, I freeze

He makes me confused and feel stupid.’

While we are busy creating contracts, coaching leaders or raising performance levels, we do this within a web of relationships and it is the nature and fabric of this web, which quietly but powerfully, affects coaching outcomes. So it is important that we bring to our coaching, awareness of how relationships work and of which relational skills make for successful professional conversations. In the reflective practice of super-vision, coaches have the opportunity to learn more about the subtle aspects of relationship; these skills can be the difference between being a good coach and being a great one.  I have had the enormous privilege of working with Executive coaches for over 12 years and what this has taught me, is how much more powerfully we coach, when we know ourselves, know ourselves-in-relationship and can understand our coachees.

In the next few blogs, we will look briefly at these three aspects of relationship.

Knowing ‘me’, the coach

I often say: “Who we are is how we coach”. What I mean by that is that we are the main instruments of our work. Even more than our tools, skills and trainings, the person that we are, has a huge influence on each coaching conversation that we have. How we show up in sessions is part of that. How present and open are we in the stimulating, pressurized and sometimes difficult coaching conversations that are part and parcel of our everyday work? Presence requires that we have, “the capacity to meet experience fully and directly without filtering it through any conceptual or strategic agenda.’ (J. Welwood).

We might also ask: how attached are we to our tools and techniques in sessions and how does this affect our showing up authentically? ‘Technique is for a coach what a text is for an actor:  they both have to forget it in order to be present.’ Luc de Belloy.

When we can allow the right tools and techniques to emerge in the session, rather than searching for them, then there is a much better chance that the coaching conversation will flow and the coachee will get what they need.

Some questions to consider about ‘who I am’ as a coach:


  • What is the range of my own life/business/relational experience?
  • How connected and comfortable am I with my inner world?
  • Have I sufficient skill to meet all client situations with confidence ?
  • How do I relate to challenges in clients’ personalities and behaviour?
  • How do I relate to my own fears and other strong feelings that can arise in coaching?

 Edna Murdoch 2012