What if… your coachee feels like committing suicide?

We’re sitting with a coachee, either in a first exploratory meeting or further along in the coaching relationship, and it dawns on us that the individual in front of us is contemplating suicide. Maybe it’s been stated openly, or maybe we’re getting the feeling that the coachee is moving in that direction. What should we do?

round shaped brickThis may be an extreme situation, but as coaches we cannot know if and when such a dilemma will confront us. We can, however, be prepared if and when it does. Suicidal coachees or individuals dealing with other kinds of crises which affect their mental capacity deserve that we’ve thought through how to handle such situations, and it’s our ethical duty to make sure we’ve done our homework.

That’s why this time I’ll be highlighting two recent documents produced by the International Coach Federation (ICF). They were prepared with the express intention of ensuring we have guidance at our fingertips to clarify the most helpful options, as well as proven pathways to follow which we can be assured will help our coachees optimally. I’d recommend we read both of these documents carefully as soon as we can, and have the reference sheet with us at all times:

A blog post can’t possibly do justice to all the valuable material presented, so here I’m focusing on 4 important topics:

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What if… you’ve had enough of thinking?

We’ve all been there. The brain goes into slow mode, a fog descends, and we can’t seem to crank it up any more with our normal levers and tweaking. We’ve had enough…

Head with spaghetti-like brainDon’t think I’m referring to burnout here. As in my previous post discussing the times we just don’t feel like coaching, by homing in on the occasions we don’t even feel like thinking, I’m not including burnout. Burnout requires specific help and action that’s well beyond the scope of this blog, or of coaching itself. What I’m talking about is the kind of ‘slow processing’ the brain defaults to when we’ve just finished a project, or we’ve been firing on all cylinders for a while and need to call time out. In our usual busy ‘thinking and doing’ mode we may not recognise this, and we may start to berate ourselves or begin to worry something ‘serious’ is afoot.

How often do we fall into analysing what might be ‘wrong’, and examining ourselves for even more inadequacies than we know about already? Or look around for those nefarious culprits that we’re sure are ruining our health and lives – usually our bosses, colleagues, family members, the dripping tap that keeps us awake at night… anything that can explain this reluctant brain which appears to have gone on strike?

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What if… mindfulness weren’t so fluffy after all?

What do you think of when you picture mindfulness? Something fluffy and soft, like a comforting pillow?

I ask this because these days mindfulness is talked of widely as a solution to almost every ill. If we’re mindful, we might eliminate depression and stress, cultivate clarity of vision, influence our surroundings to the good, run better companies, and possibly live longer more healthy lives. Practising mindfulness for even a few minutes a day could increase our sense of well-being, helping us to be comfortable in our own skins, as well as accepting of life as it really is, as opposed to being fretful because things aren’t what we’d like them to be…

Fluffy FeatherIf this were the full story, mindfulness really would be the ‘grand fluffy pillow’ of development interventions. The problem is that the story’s a little more complicated than that. What if mindfulness weren’t so fluffy after all?

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What if… terrible coaching sessions weren’t really that terrible?

Have you ever left a coaching session groaning, “Can things really get any worse? Is my coaching really so dire? I’m an idiot!”? Whilst this can be a common reaction amongst coaches in training, don’t be fooled into thinking it doesn’t happen to more seasoned coaches from time to time too.

Man holding unhappy red squarePossibly the reaction is accurate. The coaching session was that dire, and you really are an idiot. I’d hazard a guess, though, that if you’re a qualified experienced coach (or even a newbie in most cases), the more likely story is that something’s been triggered in you which has retrospectively coloured your memory of the experience of the whole session. It’s part of a reflective coach’s duty to try to get to the bottom of such things rather than brush them under a convenient carpet to be tripped over at a later date.

Here I’m going to touch on the kinds of circumstances that might cause such an extreme reaction in a coach, and suggest  3  simple processes we can build into our planning which can help put the experience into perspective. These  3  processes are things we should be incorporating into our thinking anyway, but here we’re looking at them as being helpful when we really need to find a different perspective.

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What if… coaches didn’t know best?

How often in conversation with another coach do you find the subject moving to coachees who don’t do what they know they ought to do? It’s happened to me quite often. In a previous post I considered the proposition “What if… coachees were coaches?” and in some ways what I’m going to say today continues on that theme. We all know we’re supposed to believe that coachees have within themselves the answers to their problems, but somehow our keeping hold of that insight gets swamped by ‘interference’…

What do I mean?

two mannequin heads in a poolCoaching is in many ways more about how a coach deals with his or her own baggage than it is about the coachee. One function of a coach is to hold up that mirror to coachees which helps them perceive themselves in perspective. But what if the coach isn’t really holding up a mirror at all? What if the coach has unwittingly substituted his or her own image?

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