Revisiting ‘What if… we were coaching flowers?’

Here in the Northern Hemisphere the daylight hours are getting longer now, and from time to time we’re getting warmer sunnier days. Hope springs eternal (as they say), and before we know it we’ll be in the sunlit uplands of summer…

Purple crocusesFor many of us there’s nothing nicer than a brisk walk enjoying what will soon be the refreshing days of spring. Noticing the emergence of the first flowers of the year is especially inspiring, as snowdrops and crocuses stand bravely, emerging from what has recently been cold hard ground. Observing them, I was reminded of a post I wrote a couple of years ago at this time of year which imagined coachees as flowers. Revisiting it, I thought it would be timely to share it again.

Reminding us of how important attitude and ability to listen are for our coaching to serve our coachees in the way it should, the post caused me to reflect again about how our hidden assumptions and ‘baggage’ can dominate our thinking in sometimes destructive ways…

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What if… your coachee says “I know I shouldn’t be feeling like this”?

Do your coachees ever deny their right to feel the way they do about a troubling issue, situation or relationship?  Have you ever done this yourself?

Many of us dismiss our underlying feelings through rationalising about how we ‘ought’ to feel. We may become frustrated that our neatly-packaged thinking is being undermined, or that the ‘guidance’ we have received from ‘advisers’ (well-intentioned or otherwise) has not shifted the ‘silly’ or ‘childish’ gut feelings we just can’t seem to magic away.

What if our coachee says, “I know I shouldn’t be feeling like this…”?

As coaches we hone our skills in observing and reflecting back the full spectrum of communication we receive from our coachees. Much of that communication is non-verbal. We note tone of voice, averted gaze, subtle changes in facial colour. We see the pain expressed in eyes welling up with tears, surprising the coachee more than it surprises us. In the non-judgemental confidential space we nurture, our coachees may feel safe enough to articulate aspects of their current experience they may never have been able to express before, even to themselves.

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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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