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Our presence with clients has a powerful impact on them, both in modeling a way of being, and in creating a deeply meaningful relationship that can lead to transformation for the client. What exactly is coaching presence? In addition to the ICF definition above, coaching presence requires us to ‘dance in the moment’ with our clients, trust our intuition and take risks without knowing what the outcome will be.

In their book, The Art of Possibility, Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander explain Rule Number Six: “Don’t take yourself so seriously”. According to the Zanders, practicing Rule Number Six allows the pure expression of our creative nature to be revealed. Coaching presence includes practicing Rule Number Six at times. When we don’t take ourselves quite so seriously, we create lightness and energy in our coaching relationships. This is liberating for us and for our clients, and it gives our clients permission to take themselves less seriously. It also encourages our clients to take risks in their own lives without necessarily knowing the outcome.

Coaching Illustration

Diane, a seasoned coach and professional speaker, was hired by a Fortune 500 company to coach one of its top executives on his presentation style. John, the Chief Operating Officer of the company, was preparing to speak before the company’s 3,000 employees from a particular region at their annual convention. The purpose of the speech was to inspire the group to strive for excellence in the coming year. The problem was that John’s style of presenting lacked the power to inspire others. Diane knew that John was a brilliant man who was deeply committed to his work and to the organization. However he fell flat when presenting to large groups. Diane’s coaching focuses on assisting her clients to connect to their speaking voice in a way that feels authentic to them and simultaneously engages the audience. This was a tall order in working with John!

During their initial coaching session, Diane helped John recognize the connection between the speech’s significance, his delivery of the speech, and the impact on the audience. One of John’s core values is ‘making a difference’. As a result of their conversation, John had an ‘aha’ moment—he realized that the speech would honor that value by inspiring the employees to be their best selves at work. Diane observed John’s emotional response to this insight and asked him where he felt it in his body. He immediately placed his hand over his heart. He told her that he sensed an opening in his heart and was aware of something much greater than himself. Diane felt very moved by John’s response. The challenge was to help him connect his mind and heart with his voice in delivering the speech.

Dancing in the moment, Diane asked John about his favorite orator. John thought a moment and said, “Martin Luther King because he so eloquently expressed his passion through his voice.” Diane then asked John to step into the shoes of Martin Luther King and speak from that place.  He stood up and recited a portion of “I Have a Dream”, a bold demonstration of Rule Number Six. By not taking himself so seriously, John was able to tap into his true voice, the voice that could inspire the company’s employees. He and Diane were now ready to focus on John’s speech, and the coaching flowed from there.

The outcome: After delivering his speech at the convention, John received a standing ovation from the audience!

Key points to remember:

  • Taking risks and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with our clients deepens the level of trust and intimacy in the coaching relationship.
  • There is tremendous creative energy available to us and to our clients when we practice Rule Number Six and take ourselves less seriously.
  • Our coaching presence evolves as we gain confidence with our coaching and allow ourselves to dance with our clients.

*Recommended reading: The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander, Harvard Business Press, 2003. 

About the Author

Philadelphia-based leadership/executive coach Lisa Kramer, PCC is founder and president of Leading with Intention, a coaching company that partners with organizations to achieve greater business and personal success through leadership and executive coaching, and coaching skills training. For more information about Leading with Intention, go to: www.leadingwithintention.com and follow Lisa at www.linkedin.com/in/lisagkramer.