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The Role of Presence and Intuition in Facilitating Coaching Breakthroughs: Part 1


A series of three articles exploring the role of presence and intuition in facilitating transformational change in others.

The goal of Article 1 is to help you understand what presence is, how it manifests itself, and how coaches can develop their presence.

Article 2 will focus on how intuition builds off of presence and how coaches can strengthen and cultivate their sense of intuition.

Article 3 will discuss how to use these cultivated skills of intuition and presence together to build deeper trust with the client and to lead to new insights.

Part 1: The Role of Presence and Intuition in Facilitating Coaching Breakthroughs

What would you consider to be the most important criterion to look at for an effective coach? Their training? Number of hours coached? Certifications? Maybe all three?

I am of the belief it is their use of their intuition and ability to build presence. While these are intangible when compared to the other three, developing our intuition and presence as coaches is necessary if we want to facilitate conversations that produce breakthroughs for our clients. We can have the best training in the world, but presence trumps training any day in my book.

By being fully present we create a space to hear our intuition and if we trust and use it we can lead our clients to new thinking that will propel them forward.

I believe that in order to facilitate change for others we need to build and sustain our presence so that we can access, trust, and use our intuition.

In this blog let’s examine the concept of presence and its relationship with intuition.

First let’s define presence so we are on the same page. Doug Silsbee says “presence is a state of awareness in the moment, characterized by the felt experiences of timelessness, connectedness and a larger truth.” (2008, p.20.) It is paying moment-by-moment attention to our experience.

Mary Beth O’Neill says presence is ” …developing and increasing your tolerance for a host of situations many people actively avoid: ambiguity, daunting challenge, others anxiety and disapproval, and your own stress. Presence stands in the midst of any of these reactions, does not shut them out and acts anyway. In the face of external or internal resistance, you refuse to back away from the moment at hand.” ~ (Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart)

As a coach educator and mentor, I have listened to hundreds of coaching sessions, and I believe it is impossible to overestimate the importance of presence as the essential foundation of effective coaching. Of course, technique and training are valuable. It is always important that we continually hone our skills, but the power in coaching is the ability to meet all that is occurring with openness, confidence and flexibility. It is about learning to be there, in the moment, with the client.

Presence allows us to stay open to seeing different ways of working with the client, and choose, in each moment, what the most effective coaching move will be. When we are fueled by the energy created by being present, we are able to deftly shift perspectives and experiment with new possibilities. It also allows us to work with strong emotion by giving us the bandwidth to manage ours so that we are not enmeshed by the client’s emotions, leaving us free to sense what’s next and facilitate the client’s best thinking.

When present we can be taken into the heart of “not knowing” with a client. We can just “be” with the client, even in silence, so that we create the space for them to realize their most profound insights.

When fully present, you can see what was previously unseeable, sense what was never said. Like a conference line, intuition gets better reception when we keep all the outside distractions to a minimum. You can hear what is coming up for you through your feelings, senses, cognition, etc. It can connect you to deeper truths that when shared, create a lush environment for a deeper flow of inquiry and dialogue that primes clients to do their best thinking.

So, how do we cultivate presence?

One of my favorite quotes about presence is from Luc de Belloy. He said ‘Technique is for a coach what text is for an actor. They both have to forget it in order to be present.’

Presence therefore requires TRUST; trust of yourself and your process. We must trust both in order to eliminate all the superfluous thoughts that dilute our attention. We must be willing to take the risk of getting rid of the mental crutches–to see if we can walk on our own.

When we are present we can be taken into the heart of “not knowing” with a client. We can just “be” with the client, even in silence, so that we create the space for them to realize their most profound insights.

To become present, we must feel grounded and trust in our ability. Deep breathing and meditation can help us reach this place, but developing confidence through practice is also vital.

Presence will be different for each of us. We each have our strengths and talents, to the point that being “present” in a coaching session is going to look very different for every coach! This is why we must each develop what Mary Beth O’Neill calls signature presence: making the most of your unique strengths, interests, and being your authentic self in each moment with the client.

What is it going to take for you to be fully present? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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