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Enhancing Coaching Practices with Mindfulness

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Insights from the Coaching SIG workshop

The latest Coaching Special Interest Group (SIG) workshop took place on Tuesday 16th April to delve into the enriching topic of mindfulness and its application in the realm of coaching. Juliet Flynn, Coaching SIG Chair and delegates were joined by Eike Brazier from Oxford Coaching Partners. Together, they explored how mindfulness can significantly enhance coaching practices, improve work-life balance, and prevent burnout among professionals.

Together, participants enjoyed a rich discussion about the myriad benefits that mindfulness brings to the coaching table. Eike explored mindfulness beyond its traditional roots. She clarified that mindfulness is not merely about relaxation or emptying the mind; rather, it’s about cultivating a heightened awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations in the present moment. This practice, adapted from contemplative traditions and clinically applied by pioneers like John Papa, has found its way into the coaching sphere due to its potential to enhance well-being, self-regulation, and empathy.

The workshop was not just theoretical; it included practical exercises led by Eike. Participants were guided through mindfulness practices, focusing on the present and tuning into their bodies. The exercise of maintaining a conscious posture and attending to the breath served as a foundation for participants to observe their thoughts and sensations nonjudgmentally. Participants were encouraged to accept and be at peace with whatever physical sensations or thoughts arose, and to gently redirect their attention back to their breath whenever their mind wandered. 

The conversation extended to the integration of mindfulness in daily activities. Participants shared their experiences with various mindfulness techniques, such as using apps like Headspace for meditation. The discussion underscored the importance of being present in conversations and how this can translate into more effective coaching sessions. Eike encouraged the group to continue exploring mindfulness practices.

This practice was not only about personal exploration but also about how such presence can be integrated into coaching to foster deeper connections and emotional regulation. The concept of embodied coaching was a focal point of the workshop. This approach emphasises the coach’s awareness of their own reactions and triggers, which is crucial for maintaining a balanced and effective coaching relationship. 

It was stressed that mindfulness is not a quick solution, but a consistent practice that can improve coaching relationships, emotional and behavioural regulation, and listening empathy. Eike also pointed out that mindfulness can support coaches in becoming more present and aware, which can lead to better connections with their clients. Implementing mindfulness practices was suggested- both during and outside coaching sessions- to foster focus, awareness, and compassion. 

There was a discussion on categorising daily activities into nourishing or depleting, and the importance of balancing these to prevent burnout. Participants were asked to make a list of their regular activities and label them accordingly. Eike emphasised the importance of maintaining a balance between nourishing and depleting activities, highlighting that imbalances could lead to physical and emotional symptoms, and even exhaustion and burnout. Strategies for promoting well-being were shared, including spending time in nature, exercising, and nurturing social connections. The workshop concluded with a collaborative effort to gather experiences on establishing coaching cultures within various institutions. 

The key takeaways from the Coaching SIG meeting are manifold:

  • Mindfulness is a powerful tool for coaches, enhancing presence, empathy, and emotional regulation.
  • Practical exercises in mindfulness can be seamlessly integrated into coaching sessions and daily life for improved well-being.
  • Being present in conversations and coaching sessions can lead to more meaningful connections and effective outcomes.
  • It is essential to balance nourishing and depleting activities to maintain personal and professional well-being.
  • Sharing experiences and strategies within the coaching community can aid in the development of a robust coaching culture.

About the author: Rossana Espinoza is a Senior Learning Experience Designer with a large multi-national organisation. Rossana is also SDF Chair, leading the SDF to fulfil its promise: to continue supporting staff developers in the HE sector. She led the organisation of the first virtual SDF’s Festival of Learning and Development during the pandemic and converted a hierarchical structure to an agile matrix structure with an invigorated Exec team.