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Episode 38

Presence-Based Coaching

“Presence” has become something of a buzzword these days. What does it actually mean and what results can it deliver in the coaching context?

In this conversation, Bebe Hansen of Presence-Based Coaching unpacks the magic of presence and sheds light on how as coaches we can harness it to work more efficiently with our clients.

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What is Presence

The definition Doug Silsbee has given in his book, Presence-Based Leadership, is of presence as an internal state—the inclusive awareness of stillness, immediacy and possibility. It’s something that is available to us all the time but our habits of moving towards what we want and away from what we don’t want can interrupt it.

  • Stillness: a place within that underlies everything on the surface
  • Immediacy: what’s emerging in the moment
  • Possibility: insight arising in the space of the unknown

Presence is an inner resource that we can cultivate both in ourselves and in our clients. One way of starting to cultivate this is by inviting an awareness of the space of stillness between you and your client. To access this place there needs to be a slowing down to create a buffer from the movement of regular life.

The felt-sense of presence is a different channel of experience than what most of us are used to. So as we’re sensing into the relational space between us and our clients we can often tune into possibility – new perspectives, ideas and options for the client.

Presence and Coaching

Our ability to be present with the client is on us; for this reason the presence-based coaching approach places a heavy emphasis on cultivating this ability. As we learn to create immediacy within the relational space, the depth of awareness in both us and our client can expand, and that we’re always working with what’s emerging in the moment.

It also allows the natural progression of evolution, rather than assumptions or expectations that we or the client may hold. Opening to not knowing in presence means we are open to insight. For this reason, presence can be seen as a meta-competency.

Compassion is needed because presence-based coaching invites the depth to explore the reasons behind the patterns and behavioral habits that no longer serve our clients. This developmental work requires huge vulnerability for the client and can only happen if we create a space that feels very safe.

Immediacy is very helpful at catching a habit in the act during a coaching conversation, and helps clients to learn how to catch them by themselves as well. A habit is a conditioned, automatic, historical strategy. It filters what we let in and keeps us in a certain identity. It includes our embodiment, our emotional states, the stories we tell ourselves, the way we relate with others, and is mostly automatic and unconscious.

By becoming very present we can give space for habits to emerge and then make them the object of our awareness in the coaching session. This allows the client to “lift the bell jar” – the habitual extent of their awareness – and see their behavior objectively. The ability to put our attention where we choose and not where our habits choose is the key to resilience, particularly in these increasingly complex times.

Resources mentioned:
Presence-Based Leadership, by Doug Silsbee

About Bebe

Bebe Hansen
Bebe Hansen

Bebe Hansen is the head of Presence-Based Coaching, and as a senior faculty member teaches the ICF approved coach training with other PBC faculty members. She designed the Mentor Coaching course, and has trained a team of PBC Mentor Coaches that delivers the course. Bebe is a precise and compassionate leadership coach and an incredibly skillful trainer, and has worked with leaders in the private, non-profit and government sectors. She also delivers leadership development programs around the Washington, DC metro area.

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