ICF Core Competencies 5: Maintains Presence

being present icf core competencies safe and supportive environment Jan 29, 2024

Pic from Matt Bennett

The ICF define this as: Is fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident. 

Being present with coaching partners means remaining focused, observant, empathetic and responsive to them as individuals and their needs. Being fully present in our coaching conversations supports facilitators of coaching conversations to create a safe and supportive environment to explore and grow.

When fully present we can respond to the whole person, we can partner with the thinker, we can stay curious, we can focus on listening and encourage new thinking to emerge. 

When we are present, we can focus on the attention we are giving the thinker. This attention can support deep, powerful thinking and insight.

Being present supports coaches to embody a mindset that is curious, open and flexible (competency 2). When we talk about curiosity during the coaching process, it is helpful to remember that this curiosity is for supporting the thinker in moving forward, not to satiate our own curiosity. So that curious mindset to evoke awareness (competency 7) and to facilitate growth (competency 8) is for our coaching partners. To be present with people is key to a great coaching conversation. As facilitators, cultivating trust and safety (competency 4) it is imperative. 

Part of staying present as coaches is to manage our own emotions during the process, including when there are strong emotions coming from the thinker. When we facilitate a powerful space for silence, pause or reflection through presence, it is not unusual for strong emotions to surface. As coaches we might want to ask ourselves how best we can stay present when this happens. 

Presence won’t look the same for everyone. As coaches and facilitators of coaching conversations we bring our uniqueness to the space. Coaching partners will have different needs and preferences and uniqueness themselves.  Coaches need to be culturally sensitive and open-minded when working with people. We all have different lived experiences and different preferences. While some people might appreciate sitting opposite to someone with prolonged eye contact for example, others might not.  Coaches can ensure that their coaching style is appropriate by discussing this during establishing and maintaining agreements (competency 3). 

It is worth taking a few minutes to think about how to be present in your coaching conversations. Before facilitating a conversation, you might ask yourself;

How can I be as present as possible in this conversation?

What do I need to let go of to be fully present in this conversation?

Sometimes being present in our coaching conversations is about the practical things you might implement. It might be as simple as turning off notifications and distractions so that you are fully present. It might be about choosing a physical space where you know you won’t be interrupted. Maybe it’s about leaving the office and walking or moving alongside someone instead.

Don’t be afraid to discuss these things with coaching partners either, do they need to switch off notifications etc? Sometimes on arriving I will ask the person I am coaching “what do you need to be fully present here today?” or “what do you need from me so we can be fully present in this conversation?”

Sometimes it’s a couple of deep breaths.

Sometimes it’s to offload something that’s happened that day.

And it’s pretty much always for us as coaches to be fully present ourselves.