Coaching is all Greek to me

>Many people think coaching is easy. After all, doesn’t it just involve waiting for the person you’re coaching to arrive at their own answers? However to be the kind of executivecoach that makes it look effortless, you first need to master 6 basic practices.

Understanding the mysteries of executive coaching is hard. When done well, it seems so simple and looks so effortless. It’s just a practitioner, sitting, talking and being with another person, yet somehow, through their demeanor and presence, they’re able to open up the situation, help that individual work it out for themselves and facilitate their transformation.

So what does the coach do?

We’re going to describe how skilful coaching happens using 6 simple Greek words:

The first is kairos – a word that in Greek means ‘the right time’. The Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos is 11.30 am or whatever time it is as you read this. Whereas kairos is that magical moment when the serendipitous encounter, the synchronous meeting or the seeming coincidence happen. A great executive coach is always the right person there for you at the right time.

The second is kenosis, which means emptying. The coach empties him- or herself – to be there and create space for you. They manage to put aside all thoughts of themselves and their agenda as they focus all their attention on you and what’s important to you. And a skilled executive coach will be present and in the moment for you.

The third is mimesis. In Greek this means creative imitation or expression. A great executive coach is practising with you a recreation, a recapitulation of the situation or the story you are rehearsing and relaying. The best coaches will be engaging in this in a dynamic way, teasing out of you and echoing the story of where you are now, where you want to be and what has led you to this place.

The fourth is hexis. This word refers to a skill or virtue that you have attained, like typing, or driving – something that by now has become second nature to you. This is more often known as your habitus: your way of being in the world. A talented executive coach is always looking for your natural traits, talents and characteristics. An effective coach understands you are a resourceful person, and wants to help you become more aware of your own capability and creativity. They’ll work with you to pinpoint what comes easily to you and help you find ways to express it more often and more fully. They’ll also help you to realise you can be a ‘fish-in-water’ moving with ease and grace and in the flow of life at all times.

The fifth is phronesis – a Greek word that means insight or practical wisdom. This sort of wisdom is not mere ‘head knowledge’; it is wisdom you can act on, wisdom you can use to take considered action. A great coach is working to help you get past the ‘stuckness’ that prompted you to seek executive coaching and move you to purposeful action based on phronesis.

The final word that sums up a great coach is agape – a Greek word for love. Love was very important to them so they had 4 words for it. To the Greeks, the 4 loves were: storge (affection); phileo (friendship, love between good mates, companionship); eros (erotic, romantic love), and agape (unconditional love, selfless love). A great executive coach practises agape – willing the best for you, believing in you, seeing the best you could be and knowing how much more you can accomplish. They believe in a bright future for you until you have the conviction to start making it happen.

6 simple words – kairos, kenosis, mimesis, hexis, phronesis, and agape – coaching distilled to its essence. The marks of a great executive coach:

  • Have no prior agenda, they are there for you
  • Help you make sense of what you’re experiencing, what you hope for and what matters most from your past
  • Encourage you to reconnect with the best you can be
  • Break the stuckness and help you take charge of your reactions, and create purposeful actions
  • Believe in the best for you even when you can’t yet see it for yourself, and when your resolve falters
  • Are there to support you as you make changes and move forwards

If you’d like to learn how to coach like this, then the Listening Partnership has a coaching approach that embodies these 6 ways of being. We call it Transformational Narrative Coaching: coaching that aims to help transform lives through narrative exploration. We run a Coaching Essentials Course and an Advanced Executive Coaching Course. If you’re interested in learning how to become a practitioner of: kairos, kenosis, mimesis, hexis, phronesis, and agape, then please do get in touch.