The importance of presence in coaching

What is ‘presence’ in coaching? It can be hard to define, although when you are with a coach with real presence, you sense it immediately.

A coach with genuine presence is highly self-aware and they are mentally, and emotionally present. They have an open, flexible, grounded and confident style. There are interested and focused upon their client.

The dictionary defines presence as ‘the ability to project a sense of ease, poise, or self-assurance, especially the quality or manner of a person’s bearing before an audience’.

Doug Silsbee in his book Presence-Based Coaching defines it slightly differently:

‘Presence is a state of awareness, in the moment, characterised by the felt experience of timelessness, connectedness and a larger truth.’

Developing and maintaining your signature presence is a core competency as a coach. It is about being rather than doing. It involves being open, curious, and in the present moment with your clients.

It’s all about deep listening, self-awareness, and continuous learning. It is about having a growth mindset whilst being very grounded. Presence has the potential to develop and deepen with experience.

A coach with a real presence has natural, authentic gravitas. It is not something that can remain in a fixed way. Presence is active and responsive. The coach will attune themselves to each new or different client, building that specific relationship.

Coaches with an authentic presence know that it is a continuous journey of self-awareness, learning and dedication. They know that it is about ‘presencing’ themselves within each coaching encounter. They are at home in their own skin. They can hold stillness and possibilities within them, and others can sense it. They know their limitations, too.

Your own presence will be unique to you

Developing your presence is an ongoing journey involving deepening and widening your capacity to be there for your clients. So let’s delve deeper into the ideas behind presence, the cultivation of your awareness characterised by those feelings of stillness, timelessness, and being fully connected that Doug Silsbee mentions.

As a coach you’re not there to fix people, solve problems, tell your clients what to do or to give advice. It’s your job to facilitate openness, challenge and support those you coach. Creating enough safety for honest and robust conversations to happen within that context. You become a trusted thinking partner. A person, who encourages clients to get where they want to be. Focusing upon their agenda and their objectives.

So, developing your coaching presence means always having the client’s best interests at heart. It isn’t your job to be liked or to please your clients, but to be there for them as they work through their own agendas. When you hold this kind of coaching space for clients, they can really think for themselves and access their own resourcefulness and solutions.

Your presence matters

A highly effective coach has plenty of presence. Credibility and general coaching skills are of course essential. However, presence is much more than a set of skills. Coaches with presence seem to naturally tune in with clients and they generate trust quickly. They work in the present moment, hold boundaries and park any unhelpful judgements, so that new insights and solutions can be born in their clients.

The quality of the coaching relationship underpins and creates the foundation that can drive fundamental shifts, produce outcomes, and transform client development in sustainable ways. The coach’s presence plays a fundamental part in this process.

When you’re present, you are committed to your client and believe in their inherent potential. You are aware and actively focused on them. You slow down and are not lost in the past or the future. The busy noise and chatter of your mind is stilled, and you can be more open to your client’s process. Your relationship to time changes – slows down.

You are curious and observant. You hear your client’s words and explore what’s behind them. You notice your client’s mood and body language, along with the way they speak and move. The way they’re breathing, and what their eyes are saying. You are listening below the surface of the conversation to voice tone, speed and pace. You are listening between the lines, to what your client is not saying as well as to the words they are speaking.

This spaciousness supports generous listening and letting your client stories have the air space they need. It enables clients to then hear themselves think and express their emotions more safely and freely. Your holding presence can help clients recognise who they are, believe in themselves more and grow in confidence.

How to nurture your coaching presence

Developing an authentic presence involves a strong level of self-awareness first and foremost. Understanding and respecting the boundaries of your role and purpose as a coach is also a key element. An on-going reflective practice also helps identify any barriers to remaining present and those issues that hold you back. Regular supervision is important, supporting your ongoing self-awareness and the uncoupling of complex personal or systemic elements that can sometimes muddy the coaching waters.

A calm presence is vital. It helps to physically centre and ground yourself using somatic techniques like breathing exercises to focus on the connection between the mind and body, calming the emotions. This heightened awareness of feelings in your body helps you become more grounded and stay present.

The environment matters as well. Figuring out what it is that supports you to be centred and grounded in your coaching is a key ingredient to effective coaching. Asking yourself how you can shape a confidential and trusting coaching context, whether it is face-to-face or virtual is foundational. It is about making sure that you facilitate the conducive conditions for your signature presence to intentionally show up and welcome your client into the session. Creating a context in which trust, safety and new possibilities are the air you both breathe.

Helping you develop your signature presence

Would you like to deepen your coaching presence? We can help you grow your capabilities and develop your signature presence further. If you would like to discover the benefits of our coaching supervision, do get in touch. We would be delighted to hear from you.