Why Mindfulness is the Coach's Super-Tool and our Clients' Super-Fuel | By Delaney Tosh CPCC, PCC

Plus 3 Ways Mindfulness Practice Supports Coaching!

For coaches, our presence is our power. It's what we strive to achieve in our coaching mastery. It's also one of the fundamental principles we help guide our clients towards.

When present we are more aware, focused and calm. Yet many of us are distracted by our internal dialogue worrying about the past or future, and are not fully engaged in the here and now.

The benefit to our clients of being present is that we better listen, interpret and communicate. And this means that our interactions become more based on the reality of a situation, rather than on our perceptions of it.

Mindfulness practice increases my ability to come to each session with fresh eyes. It grounds and calms me so I arrive more present, curious and creative. Delaney Tosh

I've come to believe that mindfulness practice is the Silver Bullet1 tool to achieving a state of presence for both coaches and their clients during coaching sessions. And in life too!

1Silver Bullet is a metaphor for a simple and seemingly magical solution to a difficult problem.

So, What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply noticing things as they are.

It's about increasing your awareness of what's happening in your mind, body and your surroundings in a way that cultivates conscious attention, non-judgmental acceptance of the moment and your ability to be intentional in your responses.

Why I believe mindfulness is the coach's Super-Tool and our clients' Super-Fuel

One of our primary roles as a coach is to help clients uncover limitations and explore and adopt alternatives. Mindfulness facilitates this by providing a break from the constant noise in today's world.

Bombarded daily with millions of stimuli, we cope by creating mental models eg. assumptions, generalisations and beliefs about the world. Instead of meeting each experience afresh, we react to life according to our unconscious beliefs and habitual thought patterns. These unconscious patterns impact our ability to be our best in the world, and can keep us stuck.

This is not a new concept to coaches. Part of coaching is to help our clients become more aware of how they are in the world eg. their beliefs, habits, how they may be limiting themselves and not living their values.

Mindfulness Research

The science of mindfulness is incontrovertible. We have over 40 years worth of research on the significant effectiveness of mindfulness in areas such as stress reduction, neurological processes, health, and productivity.

Here is some Powerful Research into Mindfulness

The Institute for Mindful Leadership's recent study on the effectiveness of Mindful Leadership Training of directors and managers at General Mills found these significant increases following the training:

  • 48% increase in ability to focus
  • 40% Increase in personal productivity
  • 34% increase in ability to prioritize
  • 31% increase in employee satisfaction
  • 34% increase in ability to perform under pressure

Neuroscience researchers, using brain imaging, have found that mindfulness practice increases both the activity and size of the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain area regulating:

  • Awareness
  • Concentration
  • Decision-making
  • Judgment
  • Emotion
  • Facilitation of socially appropriate behaviour

Researchers have also found that mindfulness practice actually causes the amygdala to shrink in size. The amygdala is the 'fight or flight' centre of the brain regulating:

  • Fear
  • Reactivity
  • Our response to stress

In health care, research shows that mindfulness practice:

  • Increases Immunoglobulin-A (infection fighting antibody)
  • Decreases markers of bodily inflammation
  • Decreases cortisol levels (stress hormone)
  • Decreases blood-pressure
  • Reduces anxiety

In summary, the research tells us that mindfulness is our simple yet powerful tool to enhance our health, cognition and performance.

The Case for Coaches Adopting Mindfulness Practice

To truly serve our client's growth, as coaches we need to be present to both our own experience and our client's experience while fully focusing on our client, and responding authentically.

Our ability to step out of the box of our own mental models stimulates creative thinking and coaching, that takes both ourselves and our clients beyond our judgments of 'how things should be'.

Mindfulness Practice Supports my Coaching in 3 Ways

  1. Preparing for the coaching session: Mindfulness practice increases my ability to come to each session with fresh eyes. It grounds and calms me so I arrive more present, curious and creative.
  2. Maintaining focus during sessions: Mindfulness helps me avoid the wandering mind and aids the awareness of, and ability to sidestep, my judgments.
  3. Holding the space without emotional attachment: Mindfulness helps me trust in the process and in my client's resourcefulness. I better avoid becoming emotionally caught up in their story or jumping in with mine. This enables deeper curiosity, intuition and capacity to be out of my comfort zone in service of my client's learning.

Wrap-up

When I contemplate this goal in my own coaching mastery I sometimes feel overwhelmed and inadequate. It's a tall order to be so aware of, yet detached from, my judgments in the coaching space with a client, while also being laser focused on my client's experience. At the same time I'm listening for my intuition and trying to be present to what will promote growth for my client.

Phew! So, to counter my doubt-inducing inner-critic, mindfulness is my go-to tool.

How do you think YOU could bring mindfulness into your life or coaching practice?

Some Mindfulness Resources For You

Here are a few resources coaches can use to incorporate mindfulness into your coaching:

  • Book: "Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others" by Maria Gonzalez
  • Website: The Mindfulness Summit - a wealth of workshops and tools from many mindfulness teachers. Access requires registration, but all resources are at no cost.
  • App: "Insight Timer" - an award winning app with many free resources and guided meditations. Available for both Apple and Android phones.
  • A more extensive list of mindfulness books, articles, Apps, tools and websites can also be found here on my Square Peg Leadership blog >>
Editor's Note: I personally use the "Insight Timer" App, and have created a number of customised timed meditations for myself, as well as listening to a few of their guided meditations .

Delaney Tosh HeadshotContributing author: Delaney Tosh, CPCC, PCC, coaches women who want to lead with confidence and be agents of change. She helps her clients embrace their unique strengths to lead from inspiration, intuition, inclusion and interrelation. Her clients have a strong streak of independence and a desire to really thrive with mental, emotional and physical resilience. Delaney has an insatiable appetite for research and is in her element when distilling that research into actionable tactics that you can find more of by signing up for her newsletter here: SquarePeg Leadership. Connect with Delaney on Linkedin here >>

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Image of Coach Meditating and Being Mindful by Di Studio via Shutterstock

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