When some people hear the word mindfulness, they immediately dismiss it as some esoteric Eastern meditation practice or New Age mumbo jumbo. However, mindfulness is an important ability to work on for coaches – or anyone else.
First, let me clarify what I mean by “mindfulness.” There are multiple views of what mindfulness is and is not, but in the most general sense, we can think of several levels of mindfulness, ranging from a basic level of awareness up through the sharp internal mental focus of a longtime meditator or yoga practitioner. For our purposes here, I am referring to a more open-minded awareness of others and of the environment itself, rather than awareness of one’s own internal processes and thoughts. Internal mindfulness is certainly a great topic, but it’s one for another day.
Being open and mindful allows us to observe with very little judgment what is going on around us. It’s difficult for most of us to completely withhold judgment, but trying to be more open and aware allows us to be more objective in what we observe in the environment. The human brain’s ability to process information quickly and come to conclusions about what is being observed is a skill that has helped our species survive, but sometimes that ability keeps us from seeing all the possibilities and opportunities that might exist in a situation. So, when we work on being mindful without making judgments we are more likely to see what is really happening rather than what our own past experiences and biases lead us to expect is happening.
How can mindfulness assist us in the task of taking Coaching “mainstream”?
Here are a couple of ideas on how to incorporate mindfulness into our lives and work.
NOTICING: First, if we are hoping to take coaching “mainstream”, we can begin to cultivate the act – or art – of noticing. The art of noticing is simply paying attention. If we pay attention, we would see that coaching is happening everywhere, in large and small ways. It’s not so much that people aren’t using coaching skills in everyday life – they are – I think the challenge is to notice when you see it happening and encourage those sparks into a coaching wildfire.
LISTENING: Take some time to listen carefully to conversations around you. Listen for those powerful questions, listen for unique insights and creative approaches to addressing challenges in business and in life. If you are a supervisor, take the time to listen to casual conversations at lunch or in the breakroom. How do the clerks or secretaries interact? How do interns and new hires learn the ropes? How do the janitors interact with the staff? Who is supporting whom? Listen for coaching clues in children, teens, senior citizens, mechanics, cashiers, etc. There are potentially many small coaching moments happening every day that we miss out on, and by being more mindful, we can become aware of all the coaching possibilities that exist in our own small part of the world.
Using the practice of mindfully noticing what others are doing and saying can help us detect previously hidden coaching skills, but it can also lead to another aspect of using mindfulness by helping us create mindfulness in others. As you observe and become aware of the coaching moments happening in conversations all around you, you can use your own awareness to point out to others how they are using coaching skills in a positive way.
Maybe you won’t always be able to jump into conversations in any formal or seemingly productive way, and maybe you shouldn’t even be joining in on the conversation at all. However, even after the fact, letting the “coach” know you saw what they did, heard what they said, or just noticed how they helped that other person feel supported, make a tough decision, solve a problem, or whatever, may seem like such a small thing but can go a long way toward encouraging awareness of coaching skills and even greater coaching possibilities in the general population. A little mindfulness can end up going a long way!