Coaching from the Heart – Not the Head

Published January 21, 2020

By Fran Johnston

As a new coach, I spent a lot of time in my head, reading about coaching models, focusing on and thinking about the words the person was using in the engagement and most of all, spinning my mental wheels trying to figure out the best next question to ask that would lead to profound insight and transformation. I feel exhausted just typing that sentence and have compassion on my former self that was working so hard to be a good coach.

I was working hard to have impact but missing so much information available to me that was right in front of my eyes, or even closer, within my own being. One of my favorite maxims I’ve come across in my coach training is Martin Buber’s saying “I and Thou, Here and Now” which can be used to describe the dance inside a coaching conversation. It wasn’t until several years ago, during my formal coach training that I began to make the journey from my head into my heart and body. Since then, I’ve realized that everything we need for powerful, transformational coaching is available to us in each moment – not something we need to figure out but something we need to attend to.

Instead of searching the past for answers, talking about what is happening in the client’s life outside the coaching engagement or planning for the future, the most powerful thing we can do is attending to what is happening in that very moment through AWARENESS, within myself, awareness of what is going on with the other person and of the relational dynamic between the two of us. For example, awareness can help me attune to:

  • Incongruence between a client’s words and body language
  • Subtle shifts in my own emotional state (as related to what my coachee is sharing)
  • Metaphors that surface in my mind (as related to what my coachee is sharing)
  • Energetic shifts in the conversation or relational dynamic between myself and the coachee
  • The presence or lack of energy in the coachee

This journey from head to heart and to attending to the moment will be a lifelong one, and one that I have to fight hard against our modern, distracted society to maintain. But, it’s one that is worth the fight – both for myself personally and for the clients I’m serving through my attunement. As coaches, we are serving as guides and we can only lead others towards the all-important self-awareness if we ourselves are awake, aware and attuned to all of the information available to us in any given moment.

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