Coaching Presence: What it is and how to develop it with Dr. Roger Noon

Coaching Presence: What it is and how to develop it with Dr. Roger Noon

Organisational Success Podcast
Coaching presence
Coaching presence

Coaching presence or how present any particular coach or coachee is at any particular moment during a coaching session can have a significant impact on the outcomes of the coaching process. 
In this podcast David Wilkinson, the editor of the Oxford Review talks with Dr. Roger Noon about coaching presence and the C2 model coaching presence.


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Dr Roger Noon

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The C2 Model of Coaching Presence

C2 Model of Coaching Presence
C2 Model of Coaching Presence – with permission ©2018 Roger Noon

2 Main Modes of Presence

  1. More aware
  2. More absorbed

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– Welcome back. Today we welcome Dr. Roger Noon. Roger’s a culture change consultant and is currently working with HSBC. He has a doctorate in coaching mentoring from Oxford Brookes University. Now, in 2018, Roger published a paper in the International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring entitled Presence in Executive Coaching Conversations, the C2 Model. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. This whole idea of presence in coaching which I found intriguing, which is one of the reasons why we reached out to Roger. So welcome, Roger. Do you just wanna give us a quick overview of your background and what kind of led to this study?

– Yeah, sure. Thanks, David. And thanks for inviting me to talk about this. I’ve got an engineering background originally and I was an engineering project manager for some years, and then moved into financial services as a sort of protests improvement guy and a business analyst, and then gradually morphed into risk management and culture change and in particular, I’m interested in culture change around conduct risk and ensuring good conduct in financial services. And along the way there, I ran a change management consultancy. What I would call a little niche. Doctors’ partnership of a consultancy with some colleagues that I was working with in financial services and we were offering change management services. And as part of that, I picked up some coaching qualifications, you know, as many of us did back in the day. Some sort of distance learning, basic qualifications all around the GROW Model, for example, but I found I really loved coaching. And from that point probably 20 odd years ago now, I’ve just continued an interest in being a practitioner first and foremost, around coaching. I didn’t really think too much about the research side until much more recently. And along with other things that I had an interest in around areas like mindfulness, and I’m a Tai Chi practitioner and, you know, general kind of life practices of that nature. I started trying to merge what I was learning in the rest of my life into what I was doing as a coach. And a lot of that was around mindsets and what I would call a sense of balance and feeling really grounded as a coach and how that might help me be more effective with clients. And the idea of presence as a concept really grew from there. I probably read something in some of the practitioner literature around this topic, but this whole idea started to take really the, if I let go of, of process and tools a little bit, which I coaches can get very preoccupied with and focused on how I was in my kind of way of being with my clients and focused on the relational side first and foremost, then what might happen. And I started to sort of form my own appreciation of what being present with somebody really meant on a kind of a deeper level. And I also got interested, David in, well, if this is how I am showing up for my client, how is my client showing up for me? And there was this kind of reciprocal relational approach that also started to intrigue me. And so that’s really where the interest starts a bit, very much as a practitioner and the research grew from that.

– That’s really interesting. Initially, as I’ve said, kind of initially attracted to this study because it was looking at presence in the coaching relationship, and it’s pretty rare to find kind of studies talking about presence. It kind of feels like it’s a little amorphous. So can you just explain what you mean by presence and it kind of appears to be one of those concepts, which is understood and defined differently from person to person.

– Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, if I start in from the nebulous end, ’cause that’s where most of us come in. I mean, I think we’re gonna talk a little bit later about the C2 or the C squared model. And there’s obviously a big overlap between what that’s trying to say and how I think of presence because the point of the research was really trying to be sort of more academically rigorous around how we understand the concept. But I think that if I was to think about how I used to think about it, it was very much about me and my sense of being aware of myself in the room with a client and being aware of if I feel grounded and centered in my body as a somatic, emotional, mental feeling, then that’s a very good place to have a coaching conversation. So, there’s a sense that… There’s a bodily element to being present, a mental element. And the there’s a, I think an attitude or a way of being that is about being completely on your client’s agenda. So, how can I be really actively listening, not thinking, although it’s very normal to do this, not thinking about whether I’m gonna have fatigue tonight, if I’m hungry. So for example, just talking right now to you, David, I can feel a sense of small bit of intimidation or a bit of worry about whether I’m gonna articulate myself properly exactly, whilst I’m talking to you. So, that’s taking away from me being present to the question that you’re asking me. I’ve got this kind of little ripple that is pulling me out of my center, I would say, or pulling me away from presence. So, just being aware of that can then just tie me straight back, click of the fingers kind of thing, straight back into what it is that I want to say. And feeling that if I was to describe presence to myself, it would be that I am almost outside of myself. I’ve got a sense of all of my faculties. I’m understanding what’s going inside and outside but I’ve got a sense of connection with the client or the person I’m talking to. So, the summary would be that there’s a relational element to that because I don’t think you can separate presence in the way that I’ve studied it from being with another person. I can not, of course, be present to a tree or presence in nature, but that’s something that’s slightly different. So there’s something relational about it. There’s something about my kind of inward experience and feeling that there’s a sort of a connectedness about that, a oneness about it. So I’m not being pulled into different thought patterns and there’s something I would hope as well, certainly that was reported in the research that is felt and perceived by somebody else. So, there’s something that when one is present, you’re kind of giving off. Call it a vibe or call it a, a state, but you can very often tell when somebody is present. So that’s a very, very kind of, high-level, slightly willy nebulous explanation. We’ll get into some sort of specific detail a bit bit later but I think the one overriding thing I would say is that this is a really slippery concept in my personal experience, probably in your experience and certainly from the research partners that I spoke to. And this is one of the interests that I had in trying to create some kind of a territory, little map for it through the research. Is there’s a lot of practitioner literature and a lot of experiential literature that explains what presence might be, but there’s very little been done in the academic space. And I think that you said that there’s a certain kind of gap there. And one of the things I wanted to do was to be able to at least start to color in the outline, if you like, of what presence is and come up with a more sort of academically rigorous concept of it.

– Yeah. I find that interesting what you’re saying, and I get the sense that it’s about being in this space that, so right now, whilst we’re separated by miles, there’s a space between us that we’re inhabiting about the topic that we’re talking about, but it’s also connected through you and through me in this space. And it seems to be that that you’re talking about, about the focus within, in that space while still being connected, have I got that right?

– Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And that connectedness is doing something, it’s not simply a relational connection. It’s doing something to me, for me and to you and for you that is helping us access the best of ourselves. It’s helping as access our internal resources. It’s perhaps creating the environment for insight. It’s really interesting that that many of the people that I spoke to as I was doing the research felt that the more that they were present and in presence, the more flashes of insight they had in the coaching arena, you know, you get these kind of immediate, as in these aha moments whilst you’re coaching. We will have them if we could sort of generate more of them then maybe wouldn’t that be a great thing? So one side of presence is creating this kind of the… The soil, if you like for that to grow from. So, definitely there’s something about connection but there’s also by having that connection and feeling again, balanced, grounded presence. And that’s the only word that I can use is something about seeing the best, you being able to utilize and recognize the best in ourselves and in the people that we’re talking to.

– I’m getting a sense here that that flow is part of this as well. That when you’re, when you’re present, it’s easier for things to flow between people, but also within ourselves, which is where those kind of gifts from the ether probably come from.

– Yes. And it’s interesting. I mean, I won’t give gifts too much away, but there’s a student at the moment looking at the sense of flow as it relates to presence. And I think there is a huge overlap in those conceptual terms and many people, again, that I spoke to pretty much uniformly connected feeling that sense of flow with the concept of presence. And I struggled with it a little bit, David, actually, because in many ways when you start to conceptualize or describe flow, it is in some ways the ante of presence. So when you think about presence, you think about heightened awareness, a real sensitivity to what’s going on inside you, what your clients talking about the environment even, and yet when you’re in flow, it’s almost as though everything fades in the presence. You hear everything, all the details, and you’re almost lost to whatever it is that you’re focusing on. And the sense of time disappears and all of it, all this kind of stuff. So it made me really think about how to integrate the descriptions and the conceptualization of flow that I was hearing into the model. And as we’ll come onto later, I kind of resolved that by thinking about two modes of presence. Want one that is focused on a real kind of heightened awareness and another that is being totally, almost lost in the experience of what it is that you are focusing on. So you’re present to that experience rather than necessarily to the here and now. So separating that presence is not just about the here and now I would suggest.

– I think that’s really interesting. One of the things that’s just come to mind is, I don’t know whether it’s an analogy or whether it’s connected in or is the idea of cognition and metacognition and those two things occurring at the same time, being able to think, and then being aware of your thinking and being able to. And I’m kind of getting the sense of a similar kind of thing from the description that you’re giving. It’s really interesting.

– Yeah, lovely explanation. And again, I can hear your words in some of the comments that people that I spoke to said as well. And, you know, I think another couple of things that I would say about the sort of the nature of presence is one that is clearly very tacit. So it’s quite difficult to express, which is why we perceive it as somewhat nebulous. So, people are very often very clear that they feel it, but when you start to get them to break it down and articulate that, then it becomes much harder. So recognizing that kind of tacit nature, which to me suggests something sematic, something boldly, you know, something’s going on in our experience, it’s not necessarily kind of intellectual. And then another area that I’ve got got interested in directly as a result of this research is then how do we really articulate tacit experiences? And very often we reach for metaphor. So, there’s a huge amount of metaphorical expression that came out of what I was listening to and exactly, you know, I collected these metaphors as part of the research. And I’m looking to write another paper just on the the metaphorical expression of presence because it was so interesting. And what reminded me of that is just, as you said, that somebody presented a metaphor that it’s as though you’re very heightened and present. Your senses are heightened in the room, but there’s also an aspect of you at the same time, simultaneously as a fly on the wall, almost above the conversation, trying to guide your self and your clients in a direction that is either intuitive or whatever it might be, but there’s this dual processing going on and being right in the conversation and at the same time, slightly somewhere else. And somebody came up with a nice metaphor that. So there’s, yeah, absolutely, I think there’s an aspect of what you say.

– Oh, wow. And what was the metaphor that they came up with?

– Oh, it was simply a sense of fly on the wall. It was there in my space with a client and at the same time I’m on somewhere else. But there were some wonderful, I mean, we can go into it in a little bit more detail and you know, one of the other things that I was really interested in as I said earlier, was looking at the client side as well. So, you know, what I noticed in the practitioner literature, and obviously I was talking to coaches probably more than clients around this was that we see it very much as sort of a coaching skill or a competence. And you can see it in some of the Institute kind of literature that there are competencies around having coaching presence. And because of this relation aspect, it kind of felt pretty one-sided about, so, you know, the research I did looked at interviewing clients and coaches. So I looked at both sides and tried to see if this concept was actually different for clients whether they’re expressing it or articulating, conceptualizing it differently. And eventually I came up with an integrated concept that applied to both coach and client. But the metaphor is where we’re quite similar across the board. So for example, one client talked about the feeling of presence that she had with a coach, which was similar to diving underwater and swimming fast. And if you’re focused on your swimming and swimming fast, then you kinda miss the scenery, if you like. And if you really slow down and glide over the coral, if you like, you can suddenly see this whole world of multidimensional kind of space and things that you would never see if you were just skimming over the surface. So there was a metaphor of that nature. There was another one that was quite nice. She was talking about this idea of connection as well. And somebody talked about it being like a connection between two telegraph poles and the clients and coach being telegraph poles and the Telegraph line between them. And then that connection on a human level is kind of always there. But very often it feels like we’re in fog. So we can just about see each other, but we lose that sense of that line between us and they sort of saw presence as being a means of almost instantaneously clearing the fog and clearing the clouds so that you’ve got this pristine view and real strong sense of connection between two people. So, many, many different different views. And again, what I looked at there was that there was some commonality but the metaphorical variation was really quite wide. You know, everybody sort of expresses these things in different ways and yet there are some fairly consensual basics around what presence is and on what presence isn’t. And I think I’d probably close this a little bit by saying, you know, it was as important to understand what presence wasn’t to people as what it was. And people were very clear, especially clients. It was really humbling to hear as a coach actually, that they know when coaches aren’t present with them and to them, you know? They get the feeling, you know? So if you’re a coach and you’re listening to this, and you’re thinking about what you’re about to have for tea in the middle of the coaching session, you know, the chances are it might not be surfaced, but they know that you were thinking about something else. So there’s almost a sense of there’s a real responsibility, I think for coaches as well to attend to that presence with clients because it affects that relationship so highly.

– It’s like there’s a discipline involved in this that’s connected to mindfulness and that ability to be able to focus on this space or, you know, the other person.

– Yes, yes, there is. I mean, there’s a discipline. I would certainly call it, there’s kind of a practice of presence that I think can be helpful. And I think practicing it both as a sort of a way of life is one thing which is connected to mindfulness. But there is also something very instantaneous I think David, you know. I don’t think that you need to sort of do 10 hours of meditation a day to have a presence . And I think that having just, creating a little bit of a muscle or a reflective process that allows you to self monitor in the coaching room is a really great way to bring yourself back to presence. So again, just acknowledging that I’m thinking about something else and that I’ve moved out of where I wanted to be, instantaneously can bring you back to where they wanna be. It needs nothing more than that. And that of course is a form of mindfulness as well. But certainly I think the discipline is to, I guess, for me anyway, it is to not be lazy really with it. I mean, I think that coaching for me over the… Since I’ve done this research is almost more, in some ways, more effortful and more strenuous because of the desire that I’ve got to be present as much as I can. And I still do feel that’s an effortful process. But also because of this flow aspect that you’ve talked about, that there’s also a sense that you can be in that kind of mindset or attitude and you you’re completely effortless as well. So I’m definitely in that effortful and effortless kind of dynamic at the moment.

– Fascinating. Really fascinating. Yeah. And we’ll move on. We could talk about this all day. So just before we get to the C Squared model of presence, what were the main findings of this study?

– The main findings were certainly, two of the main findings, I think, is that there was the client aspect to this. And I think there was a bit of a gap in the research that was filled there. Is that clients have a sense of presence and there is this relational aspect. So there’s an acknowledgement that the client voices is there and the research explained that. So I think there’s something around that. And then the other sort of key one is that there are some outcomes that seem to be fairly generic as the consequence of being in presence. So there is a connection and because I did a qualitative piece of inquiry, sort of the generalizations are somewhat difficult, but certainly from the people that I spoke to, there’s a connection between being present with their clients and their clients being present with them and the effectiveness of coaching. That’s somewhat subjective, of course, in their eyes, but connection to helping clients be in their best space and best supported to be able to look at whatever they’re looking at is something that the presence enhances. So a connection to the effectiveness, I think is there. I wouldn’t say that I’ve proved anything in any sense at all but there seems to be a connection between effective coaching and being present with your client. So, those are sort of, I think, two sort of key areas. Perhaps another one that there is just an acknowledgement really, as a finding that there is a dynamic aspect to presence. So I think in one of the little, very, very poorly amateur videos that I put together trying to explain this, I talk about there’s kind of a coaching dance between the coach and the clients. And in that dance each party is moving in and out of presence the whole time and they’re affecting each other’s presence as a consequence of that. So there’s this kind of very dynamic thing that is happening. So, you know, to be idealistic, to think that we’re gonna be in perfect presence with each other is perhaps somewhat unrealistic and to be comfortable with the fact that we’re continually moving sort of inwards and outwards towards in a way from present. But we can be choiceful about that if you have this kind of awareness that we’ve spoken about. So, if you can pick up on the fact that you’re moving away or your client is moving away from presence, then you’ve got an opportunity to do something very simply and practically to move back towards it.

– It’s interesting because as we’re talking, I’m becoming more aware of what’s going on between us and what’s going on inside me. And what I’m noticing are these kinds of peaks and troughs of presence of me getting involved in what you’re saying and being present in what you’re saying, really just absorbing it. And then that sparking thoughts. I mean, moving back to those thoughts and then moving back in. So, there’s kind of a cyclical nature to this that I’m assuming is going on both sides. Kind of a reciprocal nature.

– Yeah. And it’s a nice description. I mean, that’s certainly what I’m feeling in the conversation as well. And there’s also different aspects that come up obviously in the nature of dialogue and, you know, you’ll be present in a slightly different way when you’re listening, for example, than perhaps when you’re talking. But presence kind of covers it all. We don’t need to sort of discriminate one from the other. If, while you’re talking to me you’re bringing in a thought or you might also be having a bodily experience. You might suddenly get a tightness in your tummy but to have an awareness of that and to know that it’s part of the overall kind of integrated conversation, you know? Presence kind of covers the whole boundary of that I think. So, yeah, definitely there are some dynamics, definitely there are some outcomes and then also I think that going back to what we can do, you know, this idea of discipline that you mentioned, there are also some conditions for presence as well. So, we’re on a Zoom call, I feel present to you. I feel that we already have a connection that that was possibly helped, David, because we had a five minute chat beforehand and I got a sense for you where, you got to, you know, we felt comfortable with each other, if you like. So a five minute chat beforehand probably has helped enhanced my sense of presence in this conversation. The fact that I just took a minute or so to be ready for this conversation probably helped my way of being coming into the conversation. So, I think there’s a lot of small things that we can do to have the conditions right. Both environmentally and inside ourselves. So for example, being in a noisy cafe, for example, is maybe not the most conducive to having strong presence. Not that it’s impossible. I’ve had many good cafe conversations with clients but it could be a problem. Likewise, a research partner said that they kind of mentally go through a process in their first two minutes with a client where they just attended themselves. They make sure they get some kind of eye contact, might not be a lot initially, but some eye contact. They really feel their feet on the floor. As this person has said that they feel their bum in their chair, you know, that they really properly sat and comfortable and relatively upright. And they just have a little scan of awareness of what else they can notice in the room. Can they have voices? What’s the temperature like? And they do a little bit of a mini body scan. How do I feel, you know? Have I gotten to aches and pains anywhere? but all of that process can happen literally in 10 seconds. And you’d basically sensitizing yourself, the other person, your environments, and it just allows presence to arrive really. So, that’s kind of some practical things that you could do just to generate the conditions for presence and flow. If you conceptualize presence more in terms of a flow.

– That’s really useful and interesting. Thanks, Roger. So, what does C Squared stand for? Can you just give us an overview of the model and the components. And it’s quite a complex model, and I’m hoping with your permission, we can put a copy of it on the notes page of the podcast, if that’s okay.

– Yeah sure. And yes so, C squared or C2 and I really don’t mind about the name. I originally thought of it as C squared and then in some of the sort of the typographical things that happen when you publish things, it became C2. It’s still fine. But it really emphasizes the coaching client side. So, it’s a coach and client model of presence, and very much trying to move away from the idea that we we’re just talking about coaching presence. And that’s a little bit of a nod to some of the practitioner literature that I’ve seen that describes this us purely as a coaching skill or competence. I mean, there are aspects of that, of course, but I sought it. I really wanted to bring that relational elements out. So, yeah and for coaching clients. Do you want me to talk a little bit more about, about the model?

– The model, yes, please. Yes, that’d be excellent, thanks.

– So, I’ve kind of alluded to bits and pieces as we’ve talked but the way that I conceptualize that, and I have a circular diagram in my head, and if you see a picture of this then it comes to life a little bit. But it really, really has a few elements to it. So the first element is that there are two modes involved. One is about having heightened awareness. So being more aware of yourself, your client, the environment, and definitely what’s going on somatically with you. It’s not just sort of a mind thing. It’s a mind, body experience. So, being more aware is mode one. Mode two is around being more absorbed but being present in your absorption, if I could say that. So that’s definitely the idea of flow. So if I’m really thinking about a memory that I’ve had as a client and you’re coaching me, David, then being lost in describing what was going on, what the issues were to me, I might completely lose a sense that you’re even in the room. So I’m not really present to you as a person, but I’m present to the experience that I’m having. And by being very present to it, then I’m getting the richness out a bit that I want, and I can hopefully see the insights that I need to. So, two modes, first of all. I’m more aware and more absorbed. And then on top of that, then an idea of three dimensions. And there’s an internal dimension. So what’s going on inside us, a relational aspect that we’ve talked about already. So what’s that connection between me and you, you know? And I guess there’s an argument that says that human beings exist in relation to each other. And our identity is completely wrapped up with our relation to each other. So it’s that relational aspect. And then there’s the external perception as the third dimension, which is that you’re giving off something to me, I’m giving off something to you. I can perceive in some way, I might not know how I do it, but I can perceive in some way how present you are and whether you are present to me. So there’s something external. So internal, external unrelational are the dimensions. And then planted over around that then is this sense of dynamism. So in the conversation and where my research was all about the coaching conversations. So, you know, what happens in conversations and there’s this continuous movement and you describe the idea of kind of peaks and troughs but we’re continuously both of us moving in and out of presence. So a sense that I know when I have a lack of presence, or I know when you do to some degree. I can feel potentially a sense of me moving towards it or away from presence. And I also know when I’m in presence. Although having said that, if I’m in this more absorbed mode, I might only have been aware that I’d been in presence when I come out. So it’s not necessarily that cognitive experience at the time. So the main model that was reported and that came out of the research findings was basically that. So two modes, three dimensions exist. And I kind of went into a bit of detail around that and there was a sense of dynamics. And then the rest of the model then is about antecedents and outcomes. So, what are the conditions that allow you to move it towards presence and what are the outcomes in the coaching conversation from presence? And just as an example, the climate conditions that we talked about or the research partners came up with were those that we we’ve mentioned already, which is in the coaching room. So what do you do to take responsibility for yourself as a coach, if you’re moving out of presence and how do you come back to that? Having the environmental conditions of the coaching environment itself. And I did look at different types of coaching. So, I suppose I had a presumption when I first went into this, ’cause it was obviously pre presumed days. We are focusing mainly on face-to-face coaching. And I had a natural, all of my coaching was face to face at the time. I had a natural assumption that the presence was about face to face. And I was very quickly disabused of that when I got into conversations with research partners, many of whom only telephone coached and also did a mix. I think everybody pretty much had some kind of a mix of video or face-to-face. And they were convinced that the presence wasn’t really determined too much by the mode. So, you could be present with people on telephone, on a video conference or face to face. The nature and the quality might be a little bit different, but nonetheless this human being connection, this relation connection, this attendance to your internal space, it’s irrespective of the mode and also being aware of somebody else’s presence. You can pick that up on the telephone is what my research partners reported to me. So, conditions about in the room and then other conditions around perhaps more of a life practice. And, you know, I think it was very clear that the presence came across as a way of being to some degree. So what I mean by that is you can’t very well present and be interested in presence in the coaching room, and then not interested in anything with anybody else you talk about in the rest of your life, you know? There’s something about your way of being that transcends just coaching. So, certainly it’s been my experience that when you attend to presence, it takes over your life to some degree, you know? I recognize in this conversation, David, right now, I recognize that when I talk to my kids, I recognize it when I’m trying to concentrate on a piece of work, which isn’t to do with talking to people. So, because of that, the kind of a wider practice I think is really helpful. So that’s why I think there is quite a strong link to mindfulness practices, certainly in my practice, it’s Tai Chi, there’s a tremendous connection with presence and it’s almost like one hand is washing the other. Tai Chi I think for me, helps my sense of groundedness, balance and being present with people and myself and likewise practicing presence in the coaching room helps my ability to practice Tai Chi. So it’s kind of a reciprocal kind of thing. So, yeah, I think I’ve taught a little bit about the model and maybe finally, just to talk about the outcomes. And you know, the outcomes are more effective coaching. I think to zone in on one of them, I think this idea of, you know, what the research partners reported pretty much across the board was this idea of insight, you know? These kind of aha moments and these moments that move coaching conversations on seemed to, in their experience anyway, happen more when you have a kind of a greater sense of presence and when that relational presence is strong. And if one of the things we’re trying to do is to co-create with our clients and generate some sense of something completely new. Then I think that that sense of presence adds to that. The final thing I’d say about outcomes again, is that it’s not just about coaching and many people again, report that there’s the connection with wellbeing. So, you know, being present with somebody after the event just feels really good, you know? You feel good about yourself. You feel as though you’ve had a really fantastic human connection with someone and people take that clients, especially report, they take that out of the coaching room with them. So it’s not just about solving their issues or looking at their concerns in the coaching room, just going away with that kind of feeling that that was a great conversation and there was a real nice connection there. And I just feel good about myself, you know? That in itself, I think is a quality of effectiveness.

– Yes, definitely. And I do think that affects people’s wellbeing and also just sense of connection as well. And I think that’s important. I was just about to ask how people can use the model, but before I do, I just wonder whether there’s a place in here for helping coaches help the client develop a sense of presence themselves. I don’t know what your thoughts are about that.

– Yes, absolutely. And I sort of wrote about this in the dissertation as well and definitely, and I think this is also one of the outcomes, is I think that that bringing presence practice, presence awareness into the coaching room itself, I think is a seep away to go. And I’ve experimented with that myself. Definitely, it’s not always appropriate, you know, as with anything with coaching, sometimes you just kind of do what it is that you’re doing, and you don’t need to kind of unpack it. But you can do it gently and you can just sort of, do it as you feel it’s appropriate. So gently I would say that you can, as we do already just getting clients to focus on specifics about themselves, you know, what are you feeling right now? You know, I just noticed you smile, David, what was going through your head as we were talking? You know, just to focus on something that is taking you away from, you know, you might be talking about an issue. Now, let’s not get too wrapped up in just unpacking that issue, because there’s a very much of a subject object relationship going on. We take the issue, we put it on the table and we analyze it like scientists and, you know, bringing that relational thing in and allowing clients to access more of themselves because maybe that issue just dissolves sometimes. you know, you have an aha moment, you have a recognition of something. And what you thought was a problem is actually never a problem. It was just our minds that created it. So by focusing on attending to what else is going on intuitively, somatically, you can naturally help bring your clients into presence. I think another point that comes to my mind, just as I’m talking about this is, is that there’s also that kind of role modeling or mimetic effect as well, is that by practicing presence, I think that’s something that your clients naturally pick up on and they move into a similar kind of space. And we know that very simply, you know, if you were talking, if you’re a bit hat up and you’re talking to someone, that’s got a lovely, calm voice and demeanor, it just naturally calms you down. And again, this relational thing feels so powerful to me that if I’m in the presence of someone who is present and outside the coaching room, you know, my Tai Chi experiences bring this. You know, when you you work with somebody that is somewhat more experienced than you, that they have an energy and they give it off, if you like, and you can work with it and it can affect you I think so. So there’s a role modeling aspect to it. And then I think there is an ability to be more expressive and talk about the concept of presence, you know? What does it mean to your clients? And that’s actually what I did in the research. I just sat down with clients and started with a question of what does presence mean to you? And then started to unpack it from there. And by the end of some, you know, some of the client interviews that I did were fascinating and some of the most interesting because they started without really having any pre-thought of what it is that they conceptualize as presence because no one had asked them. And by the end of it, they had a pretty clear idea of what it meant to them. And certainly they had a clear idea of how they perceived it in their coaches. So, talking about this, I think it just helps to sensitize people to what’s going on. And it gives you a groundwork for later coaching work because you can say in the middle of a latest session, how present are you right now, or how present were you over the last 15 minutes? And also you can invite them to say, yeah, I just recognize you were very present with me, and we can talk about that. And maybe that has an implication to them in their roles outside the coaching room as well. So, yeah, it’s definitely a resource that can be looked at explicitly with coaching clients.

– Yeah. And I think would be very useful for quite a lot of clients, particularly when, as they kind of transition back out of the coaching space back into work. So let me ask that question then that I was going to ask. So how can people actually use the model?

– Yeah. A number of ways. And I think the first thing that I would say about where I’ve got to is that it’s not all encompassing. I’ve done a qualitative inquiry, I’ve talked to six coaches and six clients and I used a methodology for those people that are interested in it called conceptual encounter, which I really, again, grew to really love as a really super way of looking at this. But the way that conceptual encounter works is it does look at creating a model. But it’s the start of a map of the terrain I would say. It’s not the full map. So I think that I I’ve sort of made a contribution, if you like, and it’s for others to continue to color in the pieces, if you like. But in terms of how to use it, I think one of my original intents was just to create a richer language. And just a richer lexicon and a conceptualization that was perhaps better formed that I’d seen already. So just being aware and raising that awareness of what presence is and what it involves, I think is something that is helpful in itself. So for example, just focusing on the fact that clients have presence, you know, please coaches and do that because that immediately changes suddenly you did with me, it immediately changes the way that you coach, because it’s not all about a skill that you were trying to acquire. It’s the relational element that you were trying to cultivate or grow in the coaching room? I think another aspect of the model, we reported quite a bit about attitude towards people and the connection to sort of client centered practices that Carl Rogers and others have advocated. So again, this idea that the coaching, as we all know, it’s not just about process and tools, but that your attitude as a coach is so important. And again, this is about what you give off. So practicing things like compassion and practicing non-judgemental sort of unconditional, self-regard, these kinds of things, you know, it’s all in the literature, it’s all in our training courses. But it really wraps into a direct connection with how present we are. So having a responsibility to be aware of the attitude that you have in the moment the coaching room with your clients I think that there’s a sensitization there. And then as we’ve said already, I think to use the model to bring presence more explicitly into the coaching room and to focus on being able to support your client’s presence, I think is just a super extra dimension of coaching and it allows you to maybe take the foot off the gas with the solution based kind of tendencies that certainly I have, and many of us has a coach. And, you know, we don’t have to just go in and sell things for the client. We can just talk about their well being, and how they show up and have them sort of be sensitive to their own presence and to the power of that. If a lot of of working with presence is about accessing internal resources, helping people be at their best, we can do that for ourselves as well. We don’t necessarily need the help. So, bringing that to the awareness of the client, I think there’s a responsibility for that. And then I guess in what I would see as a slightly kind of guessed out way, using your sense to present explicitly as material in the coaching room, giving more of a sense of your internal world to your client, I think is one of the real learnings for me. So again, the great thing about being a practitioner is that as you learn this stuff you can go away and experiment straight away. And I’m much, much more comfortable as a coach now, just in the middle of a conversation saying, you know, David, as you talk to me, I’m getting a real tension in my stomach around this, or I’m getting a headache, or I’m starting to feel a little bit bored. Now, clearly you’ve got to have a set up that allows you the sense of sort of non-defense about that. But that kind of material is so amazing from an insight perspective, to be able to connect something that is going on bodily and not just assuming it’s because you’re hungry, but it might be because it’s something the client said and this interconnect to this relational presence is creating something between you and bringing that to the coaching table. I mean, the number of times people have said to me, you know, I mean many times they just say, yeah, I dunno what you’re talking about there, Roger it means nothing to me. Which is fine but other times it’s like, well, it’s funny, you should say that. But I had this conversation two days ago and this person said, X, Y, Z. So it clicks off a train of thought that is completely creative. It’s in that non-logical kind of area. And so I think using practicing used in your yourself as a tool in a coach or in some big connections to presence there as well.

– Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the big things it does well, firstly, the model itself, I find really useful for just thinking about the concept of presence and my place in that, within a relationship but also having some form of focus on the presence within the coaching relationships kind of moves people away quite usefully, I think this is a tendency largely of less experienced coaches of just doing the numbers. This is the question I meant to us now, and this is the question that they’re thinking about. So whilst the person’s responding, they’re not present, they’re thinking about their next question and then the next question, and the next question and I think a focus on those actually moves people back into that space. And I think that’s really useful, really useful.

– Yes it’s a lovely insight. And certainly when I look back on my kind of journey as a coach the thinking about the process to me was one of the biggest things I would say, looking back on it that took me away from presence. I’m not just about, it’s almost like a worry about what’s next and other sort of thought processes come up because you can think about, well, maybe we’ve been talking about this part of the process, you know, stage two, maybe we’ve looked at the Yarra and growing now it’s time to move on to the oven and I’ve got to try and hurry this person up a little bit so that I can get into that. And there’s enough time. So as soon as that kind of thinking is there, you really can’t be in presence. So, there is something that, you know, maybe a comments sort of more inexperienced coaches is just to say that this really allows you to relax, I think. You can just relax into the relationship and there is a trust and a self-confidence aspect that is needed, I think. But to be comfortable that what comes up when you’re present to each other is almost the perfect thing that’s gonna come up for the clients. So, you can do less to effectively achieve more with clients. And, you know, I think there’s something else about tools and processes that can actually harmonize with presence quite nice nicely and that is just the idea of embodiment, I would say. So, I would say that when people have embodied, I mean, it’s a bit like driving a car, you know, you don’t know you’re driving it. And, you know, you’ve got that unconscious competence that allows you to be present whilst driving a car. Whereas when you’re thinking about what gear to move, and when to look in your mirrors, you are still driving, you’re having an experience, but you’re not necessarily having a present experience because you’re spending so much time in your intellect. So I think there’s something really similar in coaching, where if you can just, if the tools and the processes that you use, and they’re important to you are embodied to you. In other words, you just bring them out unconsciously. You know, you don’t have to think what next then that creates so much more bandwidth to be present within. And that bandwidth can obviously be taken up with being on your client’s agenda, which is obviously what they want.

– Yes, I think so. And I actually think, so I teach the, some of the lecturers to teach at the university, and I actually think this is got great utility in that space as well for people learning to teach, facilitation because they really are about presence in this space rather than just a, I suppose, a focus on how I’m feeling because I’m nervous or whatever else to be or just sprouting stuff out to people. And I think there’s a kind of wider application of this. So kind of as we come towards the end of this, what advice would you give coaches who want to develop or increase presence in their coaching relationships?

– So the first thing I would say is just from this research, at least, you know, just be aware of the terrain and what does it involve? And when when I think about advice, I suppose I jumped to focusing on the relational aspect of presence and, you know, seeing yourself not as separate to your client, but that there is this connection, and to just start to practice noticing in the room. And even if you managed that for one second of a one hour meeting, that’s good enough but just lost your, in dialogue, just going inside yourself and say, what’s going on in my body right now. At the same time, as you described earlier with this kind of two views of a client whilst you’re listening actively, of course,. And then I think also being attendant to the fact that, you know, you can do simple things that are not necessarily practicing presence but help. So for example, sitting straight in your chair, both helps is what one of the interviewees said helps them be more present to themselves. They have a sense of uprightness and awareness of themselves that possibly also has an effect on how their client perceives them. And your podcast listeners will notice this. If I’m Zoom coaching and I appear to you like this, so you can just see the top of my head, because I’ve not positioned myself properly. I am present to you in a different way than when I’m fully in the picture. The lighting’s reasonable on all the rest of it. Similarly, face-to-face, if I’m a person that slouches and I am, I end up, because I’m listening really hard, slouching halfway down my chair. That may not come across as particularly present to my clients. So that there’s awareness of how we come across. That is very simple. But then I do think that that two things, that the short-term is to practice just before a coaching engagement or the first few moments in the room to have an active little practice. Do this kind of body scan thing or just be able to notice your breathing for five breaths before you go into the courtroom. But something that sensitizes yourself to being a whole body person and not simply kind of an intellect, if you like. So there’s something in those kinds of immediate areas. And then if you are really interested in that long-term view, then I think the attitude and, or cultivation, you know, compassion, love for humanity, if you like. I mean, that is just massive to me. And certainly for me on a personal level that’s a journey. You know, I find it pretty challenging to feel compassionate to some people rather than others but why is that? That’s all about me. It’s also practicing the qualities of attitude that you want to bring into the coach room, I think is important. And then I do think that you probably can’t get away in the long-term to getting interested in some kind of practice that allows you to be aware of your mind body experience as a human being. So whether you meditate, whether you have mindfulness practices, whether you do yoga, you know, whether you just have a calm times just before you go to bed, whatever it is, there’s something about a continuous, lifelong practice that I think gets into our bodies and helps our balance in life really, David. So I’m a bit of a short, medium and long-term maybe.

– Yeah, no that’s really, really useful. And I think that the good thing about this is you can actually practice it outside of the coaching environment, because you can do it with relationships all over the place, telephone calls, Zoom calls, relationships within the house. You can practice and build, I suppose, those presence muscles as it were.

– Absolutely. I think a final points on that as well, is that, you know, it doesn’t have to be the 50 hours of practice as I said. I mean, I do think there are many experiences that coaches, just by being aware of their level of presence at that moment can instantaneously bring them into presence. So, you know, I think that just noticing, doing some kind of reflexive practice after the coaching session about how present were you, how present was the coach, what might you do more of? What might you do less of? And a lot of the less of is just to relax more, you know, and to maybe do less intellectually with your client can help there. So, yeah, I think there’s somewhat something for everybody in this and you can come at it from whatever angle interests you.

– Yeah. Excellent. Thank you so much for this, Roger. I’ll put links to the paper. Your model, will put a copy of the model and also links. You’ve got quite a really useful video that you’ve probably seen on YouTube about the model in the podcast notes. But if people want to, how can they contact you?

– Yeah. I mean, I’m really happy that if you wanna post my email address, then that’s fine. Just verbally it’s But another really, really easy way is LinkedIn as well. So I’m on LinkedIn and, you know, I have a number of conversations around this kind of subject already and very happy to have more.

– Yeah, excellent. Yes, we’ll put the link to your LinkedIn. I don’t want you to end up getting spammed. So I think LinkedIn is the safer way so that’s brilliant. Thank you so much, Roger. I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s been fascinating and yeah, just thank you.

– Pleasure. And thank you very much, David.

– It’s absolute pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed it, thanks.


Noon, R. (2018). Presence in Executive Coaching Conversations-The C² Model. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring16.

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page