Coaching for conscious change

24th January by Mark Powell

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Coaching has yet to reach its true transformational capacity, however the ground is now fertile for the unleashing of the human potential and connection required to tackle the big challenges that lie ahead of us.

We are facing into a precarious time as climate change, social media, big data, health pandemics, tribalism, corruption, and rising mental health issues all threaten our human condition. We need to respond with a change that is more fundamental on how we best live and work with ourselves, with others, and with the changing world around us.

Coaching has the capacity to ignite a change, to significantly expand our potential, and shape our capacity to care for the people with whom we work.

There are two basic principles of coaching that seem so simple, that it can be easily passed over without really sinking in.

Change comes from within

The first is the simple principle, that at the root of change, is a mindset shift that comes from “within” in response to what is “outside”. This mindset shift comes through a person dialoguing, reflecting, and experiencing for themselves, the way that they now wish to think and act in response to their environment or context.

This fundamental mindset shift doesn't come through instruction, nor through a change directive. Such directives often just create a more stressful and confusing “context”. Yes, burning platforms ignite change, but rarely sustain change. Of course, focused communication does play a critical role, but less through change bulletins, and benefits statements, and more through the stories that are recreated and shared by the people who themselves are facing into this change.

I invite you to stop and think about the big changes that occurred in your life and the mindset shifts that came with them. Did they come through someone telling you so?

Most likely they came through:

  • Situations when you were thrust into a new environment with little preparation and needing to change your way of thinking and operating.
  • Reflecting and dialoguing through a difficult situation, usually with others, who bring both great listening and deep empathy, so that in the end you could form your own new narrative.
  • The noise of your own pain or frustration getting so loud that you found the courage to experiment and test new responses, new actions, and new roles.

Making conscious choices

The second principle of coaching is to raise the level of self-awareness and consciousness around our thoughts and actions. This means becoming more connected with who we really are and making conscious the choices we take, particularly as leaders of others. 

This is significant because conscious change is “sticky”, and this stickiness not only helps to generate a mindset shift now, but also creates a meta cognition that allows for more adaptive change in the future.  

When we learn to become an object of our own observation, we set the ground for making bolder changes, as we have a clear picture of our own state. Without self-awareness, when we are not conscious of our choices in the moment, then we can drift, slowly sinking into the messiness that is the byproduct of social systems and group dynamics.  

We react or respond as if we have little choice. And then we meander through, prone to socialised conditioning that takes us further from our true selves. However, if instead, we make conscious our choices and actions, we nurture our ability to generate our own wisdom, and to purposefully craft our own stories about change and who we want and need to become. This way we don't just react to what is happening around us, by falling back on old patterns. A reaction that seems “right“ at the time yet lacks any deeper reflection and conscious evaluation. Cultivating these skills of reflection, are now even more critical than ever. 

Given the changing media ecosystem of the world, the need for discernment is increasing exponentially, as social media facilitates a vast number of truths that ultimately builds deeper distrust and divide.

Yes, there are way too many experts out there.

As an antidote, great coaching necessitates leaving the need to be the expert behind, and instead to adopt the roles of deep listener, curious creator, feedback giver, systemic thinker and intuitive sense maker when working with clients and leaders, so that the change can be generated authentically and consciously from within.