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The coaching space is one of abundance and opportunity. With our client we can journey to the past or to the future to help them in the present.
The coaching industry enjoys a similar sense of possibility. Graduates of the AoEC programmes have brought their coaching skills to schools, charities, mothers returning from maternity leave and so many, many more exciting and important clients.
Since pivoting my career to full time coaching, I’ve held a curiosity about how coaching and coaching skills can help at a planetary level. Let’s be clear on one thing:
The climate crisis we face is not purely a scientific issue. It’s an emotional and a very human issue interwoven with fear, consumption, and power.
We can view the catastrophic harm we are witnessing every day as a symptom. Of how our financial systems prioritise growth above all else. Of how humankind has sought to control nature, to dominate it and exploit it. And it is a symptom of some chronic short-term thinking from our leaders past and present.
I believe coaching to be one of the most human professions. I’m proud to be part of an industry which prioritises EQ over IQ. Which champions listening and asking over telling. And which encourages the expression of feelings and emotions while providing healthy challenge.
Coaches are in the change game. At every level - individual, team, organisational and societal – urgent change is required. Businesses must, to pivot to accommodate ESGs (Environmental, Social and Governance) and measure success in ways other than the balance sheet. Teams need to adjust to accommodate a greater diversity of people, thoughts, and voices. And all of us individually, I believe, have the duty to assess our own impact and to do what we can to reverse the damage that we are collectively doing.
This path is scary, uncomfortable and it can be shrouded in fear, guilt, anger, hopelessness, blame. This is where coaches can and must help. We specialise in nuanced conversation, in behaviour change, in helping our clients find a path through the darkest nights. We have the skills of self-management and objectivity, to provide support and challenge to our clients. And we have the privileged access to leaders, teams, and decision makers across the planet.
But what of always working to the client’s agenda? Whether you agree with this commandment or not, if we zoom out far enough or probe deep enough then the climate crisis is a stakeholder in every coaching conversation. It is in the air we breathe, the water we drink. It is in our homes, and it is in the futures we are exploring.
Coaching as an industry is constantly maturing, and it has been growing its self-awareness. It is no longer just about the client, and I believe effective modern coaching to look through the systemic lens to all the groups, teams, and systems that the client is part of.
How do we go about this? Here I offer three ways to get started:
I found the Climate Change Coaches and the Climate Coaching Alliance to be an invaluable support network. The courses and regular meetings I attended left me feeling empowered, clear-minded and encouraged. Global gatherings and a place to share and learn so much, I highly encourage you to link up with these communities. As Margaret Wheatley beautifully says, “Whatever the problem is, community is the answer.”
Talk about it
For whatever reason, talking about the climate crisis has been something of a taboo subject. It could be the sheer emotion of such a big, scary topic. It could be the fear of being mocked, belittled, or dismissed. It could be the climate-change deniers doing their thing.
It would be a tragic situation if a coach wanted to broach the subject with their client but felt held back by the voice of ‘thou shalt not’ from their training. And if the client was in the session wanting to talk about this, but not thinking they had permission for it.
Coaches, I encourage you to make it ok to talk about it with your client. You can start talking about the subject on your website, in your newsletters, in your LinkedIn posts.
And you can bring it into your chemistry meetings and into your contracting. Among the many coaches I’ve spoken to on the subject, there is a unanimous verdict that trying to sneak or smuggle this topic into conversation probably won’t work and probably won’t sit well with you.
Instead, you can do what great coaches do and bring it in to the contracting. Offering it lightly, letting your client know that, if appropriate, you might explore topics, challenges, and decisions through the wider lens of future generations, of society, of other cultures – and other organisms. I signpost you towards Linda Aspey’s ‘With the Earth in Mind’ as an excellent resource here.
Much like a Russian Doll, if you explore the different stakeholders with your client in most conversations, you will eventually reach nature.
In their quite beautiful work, Active Hope, Chris Johnstone and Joanna Macy spoke of three stories of our time:
Business as Usual, characterised by industrial growth at all costs and wanton resource consumption. Control and domination over nature.
The Great Unravelling, the collapse of our ecosystems and our climate. Recently seen flooding, forest fires, famine, drought, and sea levels rising. The seams coming apart from our beautiful planet.
The Great Turning, the story of a transition to a life-affirming culture. A way of being that is regenerative, sustaining, nourishing to us, to others and to our home.
We can see all three stories taking place at this moment. For too long, too many coaches have been part of business as usual.
What story do you want you and your coaching to be part of?
George Warren is part of the Faculty at the AoEC and is the host of the Association for Coaching's Coaching in the Climate Crisis podcast.
Find out more about how to be a climate conscious coach and bring the climate into your coaching conversations.
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