A client once confided, “Every Saturday, I come to office, extremely satisfied after a refreshing morning workout, feeling good about myself. While walking towards my cabin, I say to myself, ‘Today no one is around to disturb or distract me and I’ll get time to think and strategize for the next few years out in the future’. I step into my cabin, set up my workstation; armed with a pen and notepad to jot down my ideas, then I hear a familiar ‘ping’ on my mobile device. After just fewquick e-mail responses, making some urgent calls, setting up meeting requests with clients, putting out fire in a major emergency situation, I return to desk and see a blank notepad staring at me. Before I could realize it’s already time for lunch and I’m too tired to focus on any ‘blue sky’ thinking. Once again, I succumb to the tyranny of the fast paced busy world and have no time to think about present or future”.
Does this situation sound familiar to you or the clients you coach?
If yes, you are in the right place and the very fact that we have managed to hold your attention this far, on this blog, says a lot about the world we live in.What would be your first response to the following words of: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous? This is also referred in the business world as ‘VUCA’, a popularized in India by HUL’s Chairman Mr. Harish Manwani, during his Annual General Meeting .
Today’s world along with its general conditions and situations is constantly in a state of VUCA. And, this is true to individuals, businesses and nations too. As coaches, we need to acknowledge this compelling reality and constantly invite ourselves and most importantly our clients, to the path of awareness and readiness. We all need to have heightened sense of VUCA foresight and insight. That’s where Mindfulness comes in handy as a tool that enables us to anticipate, understand, prepare for and thrive on VUCA conditions.
What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinnthe, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines that, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness, following by this definition, positions us in a state of mind to start by being aware of how we anticipate and respond to this VUCA internally first, and then then acting on the best possible ways to deal with the emerging situations and conditions.
As the world of Mindfulness has tremendous amount of material be it from religion, meditation, research, academics and corporations, out attempt in this blog is to focus and narrow our perspective to the use of ‘Mindfulness in Coaching’.
Watch this Youtube Video, where Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about ‘What is Mindfulness?’
Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about ‘The science of mindfulness’
Mindfulness in Coaching
In this section, we will introduce the following four step approach to discuss this topic –
Context, Concept, Method & Tools, and Results.
Context –Importance of Mindfulness in Coaching?
Mindfulness is a powerful tool both for a Coach and a Coachee in their respective roles of Coaching. Refer to the below table to understand its significance.
- As a Coach, I need to be ‘Mindful’ of the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ chatter that could come in the way of my ‘Coaching Presence’ (An ICF Core Competency)
- Being mindful, helps in practicing ‘Generative Listening’ (Refer – Otto Sharmer’s ‘Theory U’ )
- Consider these quotes:
“Who you are is how you coach” – Edna Murdoch , The Coaching Supervision Academy (CSA)
- “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener”- William O’Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance Company
- Helps coachee to bring ‘Clarity’ to the issue at hand, set aside emotions and harmful triggers and most importantly stay focused in the moment.
- Helps coachee to be self-reliant and observant to his/her own thoughts and commit to subsequent insights
- There is strong research evidence on the impact of mindfulness in managing stress and contributing towards improved performance
- Concept – What is the relationship between Brain and Mind?
The most common analogy to differentiate or map the relationship between the Brain & Mind is to view ‘Mind as the software for the Brain’. Also in the last 2 or 3 decades, science has advanced leaps and bounds, and so is our understanding of the Brain. The myth, ‘after the age of 12, your brain stops growing’ is busted and evidence is mounting to support the neuro-plasticity of Brain i.e. we all learn new things at all time. The ‘Hard wiring’ can be managed and new neural pathways can be created to form productive habits to replace the unproductive ones.
This underlines the core focus of Coaching as process to change behavior to unleash their untapped potential in individuals. Thus, putting to rest the classic dilemma of whether leaders are born or made? Leaders can be nurtured, in alignment with their life’s experiences and their neuro-plasticity being amplified.
Find below a selection of hand-picked methods and tools that will help in practicing Mindfulness in your own circumstance, be it a Coach or a Coachee.
- Breathing exercises(focus your mind on the air you inhale and exhale – the temperature, pace, passage through right or left nostril, the area near your upper lip where the air touches etc)
- Body Scan (where you focus your attention along your body, from the toes to the top of your head, trying to be aware and accepting of whatever you sense in these body parts, without controlling or changing those feelings)
- Active Listening(move from factual listening to empathetic listening to Generative Listening) Refer Link
- ‘Clearing the Space’ (Ensuring you both agree and commit to set aside unrelated issues and focus on the current coaching goal)
Android Apps on Google Play Store
– ‘Mindfulness Bell’ by Mindful Apps (Free)
– Buddhist Meditation Trainer by Spacebug (Free)
– Headspace (Paid)
– iMindfulness by iDeal Development (Paid)
Try this online Mindfulness Quiz, developed by researchers at La Salle University and Drexel University, led by psychology professor Lee Ann Cardaciotto
Various corporations, hospitals, non-profits and educational institutions are now realizing the need for teaching ‘Mindfulness; to their key stakeholders resulting in productivity improvement and other benefits. It’s worth mentioning the pioneering efforts of some global organizations, including:
- Google’s ‘Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute – (www.SIYLI.org);
- Intel’s nine-week mindfulness program called ‘Awake@Intel’ – available to its workforce of over 100,000 employees in 63 countries across the globe
MarioVirgili, in the paper titled, ‘Mindfulness-based coaching: Conceptualisation, supporting evidence and emerging applications’ published in ‘International Coaching Psychology Review’. (Sep2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p40-57. 18p), concludes and “makes suggestions for coaching practitioners, discusses practical guidelines for integrating mindfulness into the practice of coaching..”
The author reports that, “The evidence reviewed suggests that mindfulness may enhance the well-being and effectiveness of coaches who have a personal practice of mindfulness; improves the well-being and psychological functioning of clients who are taught mindfulness skills; offers a rich repertoire of evidence-based techniques and strategies for facilitating change; and may contribute to theoretical base of coaching psychology, particularly with regards to understanding the process of individual change.” Authors, Jonathan Passmore & Oberdan Marianetti, in their paper titled‘The role of mindfulness in coaching’, published in ‘The Coaching Psychologist’ quote many evidences towards the usefulness of mindfulness in coaching.
We end this blog entry by quoting them, “Whether the coach and the coachee choose to include mindfulness in their own individual benefits, their relationship can certainly become more effective because of it. We suggest four specific uses: preparing for coaching, maintaining focus in the session, remaining emotionally detached and teaching mindfulness techniques to the coachee.”
By Bhaskar Natarajan, PCC & Anil Santhapuri
Bhaskar Natarajan, PCC
Bhaskar Natarajan has close to 14 years of cumulative experience in Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, Performance Consulting, Sales and Human Resources. Bhaskar is currently is a research scholar at XLRI, Jamshedpur, India. His research work involves using Development Coaching as a strategic tool in building high performance teams. As a past President for the non-profit ‘International Coach Federation – Hyderabad Charter Chapter’, he pioneered the initiative to evangelize and promote coaching in India. He has represented India on various international coaching forums including Singapore, USA, Malaysia and Philippines.
Bhaskar delivers One-on-One as well as ‘Team’ Coaching interventions across various organizations with documented outcomes at every stage of the engagement. His clientele include CxOs, their teams and leaders from various industry backgrounds. He is passionate about leveraging Leadership Coaching as a strategic tool to build high performing teams/organizations and to be a strategic partner in building organizations’ ability ‘To grow and develop leaders faster than competition’. Bhaskar heads the ‘School of Leadership Coaching’, a fully funded venture by Planet group, Singapore.School of Leadership Coaching, as a corporate university, provides Talent Development, Succession planning and Leadership/Organizational Coaching as a shared service to organizations spread across Sydney, Perth, Singapore, Dubai and Mumbai.
Anil Santhapuri is currently working with Western Union as Regional Manager APAC, MEA for Talent Management. He brings with him 12 years of professional experience in the areas of consulting; learning and leadership development. He has worked earlier for the organizations HCL, CGI, Satyam and iGate Global Solutions. In these roles, he has designed and delivered interventions in the areas of managerial & leadership development, change management, organization turnaround strategies and outplacement learning services.
In May 2012, Anil has been profiled in Training Magazine, USA as “One of 2012’s Top 10 Young Trainers” in the world. This award was in recognition of his leadership in creating strategic business alignment and measureable impact by the learning function, at CGI.
Anil is a passionate believer in empowering people through learning and is a certified coach (CoachU, Australia). He also practices and administers other psychometric tools of MBTI, CPI260 & Watson Glaser Critical Thinking assessment. He is one of the founding members of “Hyderabad Professional Coach Association” a chapter of “International Coach Federation (ICF), USA”.