Presence: The Core Coaching Competency

Presence is one of the most – if not *THE* most – important competencies in coaching. When new coaches start their practice, they tend to focus on learning how to ask open-ended questions and manage the coaching process.

Coaching presence is what makes a coach go from novice to expert learner. Once coaches understand that presence enables other major skills like active listening, powerful questioning, and sharing impactful reflections and observations, they start shifting their focus on it.

Without an active presence before, during and after their session, coaches can be forgetful, overly leading, and unaware of potential ethical issues and shifts in their clients. Which, as you can very well imagine, can be quite problematic.


From our personal experience and that of our peers, we can identify a few common reasons for lacking presence in the coaching process:

  • Overthinking, worry and self-doubt: the coach keeps thinking “what question am I going to ask next?”, “I hope the session is helpful”, “I don’t know what to say.”
  • Lack of preparation before the session: the coach arrives unprepared and needs a few minutes during the session to settle.
  • Distractions: the coach receives a text or an email during the session and keeps thinking about it.
  • Need for control: the coach rushes the client to come up with a solution they know is going to work.

How to improve your coaching presence

  • Increase your confidence to avoid worrying about your performance as a coach.
  • Avoid judging yourself as judgements make your attention shift away from the client and from your session.
  • Always take a few minutes before a session to switch to coaching mode, take a few breaths and get into your coaching space.
  • Turn off notifications on your phone and your laptop, let people know around you that you should not be disturbed.
  • Have faith in your clients that they will find their own solutions.
  • Develop a regular mindfulness practice that will help you notice when you are distracted and bring your attention back to your client.
  • Record some of your sessions and listen back to them to develop awareness on what might be taking place for you and the client.
  • Slow down: slow down the coaching process, slow down your thoughts. Give more space for pause and silence.

By developing your presence you will see your practice shift from the “doing” to the “being”, to a deeper sense of awareness and closer to the self. This is where transformation happens, both for your clients and for yourself.


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Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

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