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A Coach for all Seasons

Posted By Margaret Walsh, Margaret Walsh Consulting Ltd, 05 July 2017

What does it really mean when a Coach says I bring my ‘whole self’ into coaching? 

For me, as well as using well-respected tools and frameworks, this means that I also have highly- tuned awareness of the impact that the Coachee has on my thoughts and feelings in the coaching relationship.  My experience of coaching over fifteen years is that it is a dynamic relationship, with both conscious and unconscious processing, and includes many choices for the Coach to make on ‘where to tap’. 

Working at a deeper, more psychological level reflects my own approach to coaching.  In my early years as a Coach I found that I ‘bumped up’ against the boundary between coaching and counselling and often felt the need to go deeper to understand the thoughts and behaviour of a Coachee but, ethically, I did not go there as that strayed into counselling.  Over five years ago, I trained as a Psychotherapist and transferred this learning and insight both into myself and others to manage better the dynamics at play in the coaching relationship to deepen a Coachee’s self-awareness and thereby help unlock change. 

The current stage of my coaching development has drawn me to the connections with nature and how to use nature in my work.  There is much evidence from clinicians (and anecdotally from those who spend time in nature) of the benefits of being in nature.  This is early work for me at present and this blog provides an opportunity to process my own thinking as a quote attributed to E.M Forster states: ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I have to say?’.

We can learn from the seasons and nature in terms of how we live our lives.  If we ‘chunk up’ and look conceptually, our life moves through their own seasons.  You can see our childhood and growing up as Spring and early Summer, where there is lots of growth, potential and risk for ‘weeds’ to pull us down!  Our early adult years form a parallel with Summer, where we get established and show our uniqueness (if we’re lucky).  As we age, we start to move into the Autumn of our years, still plenty to shine and revel in, but we start to become aware of the impact of ageing.  And Winter, when there is lots going on beneath the surface and with greater time for introspection, the brilliance of nature is revealed more sharply.  Winter is a core period in our lives and particularly so, as we have the potential to live longer.  Within these ‘life stages’ there are ‘seasons’ e.g. a new relationship or, indeed, a new project or job where the metaphor and learning still applies.     

These parallels with nature can also be used in the coaching room to help a Coachee gain perspective and learn from the natural environment.  I have coached many individuals who were stressed and disconnected from themselves and the world.  Tuning into the cycles of nature and the rhythm of the day or season and seeing the resilience present within the natural world, has often helped them to make changes that have eased some of the internal pressure. 

When you stop and listen to the language of a Coach there are numerous references to nature/gardening like:

·         Sowing the seeds

·         Germination (of an idea)

·         Nurture

·         New/green shoots

·         Change in conditions

·         Climate (or culture), micro-climate

·         Adapting to the environment

·         Feeding, watering, caring for new ideas (or plants)

·         Managing negative thoughts/ getting rid of the weeds

Indeed, one of the most popular frameworks for coaching is GROW (by John Whitmore), and nature is the best example of how to grow!  Wouldn’t it be good to form a much better connection between nature and coaching as they fit so well together?  

It’s too easy to dismiss this idea as ‘psychobabble’, and yet nature is a great metaphor and tool for Coaches to use, in considered ways, to enhance the perspective and experience of a Coachee.  A quote from one of our greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein, shows an insight into the powerful learning that can be gained by staying connected to nature.

‘Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better’.


Margaret Walsh

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Robert Thompson, The Coaching Revolution says...
Posted 21 July 2017
Hi Margaret, I agree that it is easy to dismiss your idea as psychobabble - an interesting choice of word. Just take the 'psych' part and your nature metaphors reflects Jung and his archetypal images. Another thought is that we all talk about 'our roots" - physical and spiritual I think - which plants us firmly with and in nature. Going a step further while we might not regenerate physically (until medical science finds a way), we regenerate mentally and spiritually every time we are open and become self-aware. A great topic.
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