Scouting for Coaches

“What do you do to get into the ‘zone’?” asked my friend and colleague Mark when we worked together last week.

We were delivering workshops to an exec MBA group on Executive Presence, working to a design that was new to me. I explained that I did three types of preparation to get into the ‘zone’:

First, I get absolutely comfortable and clear about my content, the context and my audience. This is so I know what I am saying, can relate to my group and manage the process with authority. But it’s also so that I can relax and release myself to be my best and focus on the needs of the group. A design or agenda is, after all, only a framework. The needs of the people in the room are paramount and if I am anxious about the content I won’t focus on them.

How much detailed preparation I do depends on the subject matter and whether I am coaching or facilitating. For coaching and familiar workshops, it’s a brief reminder and re-read my reflections from last time. With new workshops, it’s the hard graft of fully absorbing the agenda, the logic and flow. And it’s important not to over-do it: excess preparation leads to tightness by imbuing the detail with a significance it does not have. I aim to do enough to enable myself to perform and trust myself that I will.

My second type of preparation is a personal check in with my readiness to do the work. That involves FOE – three questions that I ask myself:

  1. How focused am I?
  2. How open am I?
  3. How is my energy?

Focus is about clearing my head, quietening the noise of other concerns, ensuring that any residual anxiety becomes anticipation, being fully present.

Openness is about getting rid of assumptions – about what might be easy or difficult, what the client(s) will bring, what it will be like working with them.

Energy has two dimensions: quantity and quality. I need sufficiently high energy to bring pace, confidence and lightness to my work. And I need calmness – not a frenetic energy but relaxed concentration.

In response to each of my three questions I give a mark out of 10. I aim for a 9 or better. If I am below that, being aware is often enough: I shift my focus, I move my attention outward to work with what is rather than what I assume, and I either draw on my reserve tank or breathe deeply to find the level and type of energy I need.

And my final check, and last piece of preparation, to is to adopt the pose: I know how I naturally sit or stand when I am properly ready. This is personal – there are common denominators but each person has to find their own.

I find that the issue of preparation comes up often with my clients. They want to perform well in a situation that matters. They want to show their best self. They want to have a strong, positive impact. I point out that feeling some anxiety is normal: so long as it does not tip into panic, it’s the fuel for the hard graft of preparation. Tension and release is a natural rhythm. And my approach seems to help: attend to the detail until you are relaxed enough, apply FOE and adopt the pose.

And remember the scout motto: Be Prepared

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