Prompted a little by Bishop Currys’s powerful sermon at the recent royal wedding, I thought I’d be brave enough to put ‘love’ and ‘coaching’ in the same sentence! Often as coaches, particularly working in corporate environments, we are nervous about openly using emotional language. It is safer to act as if individual development, and thus the coaching process, are things of the head; steps and processes and structures and solutions. But here’s the thing…I work with a lot of smart, experienced people and if their challenge was simply a missing bit of information or purely a rational analysis, they would ask a friend, look for a you tube tutorial, read a book or make a ‘to do differently’ list and JDI. So, what is the missing bit that brings ‘love’ into the mix?
The secret truth (which we all really know but find squirmy sometimes to talk about) is that when human beings want to get unstuck, find themselves at a tough transition point or want to take a big step in their own growth, the heart matters even more than the head. It is the head that tells us to exercise more, for example, but the heart that provides the drive to actually do it. Our actions are often more driven by our feelings, or our thoughts about our feelings, than by logic or numbers or objectivity. Coaching is not therapy but it needs to be a place of the heart.
So what role does love play in coaching? It is about the kind of love that sits beside you, says ‘it’s ok to be where you are and who you are’ and really listens. The kind of love that is validating because it simply sees and hears you with no agenda and little judgement.
It is rare in life, even when we have strong professional and personal relationships, to find spaces to think and feel out loud without having to meet other people’s expectations or needs. The more senior we are or the more others depend on us, the harder it is. I’ve often wondered if it is why working with a coach can become almost addictive for some because it creates that protected pocket of ‘me-ness’.
Validation – having someone who is fully present for you as a human being – is a powerful fuel for personal change. Or redemptive love, as Bishop Curry would call it perhaps.