Self-Care for Coaches
“Put Your Own Mask on First”
We are all familiar with the above request, so much so, that most of us probably pay little attention to the safety talk at the beginning of every flight. Just as we know we probably should pay more heed in this scenario, when thinking about self care in coaching, we may be guilty of the same complacency. Simplistically, if we are not prepared to look after ourselves, how can we possibly claim to be doing the best for our clients? For a start to be “present” requires focus and energy, if we are not mindful of our own physical and mental wellbeing, then “being present” is unlikely to be an achievable state. So what does coach “self care” look like and why is it so important for us and for our clients?
To answer the second question first, I would suggest for our coaching practice to be ethical, we have an absolute responsibility to make sure we are operating at our very best, the best that we can be, not only in the context of coaching sessions, but in other aspects of our lives. It seems to me that there are a number of issues to consider:
The coach’s own frame of mind will obviously have an impact, either positively or negatively, Peter Hill describes the essential ingredients for an effective coaching session as Focus, Openness and Energy. A coach has a duty of care to make sure that they are in the right frame of mind to offer all of these.
- Equally important is a coach’s physical wellbeing, including managing stress levels, the impact of these on our focus and energy must not be ignored.
- Some people are “larks” others “owls” and this applies to coaches as much as anyone else so, in practical terms, a coach will need to think about what time of day they operate at their best. While it may not always be possible to schedule sessions according to one’s natural biorhythms, every effort should be made to ensure the vast majority take place at a time of day that suits both the coach and the client’s energy levels.
- The amount of reflection time between sessions is another aspect to be considered. Economic demands may make it tempting to over-stretch oneself, but remember, as a coach you are the product, and your reputation is of paramount importance, it is not worth taking a risk on that.
- We are all familiar with the concept of a “safe” space for our clients but do we always ensure that the location where we hold sessions is safe for us? Should we be thinking about where and when we agree to coach? If, for example, we have been asked to coach after business hours at an empty office, do we a) suggest an alternative time and venue or b) make sure that someone we trust knows exactly where we are?
- In order to ensure that we a deliver consistently high level of service, ongoing professional development should be an integral part of our self care. Supervision offers the perfect opportunity to ensure that we maintain our skills, have a chance to reflect on our practice, receive support and encouragement and continue to develop as coaches.
The above list is not exhaustive but it does highlight just how many aspects to “self care” there are, and also reminds us that self care includes not only our physical and psychological well being, but other more practical areas to be considered. The bottom line is that unless we “put our own oxygen masks first,” we will not be providing the best service for our clients.