The Art of Coaching
By Jennifer MacLeod
My coaching practice has always included drawing, it is a way of bringing the right side of my brain into the session as much as the left. A system of thought emerges, beyond words, and pictures become my way of expressing it. It’s a lot like doodling, but with the intention and practice of bringing what is internal and unconscious into the coaching session – mine as much as the clients.
Our note taking as coaches is intimate. It reflects the most vulnerable and personal parts of our work. It is a personal journal that looks into the mind and spirit of our clients at pivotal moments of their development. They also express the manner in which we as a coach supported them, making it equally revealing. What you capture on the page with these images become a lasting snapshot of your and/or the client’s unconscious journey and an invaluable way of appreciating what you practice.
Drawing allows my unconscious mind to emerge alongside, as if parallel, to my listening and questions with a client. It is usually well into a coaching session where the theme being explored starts to hold shape and becomes tangible; and that’s when the drawing begins.
I trust the emergence of what is wordless more than my words themselves. I allow the picture or diagram to materialize, and then bring it into a coaching session. The images that I draw speak for themselves, a language that is based on images rather than words.
While I have done this for many years in my practice, it was only when I pulled all of these images together that I truly understood what I was discovering. I was witnessing my lived experience as a coach in pictures for the first time. The experience was profound. I had been sketching for years and had no idea of its importance. Seeing them all together was like looking into an archive of my work.
Think of an astrologer; that tracks celestial patterns in the universe that influence human affairs and the natural world. Similar to an astrologer, many of us as coaches, through our collective work, track patterns in human systems. In pulling my sketches together, I was able to detect patterns, their repetition to expand these relationships and similarities from the individual level to the collective. Seeing all the sketches together brought patterns that repeated, and It felt profound and sacred to me.
The more that I have studied psycho-spiritual development, I see repetition. Correlations and patterns give shape and form to our healing and personal growth journeys. Whether those patterns allude to stages of the hero/heroine’s journey, stages of consciousness development, stages of transition and change, states of awareness through yoga, meditation and mindfulness: everything points in one direction. To the same thing. These mystic and spiritual patterns, metaphors, frameworks and configurations direct us to paths for healing and growing. The path moves us beyond our egos, breaking the chains that bind, freeing us to evolve into higher levels of consciousness.
Coaching is a relatively new field. In much of our world there is such an emphasis on quantifying, qualifying, and measuring in order to validate, confirm or refute our practice. I have heard it described by some as a transactional way of making people more successful or productive quickly. I see coaching as something much deeper, transformational, and spiritual. Coaching addresses conscious development, and through that development helps to bring about a better version of ourselves.
Images and patterns invite a less mechanical language for expressing the work of coaching. Our sketches can be a hand of creativity that complements the words we use – demonstrating the fullness and richness of what we do. If we can expand how we express it to others, perhaps through imagery and drawing, then maybe we can expand the understanding of it as well.