Tips for taking your coaching outdoors
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
Finding confidence to coach outdoors
Coaching outdoors presents an opportunity for our clients to understand themselves more fully, to deepen their enquiry and understanding and become more attuned to their own needs and responses. It can facilitate a systemic perspective and encourage people to explore new outlooks. And as a coach, an outdoor space can work with us, almost as a third coach, to support our clients to make the changes which work for them. But it can be daunting to step out of the safety of an office into the unknown. How will you keep your client psychologically safe in an open setting and tune in to the benefits of being outdoors? And what does coaching outdoors actually mean in practice? Here are a few tips which have served me well over the years.
#1 Let nature do the work!
There are so many natural metaphors outside which enable clients to explore deeply and creatively their issues, barriers, options and solutions. One client used the outdoor space to find a metaphor for her leadership role, for example: Looking from a stone bridge across a river, she recognized that, “I’m the river bank, shoring up and directing the flow of work for the team’’. She went on to describe the consequences for her team if she were not there (water/work flowing in torrents, unguided and destructive; or as something shallow and stagnant). A powerful image to take away.
What metaphors can you access in the outdoor environment around you now? Is there a path? A gnarled tree? Something struggling to grow? Something old and sturdy? How could this be helping facilitate a conversation for your client?
#2 Tune in and speak out
We become attuned to our senses much more outdoors because they are more stimulated. Think of the smell of cut grass or coffee, the breeze on your skin, the temperature, your feet on the ground. Becoming more aware of how you feel can help you and your client get out of your head (where overthinking and problematising are rife!) and into our bodies, another rich source of information. You’re both likely to notice somatic responses much more – and you can feed this back with powerful effect.
How might you spend time with your client tuning in to the outdoor environment? How might this impact on your coaching session?
#3 Be prepared!
The weather can make or break an outdoor coaching session! Plan ahead – practically, check the forecast, take layers, notepad, pens, umbrella. Think about parking, loos, refreshment maybe and even dogs!
#4 Contract well
Establishing a clear and workable contract with your clients is key for any context and particularly relevant outdoors.
What are the possible factors you would need to include in a coaching contract to take account of your surroundings?
#5 Find the right space
Whether it’s urban or rural, managed or wild, finding a space which will work for you and your client is vital. If their brain is busy and they’re feeling overwhelmed, perhaps a quiet space would give them helpful mental space; if they’re feeling vulnerable, somewhere contained and not too open could work well.
What kind of spaces are available to you and your coachees? How could you use different spaces to support the needs of your clients?
Coaching outdoors can be such an enriching experience for both client and coach.
I’m offering a 2-day retreat for coaches wishing to explore and practice outside and I’d love it if you could join us.
To find out more and book your place, go to www.clairembradshaw.co.uk/retreats/