Perspective ~ Making Connections – The future of coaching has consciousness, relationships and impact at its core
We recently published an article in our Perspective column entitled “Making Connections ~ The figure of coaching has consciousness, relationships and impact at its core” written by Neeraj Bhagat
I never set out to be a coach. So it seems a bit odd for me to be writing about the future of coaching. And yet, after 20 years as a trained coach – the first 10 years as a management consultant and the past 10 years as a full-time leadership coach – there are some worthy threads in my journey that are worth pulling on in service to this topic.
When I gathered with a group of experienced and masterful coaches at the New Executive Coaching Summit (NECS) in Maine earlier this year, I was delighted to be with friends and colleagues in person after the incredible shared experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Never in my lifetime had the world undergone such a simultaneously disruptive experience to our everyday lives. In a way, the world became much smaller and much closer.
When we met, the hunger for connection was palpable and was, perhaps, a necessary ingredient to make way for a new possibility of being, connecting, and dreaming.
The conversations that transpired struck a deep nerve with me. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that much of which I had been exploring and experiencing over the past several years was shared by others. All of us, in our own way, had been seekers on our inner journeys and manifesters in our outer journeys towards living a fulfilled life with authentic, meaningful relationships, in service to a greater calling or purpose.
My heart released its sadness from the false assumption I had been carrying of being alone on this journey, and became refilled with connection, clarity and possibilities.
The conversations with colleagues brought greater clarity that coaching had created the necessary conditions (i.e., the fertile soil) that gave direction to my exploration of mastery in the following three domains:
- Rise in Consciousness
- Better Relationships
- Greater Impact
As I reflect on my clients’ coaching agendas, I see that their desires, challenges and opportunities all lie in these three domains. And after learning that fellow coaches were on similar journeys, I conclude that these three domains of human experience will define the future of coaching over the next 25 years.
RISE IN CONSCIOUSNESS
I suspect that since the beginning of human life on this planet, we have asked the deepest, most profound questions of existence: Who am I? What am I? Why do I exist? Why does anything exist? There are perhaps infinite variations of these questions, but they all point to a central unsolved mystery: what is life and what are we supposed to do with it, if anything?
Sages, philosophers, yogis and other spiritual seekers have long tried to answer these existential questions. And perhaps those universally revered among us discovered deeper insights into this eternal mystery – like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, Adiyogi (the first yogi), and many enlightened beings before and after them.
Although my clients don’t ask such profound questions directly (well, some do), at some fundamental level, all of their desires, challenges and inquiries about a life well lived arise from this place of wonder about themselves and about existence. I see in my clients my younger self, who was eager to create impact in the world around me but did not yet have the capacity to stay in the inquiry of these fundamental questions.
Becoming a coach changed all that. More specifically, in mastering the skills of coaching, I acquired the necessary patience and curiosity to remain in the inquiry of what I did not yet know about life instead of gravitating to the comfortable place of analyzing known religious, spiritual, philosophical and other teachings.
This inquiry accelerated a few years ago when my teenage daughter pronounced that she didn’t believe the same things I believed about God and our Hindu traditions. Ironically, I found my answers on these topics feeling incomplete for me as well. As a coach, I was used to revealing assumptions and beliefs for my clients. I had never really questioned my own beliefs and practices this deeply.
The core coaching skills of listening deeply and asking powerful questions created the ideal conditions for my inner exploration. As a result, I experienced a deep and profound awakening.
What I discovered at the NECS gathering of coaches is that many people had been in this fundamental inquiry throughout their lives, through different paths and under the umbrella of “spirituality.” The hunger to be in this inquiry with others and the openness to learn about others’ paths was nothing like I had experienced before in other communities whose members didn’t possess these core coaching skills.
In the coming years, we can be sure to find greater insights and breakthroughs as science, religion and spirituality merge through natural inquiry in ways not yet explored in human history. This will include topics of sentience (artificial intelligence), consciousness, neuroscience, quantum physics, epigenetics, and other passionate quests into the human experience.
I couldn’t be more excited for the discoveries that lie ahead.
We coaches have an exciting role to play in navigating ourselves and others through what may seem to some as turbulent – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) – times. For those who embrace the days ahead, these will also be exciting times.
The second domain of coaching will continue to be in the mastery of relationships and relationships systems (e.g., families, organizations, communities, societies). As humans, we are in constant relationship with everything around us.
Many of us live in the myth that we are individuals. To test this, try taking a breath without interacting with your surroundings. You cannot. None of us can exist as individuals. We get our warmth from the sun. We get our oxygen from the plants. We get our sustenance from the planet. Our very existence is in relationship with the world around us.
We also evolved as social beings as groups of humans survived better than isolated ones. Anthropologist Margaret Mead was once asked by a student what she considered to be the first signs of civilization. Expecting to hear a response about clay pots, hunting tools, grinding stones, or other such artifacts, the student was surprised by Mead’s response: a healed femur. Mead went on to explain that a broken femur – the longest bone in the body, linking the knee to the hip – takes about six weeks to heal without the aid of modern medicine.
By the law of the jungle (or the Serengeti), she argued, if you broke your leg, you would die because you could not run from danger nor hunt for food. A healed femur meant someone helped a fellow human survive even when their own survival was at risk.
Today, we are interconnected with our families, our tribes, our communities, and our universe. Much of my work as a coach has been in helping my clients navigate conflict and the challenges that arise when being in relationship with others. Quite frankly, it was my desire to be a better husband, father, and consultant that drove me to discover coaching.
My trainings to-date – from business school, consulting school, and even sales school – had not provided me the necessary tools to navigate relationship dynamics with the deftness I was seeking to avoid the suffering that relationship conflict was causing me and others. Coaching skills and specialized training in working with relationship systems gave me such tools.
Helping people gain the skills and insights needed to develop thriving relationships will continue to be a source of contribution for coaches in the foreseeable future.
The third domain of coaching is the area of creating impact, which is simply manifesting desires into the world. I refer to this manifesting as leadership –the art and science of impact.
My clients seek to lead across the following three terrains of leadership: leading self, leading others, and leading systems. At the end of the day, every client comes to coaching because they want to manifest an outcome in their lives – either some idea they want to bring to fruition in their outer world or for a better experience in their inner world.
I have had the privilege of coaching people in all types of organizations – corporate, non-profit, government, and even active-duty military leaders. They are all seeking ways to get more out of their teams to achieve a certain outcome or mission with greatest ease and joy and with minimal friction and pain. Isn’t this true for all of us and our endeavors?
In closing, I am honored to be part of the noble profession of coaching. We coaches are catalysts for ushering in a new era for humanity.
As Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” There are many challenges and opportunities we face as humans – from climate change to wars and violence, inequity, mental health, and many more. A shift in consciousness is needed to resolve these challenges in service to a better, sustained life for humans on this planet.
I am grateful for all of those who came before me and built the foundations for the next generation of coaches to steward the profession forward in service to making the world a more conscious, connected and wonderful place.
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