When I first started coaching clients I took the traditional route of coaching in their workplace or I’d hire a venue that seemed quiet and business-like for our purposes. In the very early days when I was doing more life coaching, I’d find a nice quiet hotel where we could have coffee, biscuits and our in-depth discussions. All locations worked fine and I found that my clients enjoyed the variety of locations I suggested them.
However, since those early days my coaching environment has changed. It all began with a client from Aberdeen who planned to meet me with his bike. Now, he hadn’t cycled all the way, which was my initial question, but had brought it with him on the train. When we were trying to firm up bike-friendly hotels it suddenly occurred to me to ‘meet him where he was’ (as we’d say in coaching). So taking his lead, I suggested meeting up with both our bikes and doing our coaching session along the cycle paths of Edinburgh.
It was a turning point for my coaching that day. I witnessed the power of coaching a client in their comfort zone and how it helped to create an instant connection as we cycled along, using the scenery and the bike as metaphors and cues for the coaching. Using coaching tools such as perspectives, metaphors and Level 3 listening awareness have always been common-place for my coaching, but doing it outdoors was new. Since then, most of coaching has been outdoors and its positive impact has remained the same.
When I first did my cycling coaching, I didn’t realise the positive psychology coaching theory behind it. Today I can share with you what I now know. Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) shows us how the body and mind are connected, as being systems when we change our mind or our body the other is immediately affected. Just by walking (or cycling) forward with clients they are giving their mind a message that they too are moving forward. Research in Conflict Management informs us that that conversations where people are side-by-side are less confrontational than being opposite a desk or table. I’d hasten to add my coaching is rarely confrontational, but with new clients walking in tandem helps to create a profound trust and a more comfortable environment for them to open up their true thoughts and feelings.
So for me these days, walking-the-talk as a coach is not just about being a positive role model for coaching and personal self-development, but also taking my coaching out to Portobello’s promenade, up Arthur’s Seat or going back to the many cycle paths of Edinburgh.
“For myself the experience of having a coaching session in the outdoors was very positive. Being outside allows you the space to breath and talk freely on any subject. Personally being active also helps clear my mind and allows me to get to the root of issues or come up with better solutions. It felt very natural having a discussion outside and that made it much easier to take onboard any advice or pointers from you.” Tom, Edinburgh
If you’d like to give outdoor coaching a try, get in touch… remember to bring your brolly and sun cream!