We’re stood overlooking the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament; the murky water churns below as the first rays of sun creep over the London skyline.
I stand shoulder to shoulder with my client on Waterloo Bridge, wrapped snugly against the cold clutching freshly brewed coffee as the wind whips around.
Time almost stands still, but for the grey clouds racing overhead as we explore the mental curiosity with quiet wonder.
The coaching space sets the scene of every conversation and helps shape the complex web of conscious and unconscious interactions. This backdrop exerts unspoken influence and reaches across the coaching process, partnership, skills and outcomes. Ultimately, it can make or break the ability to build rapport, generate trust, access our unconscious gut intuition, frame perceptive questions or remain ever-present in the moment.
I’ve always been fascinated by our physical environment and more significantly outside spaces. I remember spending endless French lessons staring out of the classroom window watching branches blowing in the breeze waiting for the bell so I could escape the four walls and confines of school.
Space “A continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied”
This appeal deepened further as I explored the concepts of space and place, set against human inter and intra relationships studying Geography BSc at The University of Manchester. The foundational “Introducing Human Geographies 1” first year module presented the opportunity to “explore the varied relationships between people, place and space and to examine the approaches geographers have used to examine these relationships” (University of Manchester, 2017). In the coaching world, the physical coaching space or environment is a fundamental consideration every coach has to contemplate in preparing for coaching sessions.
Typical coach training programmes inevitably regurgitate our predictable and accepted cultural work norms with the incorporation of sedentary conversations indoors. Practice sessions are generally conducted perched in hotel lobbies or huddled in training venue corners that consequently set the precedent for new coaches. At every opportunity during my coach training in 2010, I would escape into the fresh air to stretch the legs, encourage blood circulation and, as a bonafide introvert, snatch a chance to gather my thoughts.
Fast forward several years of staking out hotel lobbies, offices and cafes and the great outdoors has gradually crept into my coaching practice to the extent it forms the majority of my performance coaching client work. However, it’s only upon reflection and harnessing the benefit of hindsight that I am able to see how long it took me to fully embrace the outdoors and how it’s such a blatant fit for my coaching conversations.