Deepa Awal is a Newfield Program Coach and a featured presenter this year at the ACTO conference in Toronto, Canada. We spoke to her about what is most important to her when it comes to coaching.
Deepa had been running skill building workshops for a long time, and often noticed how some participants were more engaged than others. This time something was different. “There was an energy in the room and the quality of the learning was much higher; it was powerful,” says Deepa.
So what had changed? The workshop she was teaching this time was participant-centric, unlike the others where the trainer would set the agenda and goals. Here, it became the purview of the participants themselves. They got to bring to the table issues that were important to them, decide what to prioritize, and participate in deciding what skills were relevant to their issue.
“And this is exactly the premise of coaching,” says Deepa, “that the accountability rest with the client for learning, for the agenda, and for exploration.”
Part of that exploration is about becoming an observer of yourself, “of going from being the dancer to the spectator sitting in the balcony.” For example, many people have a tendency to withdraw from conflict. Why? Deepa says to understand, we need to get perspective and look at our assumptions and worldview. If you think that there should be no tension or no conflict, then you will run anytime you encounter them because they make you so uncomfortable. But, what if you started seeing them as a normal part of interaction?
One powerful tool to get us to become observers and create something different in our way of thinking is somatics: “If I have the view that conflict is unwanted, it will create certain reactions in the body when I come into conflict: a constraint in my chest or a churching in my stomach, for example,” says Deepa. “As I explore these sensations and my awareness of them grows, so does my capacity to reshape what I am experiencing… in that moment I realize I can choose to ground myself instead of withdrawing or closing up.”
Once you’ve gotten good at observing, the next beautiful thing that can happen in coaching is connecting with your true purpose. For Deepa, this is intimately related to integrating your past, present, and future. Past is connected to present by accepting your connection to culture, your history, and what happened that got you to where you are today. Connecting future to present seems a bit trickier—what is my future anyway?
“Each one of us, whether we have acknowledged it or not, has a vision of our purpose and if we delve deep enough, we will find it,” says Deepa. “Once you are clear on this vision, an intentionality begins to happen in your present that lets you walk into that future...
...This is an ongoing journey for any human being, and we need to remember that our purpose may keep changing throughout our lives. At each stage, we may be fine tuning, developing, and modifying.”
As Julio Olalla says, “Coaching is not about problem-solving; it’s about learning.”