The ultimate goal of each coach is to be of service to the client in her journey into deeper self-awareness that unlocks her latent potential. The coach has the responsibility to aid, to support, to nudge and sometimes even to challenge the client into deeper self-awareness.
Ego Surrender is Key to Becoming a High Performing Coach
Paradoxically, this growth in the client cannot be brought about without growth in the coach herself. Growth in the coach begins with self-awareness. While a lot of the self-awareness building work for the coach is done outside of the coaching session, it is self-awareness and self-management during the coaching sessions that makes all the difference between an average and a great coaching session. This is very much like an athlete training for the Olympics 364 days a year, all for that one day at the Olympics when all that training can go waste if the athlete falters for even a microsecond.
Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence model, states, “The skills of self-awareness and self-management make up personal competence, which is a person’s ability to be aware of their emotions and manage behaviours and tendencies (p. 23, Emotional Intelligence 2.0). Self-awareness allows you to notice your emotions in different situations and understand how you tend to react. This understanding allows you to reflect on the difference between how you react and how you want to react in certain scenarios. The skill of self-management then follows, giving you the ability to use this awareness to manage how you react to situations or people. People that have strong self-awareness and self-management skills know how to manage their emotions — they don’t let their emotions manage them.”
It is obvious that once a Coach becomes self-aware that her own behaviors, self-limiting beliefs, reactions or emotions are coming in the way of assisting client growth; then the Coach must self-manage during the coaching session.
Mandy Gutsell, of Coactive Coaching mentions that the “essence of self-management is the ability to set aside personal opinions, pride, defensiveness, needing to look good and being right. In practice it represents a combination of self-awareness and the skill of recovery. It involves an awareness of yourself, an ability to notice where you are or where you have gone in relationship to another person, and the ability to get back and reconnect.”
As Amanda Dudman states, managing self doesn’t mean suppressing feelings, here is the self-management tool she recommends [paraphrased]:
Noticing: “in the moment” awareness and the ability to recognize and watch one’s feelings “come and go”. Feelings are ignited by having our “values buttons” pressed. That’s fine when a Coach recognizes this and can, as Dr Albert Ellis developed in his ABC model, separate out the A – activating event, from the B – in the moment beliefs and the C – consequences, i.e. the emotions and feelings.
Reflecting: good reflective practice is good Coaching practice. It involves reflecting and learning from every Coaching intervention in order to refine and confirm one’s model of Coaching as well as to enable every Coaching session to be better and more tailored to the individual client’s needs.
Reframing: once the Coach has noticed and reflected, she can reframe. This means reframing the in-the-moment beliefs, and being able to respect viewpoints other than her own. Valuing the client’s unique perspective above all. This also involves reframing own language to mirror the client’s.
In short, self-management as a Coach, during the Coaching session, means getting out of our own head and managing our own emotions, beliefs, judgments and reactions, which means, surrendering our ego.
Let us explore then, what is ego, why and how is it (ego) at the root of many in-the-moment derailers for a coach.
What is Ego?
Ego is who we think we are. It’s our false identity, body image, education, theological knowledge, clothes, friends, social status, job, successes and accomplishments. Ego feeds on external man-made markers of identity, status and position.
Ego is the voice in our head that feeds on the idea of ‘separateness’ from other beings. Ego wants to separate, divide, and draw lines to prove itself. Ego finds any explanation or proof to justify the separateness between two individuals or an individual and a group.
The ‘separateness’ is born of external markers – religion, country, gender, age, education, caste, status. Separateness also feeds off imagined differences based on assumptions we make about a person based on her personality or behaviors.
In order to be a good Coach, first and foremost, the Coach needs to feel deep empathy for the client. She needs to see the world through the client’s eyes. A strong feeling of separateness keeps the Coach in a bubble that is separate from the client’s bubble, and she will not be able to maintain unconditional regard and empathy.
Ego believes that there is always only one right answer in a situation.
An ego centric Coach may fall into the trap of looking for the one right answer that tallies with her own belief system. Or, the ego centric Coach will want to rush to give the ‘right’ answers herself. Moreover, this pursuit of only one right answer prevents the Coach from holding a nonjudgmental space for the client’s answers. An ego centric Coach might not be able to trust the process 100% or believe that the client has the resources to come up with her answers herself.
Ego competes for superiority and is only comfortable with a win. When the ego perceives that it has lost, it reacts by being more competitive, or might even reject the person or situation.
An ego centric Coach runs the risk of competing with her own client in the quest of giving the righ’winning’ answer first.
It is the nature of the ego to take itself very seriously. If its mental models are disturbed or questioned, it reacts very sensitively.
This might impede the ego centric Coach’s ability to make herself vulnerable by asking direct questions that run the risk of making her look ‘foolish’. Worse, she might get triggered by strong mental models that the client believes are true but may be untrue for the Coach.
Ego has an unhealthy attachment to either the past or the future. Because Ego is reinforced and strengthened by past accolades, failures and experiences it lives in the past. Because future fantasies and dreams of success or fear of future anxiety make ego feel alive, ego lives and thrives in dreams of the future.
This might come in the way of the Coach being present in the current moment without being involved in one’s own past or future imaginations. When the ego centric Coach is not present in the moment, she may not be able to listen fully and might miss the unsaid, and small shifts in the client’s energy and emotion.
Ego is risk averse and wants status quo because the ego identity is wrapped up in the ‘knowns’ that are of the ego’s own making.
An ego centric Coach might be inflexible to changes in agenda or goal setting by the client and might not be able to ‘go with the flow’ as led by the client’s needs.
Ego defines itself by “me, myself, and I”. Ego needs the spotlight and isn’t afraid to manipulate people, to attract attention. Victory and validation from that is what feeds the ego.
The ego centric Coach might find it difficult to feel joyful in the client’s victory and success.
Ego is that part of us, that works hard to create identity. It’s the product of the mind’s judgments and labels and interpretations about life, the people in it, the experiences we have had and the way we think things work in life and in the world. It’s an accumulation of thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
On the other hand, our unconscious self or presence as Eckhart Tolle calls it, is the part in us that observes all of our experiences. The one that witnesses our thoughts, feelings and experiences, but knows that we are not these things. Self is the one who feels connected to life, to others, and has the capacity to feel peace, joy, love and stillness beyond measure.
The ego centric Coach is unable to enter the mindless presence that is essential to create a nonjudgmental loving and empathetic presence that forms the bedrock of a transformational Coaching session.
How a Coach Can Overcome Ego Centricity?
Surrender Self-Identification with the Ego: I Am Not My Ego
Building the self-awareness that “I am not my thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions and judgements’. What I am, is all imagined, and artificial because it has been socialized into me as ‘should’; ‘need’; ‘want’; ‘this is how it always has been done’. Anything that we have been told to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is ego centric.
The only way to find that freedom from the control of the ego is to break-up with it and let it die. In this process, unlearning of self-identity will begin.
What We Pay Attention to, Grows Stronger: Stop Feeding the Ego
The voice in my head is my ego. I will stop listening to what it says. The more I ignore the voice in my head, the less I feed it, weaker it becomes. The weaker it becomes, more presence, or mindlessness enters into my being.
This is easier said than done. The moment ego knows it is not getting attention, the louder it will talk, it puts up resistance and will do anything to trick me into thinking that the self (ore presence) and the go are one. Ego needs to be needed. It will bring up an enormous amount of fear of the uncertainty that lies ahead if I go on without it. It can be downright convincing that the two of us are inseparable.
But eventually the voices will quiet down and I will just be left with my true Self.
Focus on the Present Moment: Live in the Present Moment
In the present, there is only the present moment, if I truly focus on the present moment, the ego becomes weaker.
I have the freedom to choose new responses that feel true in the present moment, if there were no past or future. I will see things much more clearly, from a perspective of non-judgment. Admittedly it can feel a little (or a lot) scary, because you no longer have the voice telling you what you know, how to feel and what to do. Life becomes uncertain, but with that uncertainty you have the freedom to go with the flow, to be right there, completely present with life as it unfolds. And there’s no need to be any other way than present, at peace and happy with whatever life flows in your direction.
Tools to Live in the Present Moment: Mindlessness as an Aid to Ego Surrender
- Build stillness: focus on the stillness and silence in the room and around you that is in between the sentences, and ambient sounds, this focuses attention away from the ego chatter
- Get close to nature: Observing nature as it unfolds. Watching grass grow as it were, or watching waves hit the shores repeatedly, is a meditative experience and stills the mind
- Watch Your Breath in the present moment: This takes away attention from past or present or ego centric thoughts
- 3X3 Mindfulness Exercise: 30seconds to Mindfulness by Phil Boissiere
- Build a Meditation Practice: Remember, in meditation, it is more important to be gentle with ourselves and having noticed that our mind has wandered, to gently bring our attention back to our breath and our meditation practice.
In the same way, if in the moment our ego has taken over our ‘presence’, our growth as a Coach is in building the practice of noticing and bringing back our attention back to the client. The only difference is, while in meditation we do not berate ourselves if we have been able to establish a relationship of trust and unconditional regard for each other, we apologize for letting our attention wander and get back to our service to the client.
In conclusion, conquering ego is a life-long dance…start anytime. We can decide to be like the person in the picture above, who is walking, but is carrying the weight of his ego, or we can be like the monk, who is walking the same path, light and free, because he has left his ego behind.
For some helpful resources, you can check out what inspires me.
- Daniel Goleman’s Five Components of Emotional Intelligence
- Amanda Dudman: http://www.amandadudman.co.uk/blog/2017/10/24/self-management-when-coaching
- Teachings, books and Youtube videos of Eckhart Tolle, Micheal A Singer and Ram Dass
- Pictures: Pixabay, Google Images