Surrendering the mind

There’s a paradox present for coaches; simultaneously to know and practice good coaching skills, and yet not knowing how those coaching skills will best serve our client, in this coaching session.

I’m working from the premise that we believe that as a coach, our job is to serve our client. What that means can vary greatly by each coach based on their stage of coaching skills development, personal beliefs, emotional maturity, coach-specific training focus, work history and personal background.

Presence first

My personal belief is my number one ‘job’ is to be fully present with my client; their full humanity, which includes but is not limited to their hopes, dreams, desires, fears, concerns, excitement. All of it. To hold the space of listening and non-judgment for them to be able to reveal more about themselves, in service of them living their best ‘life.’

At a process level, my job is to find out what my client wants to accomplish and support them with my coaching skills to move toward that. That is overly simplistic, yet fundamentally coaching is:

  • Find out where the client wants to be (in the next moment, hour, day, year…whatever their ‘right’ time frame is),
  • Determine where the client is now in relation to their desire,
  • Support them to find ways to bridge that gap between current and future desired state.

What to Know as a coach

I use my knowledge (my Knowing 😊 ) of how to structure a coaching engagement, and each coaching session.

Our primary tool of trade is asking open-ended questions that hold potential for client self-discovery.

There’s also the secondary coaching skill set which includes how to offer observations and intuitions, in a way that allows the client full choice of how to respond (including to disagree).

With this knowledge of coaching framework and coaching skills, my focus then is to love my clients for who they are now. Then to support my client uncover what they already know but may not be in touch with (either about themselves or their situation). To decide how to use that un-covered knowledge (their self-Knowing 😊 ). And perhaps to figure out what they might need or want to change in their approach or attitude. As well as what research, or action, they might want to do.

You’ll notice there are a lot of ‘what-if’s’ in the way I wrote the above paragraph, because I really don’t know what is going to be best for this client, in this coaching session. If I’m attached to the client getting something or getting somewhere in the coaching session, then I’m attached to my performance.

The antidote is to any need to perform is to surrender to being present in this moment, with the client.

Surrender as a Way of Being as a coach

Whether I mentor coaches toward their MCC, PCC or ACC credential, the principle I give them is the same; how can you surrender your personal beliefs and biases, and be curious about who this client is. Not what I think they ‘need’ to do or what they ‘need’ to change in order to get their desired outcome.

What’s useful is to bring a mindset of ‘surrender’ versus using the mind to control the process.

We do need to ‘know’ about the coaching structure and process. Here’s a previous article I’ve written on this.

We also need to ‘know’ how to structure open-ended questions, and offer comments in a neutral way that allows client to consider whether they agree or disagree with what we offer.

Once we know these structural elements of coaching skills, we practice surrendering our mind to not knowing where the coaching session might go, or the outcome the client might get.

Not Knowing as a coaching mindset

The idea of ‘not knowing’ where each coaching session might go is either exciting, or scary, depending on each coach and where they are in their emotional maturity, coaching presence, and coaching skills.

For the beginner coach, having a structure and following that approach feels safe.

For the more experienced coach, there is more trust in the coaching process, their coaching skills, and the client.

For the master coach, there is mastery of self, and a surrender to the magic that can come from truly surrendering the outcome, and being fully client-focused.


At any coaching skill level, we can be practicing surrendering our mind, through the mindset of ‘curiosity.’

Some beliefs and practices that support this mindset include:

  • Listen for Who this client is, which includes their beliefs, values, strengths,
  • What this client envisions, which includes their hopes, and dreams,
  • Listen for their primary and different ways of processing, whether that’s through the language of visual, metaphor, conceptual, emotional/feeling, or whatever else unfolds.
  • Their emotions about themselves and their situation, whatever they might be (anger, frustration, happy, sad, excited…)
  • Empathy that this is a fellow human being doing their best to live their life in the best way they know how.

From problem-solver to fully surrendered and curious

I often say to my MCC mentor coaching clients that at mastery coaching skill level, the belief and presence to embrace is there is nothing we need to solve about this client.

A problem-solving mindset is the antithesis of a curious mindset, with the difference being a coach who is fully curious about this client, in this moment, is surrendering all they might know about similar situations, to innocently and curiously not knowing how this client thinks, feels, behaves, reacts, and acts.

I’m feeling rather philosophical as I wrote the above paragraph. 😊 Yet this level of surrender is exciting to me. To truly be with my coaching client with freshness and a spirit of not knowing, keeps me curious about this unique person. Rather than bringing all my knowledge about what think I know about such situations and thinking that is what this client needs to hear and/or do.

In closing…..

I invite you to consider where you are, from problem-solving coach to fully surrendered and curious coach.

What is different when you approach a client from each mindset?

How does each mindset impact You?

How do you observe each mindset impacts your client?

Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

Do you want to “Sharpen the Saw” as a Coaching Professional?

The Mentor Coaching Group Programs

Added due to demand, an MCC group

Commencing November 20, 2018 (70% full already)

Maximum of 6-10 participants per group on first paid, first reserved basis

Start early with your mentoring requirements in the year of your renewal.

The Mentor Coaching Group program is approved for 24 ICF Core Competency CCE units! (which includes 10 hours of mentor coaching)

You can learn more here

I offer a rich, experiential mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. You can read some testimonials here

I have been trained by the ICF to assess using the PCC Markers. I also regularly assess for the ICF MCC and ACC credentials.

One of the unique offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

Carly has created products to more deeply understand Establishing the Coaching Agreement and Ten Characteristics of MCC Skill Level.

Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group