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Coaching and Emotions

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Written by Joseph Kanke, Statewide Coaching Coordinator

If the pandemic has taught me anything (or rather opened my mind to what I already knew but likely preferred not to see) it is that humans are emotional beings. We use emotions to connect to one another. We use emotions to communicate with and understand others. We use emotions to make decisions, take action, and survive. Previously, I had prided myself on my ability, as a coach, to keep my own emotions at bay while engaging in coaching conversations. I also felt adept at acknowledging the emotions of my clients and then moving around them to commit to an action. I now see the flaws in my thinking.

In Wisconsin’s Coaching Competency Practice Profile (CCPP), there are several components that highlight emotions as part of the coaching process. Emotions show up in multiple competencies because they are threaded through all we do and who we are. As coaches, we can’t simply attend to our emotions, or those of our client, check it off the coaching moves list and move on. We must be prepared to center and give rise to emotions throughout the entire coaching process. In fact, emotions show up early on in the formation of a coaching partnership.

Relationship development is central to forming strong partnerships which are crucial to , “provide the supportive conditions for shifting behaviors, mindsets, values, and beliefs.” Relationships are the foundation for transformational change and part of building these relationships calls on coaches to make space for clients to, “speak to their emotional responses” (Relationship Development, CCPP). And once relationships are secured, the coach will be better positioned to, “leverage strong emotions to maximize productive outcomes” (Communication Skills, CCPP). It is also important to notice when emotions get in the way. Emotions can act as a barrier to positively impact student outcomes. When not reflected upon, emotions can shift the focus, slow the progress, and even cause harm.

Race and equity are topics that can be emotionally charged. Coaching with an equity mindset stipulates that the coach be aware of how their clients’ emotions show up and how they could, “negatively impact students, staff, families and communities.” Recognizing the role emotions can play in the marginalization of others is a step towards being able to disrupt and dismantle harmful actions and policies (Equity Mindset, CCPP). Coaches must not only be aware of the emotional responses of their clients, but also how their own emotions are showing up, “The coach regulates and monitors their own emotional state and makes strategic choices about when and how to share their own feelings and thoughts” (Reflective Practice Competency, CCPP).

Given the obvious connection between emotions and coaching, it seems that they would be present and discussed in many, if not all, coaching conversations. For some, however, discussing emotions may be a taboo practice. Having grown up in a “Midwest Nice” culture and emotion-avoidant household, I felt emotions had their place and that place was “no place”. If you, too, find emotions to be something to avoid in your coaching practice, consider doing a deep dive into the CCPP to learn more about emotions and how they can and should show up in an experienced coach. You may also be interested in reading my three part blog series where I chronicle my own journey towards embracing emotions. This three part series begins with the history of emotions followed by exploring your own emotions as a coach and finally leveraging emotions in clients. I offer my personal reflection as an example, but I invite you to take time to explore how emotions show up in your coaching.