Adab, Love and Mindfulness Take Centre Stage at Henley Coaching Conference

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Written by Jon Kennard on 21 July 2017 in Press Zone
Press Zone

Addressing the conference theme of ‘Coaching – Beyond Skills’, the 14th annual Henley Coaching Conference once again pushed the boundaries, as a diverse programme of expert speakers provided a stimulating range of new perspectives that stretched the audience’s thinking right from the outset.

From the moment that Professor of Leadership, Peter Hawkins, took the delegates off on a journey into the wider world, to the captivating assurance of Tibetan monk, Gelong Thubten, delegates were hooked.

Many commented that this was the best conference yet, cementing Henley’s position at the forefront of the subject, and praising its ongoing commitment to promoting dialogue on the less obvious – but invaluable – aspects of coaching.

Addressing the needs of future generations

Professor Hawkins opened the conference by issuing a series of direct challenges to all coaches. ‘What is your intent every time you begin a coaching session?’ he asked. ‘And how will it contribute to a better world? Because your grandchildren will want to know what we did to prepare them for greater demand, growing expectations and diminishing resources.’

Taking a longer, wider view of the future may seem at odds with the need to address the day-to-day issues faced by coachees, but Professor Hawkins maintains that coaches must keep the bigger picture in mind, and must accept that in the context of a complex, ever-changing world, the tools, techniques and attitudes that have enabled us to progress over the past generation will not necessarily be relevant or effective for future challenges.

Citing the results from a 2-year global survey of CEOs, HRDs and young business leaders, Peter outlined their views of the challenges we will face, and the learning gaps that exist.

‘Coaching may now be the most popular form of leadership but we must gear up for tomorrow’s needs. It has to create shared value for multiple stakeholders, and align with the shift towards ‘future fit’ departments rather than the silos of organisational development, consulting, leadership development and HR. We may have moved from IQ to EQ, but now we have to move to We-Q, a term relating to collaborative team intelligence."

And summarising his list of required ‘be-attitudes’, Peter concluded that two practices are essential if coaching is to continue to move forward and maintain its growing relevance. ‘Firstly, we have to listen to the coachees’ underlying stories, with a wide-angled empathy and compassion. But we also have to move from dialogue to triangles, recognising that the third element in any relationship is the collective purpose.’

Looking at coaching from all angles

Henley’s view of coaching is not only evidenced by the spectrum of research conducted at the world-renowned Henley Centre for Coaching, but is also driven by the work done on the neuroscience of emotion and decision-making at the University of Reading, of which Henley is a part.

PhD students there are studying neuropsychology, and this subject formed the basis of a case study delivered by Helen Bullock, Head of Professional Forums at the ICF, who described how the neuroscience, combined with David Rock’s sCARF model, had enabled a recent case to be resolved.

‘Neuroscience is still in its infancy,’ said Helen, ‘and we must be careful not to regard small insights as facts, but it is providing some new and exciting possibilities.’

A Tibetan monk’s view of mindfulness as a coaching approach

Whilst the minds of many of the delegates were spinning from the eclectic mix of speakers to this point, they were brought into a calmer state by the afternoon keynote speaker, Gelong Thubten, a British-born Tibetan monk, who gave a masterclass on the role of mindfulness in effective coaching practice.

‘Contrary to some beliefs,’ said Thubten, ‘mindfulness is not a state of switching off, but of switching on. It is a technique that allows you to be calm, be in the present, and be more aware of your thoughts.

‘With practice, it will make you more able to be responsive and compassionate, which, in turn, leads to more effective coaching behaviours.

‘And neuroscience is backing this up, demonstrating that even in relative beginners, being in a state of mindfulness reduces the production of cortisol, the natural steroid hormone that is related to our stress levels.’

Thubten insists that mindfulness is something we should integrate into every aspect of our day, and that we can start by doing it whilst we brush our teeth!

‘It’s like a muscle, which develops with training. We gradually build new neural pathways, and it becomes a way of being. Of course, there are still stressful situations, but mindfulness allows us to react in a more positive way, and allows the positives to shine through.’


For news of future events and more information about the Henley Centre for Coaching click here