Positive Psychology Coaching and Flow

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a Performance Coaching Masterclass with Myles Downey, organised by the Academy of Executive Coaching in London. Downey founded the School of Coaching in 1997 and has recently acquired 100% ownership. His book, Effective Coaching: Lessons from the Coach’s Coach, has been in my Top 3 since I started coaching and has been a crucial influence on my own approach ; in it he presents a compelling argument for non-directive coaching, in which the key role of the coach is to facilitate the coachee’s (or client’s or player’s)

1) awareness, through actively noticing, and
2) responsibility, by allowing them to actively follow their own interest, make their own choices and decisions.

Awareness and responsibility are essential components of engagement and developing intrinsic motivation, and are therefore crucial to coaching effectiveness and success. Anyone working in business change management and transformation knows that change cannot occur effectively without them.

At the Masterclass, Downey performed two demonstrations, one in which he coached someone to catch a tennis ball one-handed. ‘What’s that got to do with business coaching?’ you might ask. Well, it was a visible and powerful demonstration of what sports psychologist and coach Tim Gallwey referred to as The Inner Game, which is simply

Potential – Interference = Performance.

By getting the coachee to notice and focus their attention on the ball and how it is in flight, interference (in the form of fear, doubt, lack of confidence about ability etc) is removed and the coachee enters a flow state, in which they are more creative, insightful, relaxed, intuitive and objective. Rather than worry about dropping the ball and trying too hard to catch it, the coachee’s focus is temporarily placed outside themselves, resulting in visibly improved performance.

With his emphasis on strengths and developing potential I would describe Downey as a true Positive Psychology coach. If you want to understand more about the role of Positive Psychology in coaching read Effective Coaching ; just be aware that the book was first published in 1999, before the term ‘Positive Psychology’ really came into regular use. Your coaching practice will be re-energised as a result.

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