Expanding Awareness by Understanding Essence

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Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!


Michael Pfau, Ed.D.


I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14, NASB

rawpixel-com-252127“I feel marginalized by my boss and coworkers,” Mary complained as we began our first coaching session. Mary was referred to me by her husband, with whom I had worked the year before. As we spoke, she mentioned that a couple of events in the prior months leading up to our conversation really got her attention and that she knew she needed to change.

The first event was a blow up she had at work with a colleague. It caught her off guard that she erupted with such anger. It also caused her great concern because she desired to be seen as someone with leadership skills and influence, a persona she had been purposely attempting to build over several years. This outburst, however, had set her back significantly. Her other concern was that she had trouble sleeping and was feeling anxiety over her career and the general direction of her life.

After she expressed these concerns, she stated that her goals for coaching were to become a better and more confident communicator. She wanted to articulate her thoughts better and be seen as a leader in the eyes of her coworkers. She desired a supervisory or management role and, having more than ten years of experience in her department, felt it was due.

As part of her personal development plan, Mary joined a Toastmasters group, began reading some good Christian books, and took some company-sponsored training. However, she still found herself internally conflicted. She mentioned feeling frustrated and helpless at her situation and wondering whether she was even in the right job.

diego-hernandez-249471One of the questions I posed to her was this: “What shows up when you show up?” I continued, “Imagine wearing a pink lightbulb on your head and when you show up in the room the environment takes on a pink hue. What changes in a room when you show up?”

As we worked around identifying Mary’s essence over several coaching calls, she realized that her presence brought warmth, energy, and acceptance. As she evaluated this new awareness, she realized that these were not the traditional qualities of a leader. She also noticed when she listened intently and asked questions in the meetings she led, that, in combination with her essence, caused a big difference. With this new awareness and her skills, she was able to guide the discussion and be seen as a leader by her peers and boss without changing who she was as a person.

In fact, here are her own words: “Michael, I wanted to tell you about my essence. My thoughts are changing about my interactions with people. I’m observing others, at work and outside, who engage with me. What I used to think was an intimate attraction from men, I’m now seeing as an attraction to my essence (warmth, energy, acceptance) and nothing more. That has helped me relax a bit with them. And a few women at work have introduced themselves to me. We talk now in the hall. One of them has stopped by my desk to talk. I’ve been invited to lunch a couple times now too. It has been fun observing this knowing what I know. Quite interesting! Thanks for introducing essence to me!”


Coaching the Coach Tip:

When a client comes for coaching who is in conflict, internally or externally, consider asking them about their essence. Most people are unaware of what shows up along with them and how others see them. As in Mary’s case, her lack of awareness skewed how she perceived others’ responses toward her. That caused her anxiety, stress, and even anger. And those feelings led her to behave in ways that were counter to her goals. By not recognizing and being comfortable with their essence, clients often attempt to live using behaviors that aren’t really authentic for them. In short, they try to be someone who they weren’t intended to be.

We see this same principle in 1 Samuel 17 when David came to the battlefield to deliver food to his brothers. When he heard Goliath’s boasting, he decided to step up and take on the challenge to defend God’s name and be Israel’s champion. In his attempt to be helpful, Saul gave David his armor to wear on the battlefield. But after David tried on the armor, he discovered it just didn’t fit him. David, at this point in his life, was a shepherd—not a warrior. He was not meant to use nor be weighed down by a sword, shield, and armor.  For this battle he needed to use his customary sling and five stones. By staying authentic to himself and obeying God, David surprised Goliath and won a great victory.

Michael Pfau, M.Ed, PCC, BCC, is Founder and President of Crossways Life Coaching, LLC, a coaching, mentoring and training business. Michael partners with financial planners to guide their baby boomer clients to create a life of purpose, passion and significance. Along with his own successful coaching practice, Michael has logged hundreds of hours as an instructor for the Professional Christian Coaching Institute and also serves as an adjunct professor for the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. More about Michael at www.CrosswaysLifeCoaching.com.

shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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