Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to do puzzles. The bigger and the more colourful, the better. I would spend ours sitting on the floor together with my sister, listening to the music and doing a jigsaw puzzle.

Recently I was doing one together with my 5-year-old daughter and it gave me a great insight about coaching and about the power of ‘holding space’ for someone. It all started when she had selected one that is pretty difficult to be done by herself.

Our dialogue looked something like that:

 Her: “Mummy please don’t look; I want to do it all by myself.”

Me: “OK” I said, and I went away to the kitchen. A few moments later I heard her calling me. Her: “Mum come; it doesn’t work”.

Me: “Do you want me to help you?”

Her: “Yes!” She said.

We started with turning all the pieces print-side up and putting the frame together. That went pretty smooth. Once that was done, my daughter said again, “Now I want to do it by myself, but please don’t leave.” “OK” I said, “I will just sit here and watch you do it. Let me know if you need my help.”

Fighting the urge to help

It took her approximately 45 minutes to complete it. some pieces were easy and went fast, others were difficult, and she put them down a couple of times. I have to admit I sometimes felt a strong urge to help. Of course, I saw it much quicker, but resisted the urge and let her figure it out. After 45 minutes the puzzle was done, and she was so happy and proud that she managed to do it by herself.

The power of insight

The moment, when I was sitting there next to her on the carpet and watching her solve the puzzle, gave me a great insight. It is very much like helping my clients in coaching. In the beginning of the process a lot of people say – “Oh that’s not that difficult, I can do it by myself.” But sooner or later most of them come to the conclusion that they need some help. If it was not the case and we could achieve all our goals by ourselves, there would be no coaches out there in the world. But look at the top sportsmen, even they have coaches. And you know what? The reason why they are so successful is partially related to the fact that they have one!

Constructing the frame

The moment when a person says I am ready to be coached, is when I step in. We look at the goals and challenges from different angles, we take stock of all different issues, solutions, questions (we look at the pieces). Then we decide that we are actually going to solve the puzzle together. My coaching program is the frame, or you could say, the structure people often need to get started. But within the frame my clients have the freedom to take their time and to look at different pieces and decided how they want to solve it. During that process they get confronted with different questions:

  • How do different pieces match together?
  • What do different pieces actually mean?
  • How do I approach the whole process, do I start to panic when pieces do not fall completely together right away?
  • Do I quit and say it is too difficult and leave it unsolved?
  • Do I ask for help when I get stuck?
  • What helps me to move forward?

Holding the space

The only thing my daughter needed at that time was for me to be there for her, to sit in my presence. She needed me to hold space for her. And that is also very often the only thing the coach needs to do, just to be there – offer the support. It is not always easy to just to sit there and observe, sometimes I feel the urge to say something – give advice, but as an experienced coach I know it doesn’t work. Everyone needs to go through the process by herself/himself and look for the answers within themselves.

The client decides

It is also not the case, that as a coach I just let my client hang there and struggle alone, I ask what they need – presence, support, motivation, a push? But it is up to them to decide!

Thanks to that approach, we as coaches let other people grow. They grow by learning what works for them and what not. They grow by learning to rely on their own inner strengths and guidance to solve their own puzzles.

Ready to learn and grow?

So, let me know if you are ready to learn and grow and start working on your own puzzle!

For all new clients, I offer a FREE 20 minutes strategy call to discuss if coaching is something for you. The number of free calls is limited per months so do not hesitate and send me a message today!

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash