THE LINKS BETWEEN COACHING & OUR BODY
A concept exploring the parallels between the organs in our body and coaching.
THE ‘DOUBLE O’ MODEL is more than a coaching metaphor; it is an interactive coaching tool which helps clients to transform situations, develop relationships through mutual understanding and trust.
How often when you’re coaching or in general conversation with someone who is speaking about a change or experience they’ve been through and they refer to parts of the body – ‘your heart’s not in this’, ‘go on your gut feeling’ – to help describe a situation?
WHY CALL IT DOUBLE ‘O’?
The principle behind Double O is that it blends the definitions of ‘Organisms’ and ‘Organisations’ together in a way in which we can learn from one to develop the other, hence the term ‘Double O’.
The definitions of ‘organism’ and ‘organisation’ form the core of ‘double O’.
ORGANISM (*2) is defined as an organised body with connected interdependent parts sharing common life; a whole with interdependent parts.
ORGANISATION (*3) is defined as organising or being organised; an organised, interconnected and interdependent group of people with a common purpose.
Considering first ‘Organisms’ – A key purpose of the organs in our body and the structure of the body itself, is to keep us alive, healthy and functioning efficiently. It anticipates external threats, creates energy, reproduces, adjusts to external environments and temperatures through sensing, smelling, hearing, seeing, and tasting.
‘Organisations’ are probably more familiar to us. They are groups of people working together to achieve more than if they were working as an individual.
We can learn so much from our evolutionary body about developing ourselves as coaches or coach supervisors, and we can become a more effective organisation by exploring how our body works. There has been an explosion in recent years in the understanding of neuroscience and the exciting connections this has with coaching. ‘Double O’ explores how our body works by tapping into the flow of natural resilience; i.e. the natural ability to recover quickly from difficulties and spring back into shape. The concept also comes from the realisation that we are all interconnected, especially face to face, and interdependent, as described by 1Steven Covey.
Now add to this concept an associated evolutionary term 3Organismic Trust (coined by Professor Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist); ‘trusting your instincts, feelings, gut reaction’.
Bring the mix of these rich definitions together and we have –
‘An organised body with interdependent parts, sharing a common life, that trusts its instincts to create an organic whole’.
This statement focuses very much on the human element of an organisation. Without any human element and connection, we have no organisation.
CONNECTING ORGANISMS AND COACHING
Let’s now take some examples of key human organs and link them to coaching and supervision.
Brain – Neo Cortex – controls the thinking processes – either in a logical, non-emotional manner, i.e. the facts – or thinking through situations in a creative way.
Brain – Limbic – relates to how we feel about a situation; what our internal voice is saying.
Neurons/Synapse – how we sense and communicate information, verbally and non-verbally.
Heart – things that help us to maintain a constant rhythm both with ourselves and others we come into contact with, and also what gives us energy and motivation.
Lungs – function by being in the right environment/atmosphere to create the best possible outcomes.
Skin – relates to external influences, external pressures we feel and see, how we react to outside influences.
PUTTING ‘DOUBLE O’ INTO PRACTICE
The analogies with the human organ can be a useful guide when describing how a supervisor relates to a coach and vice-versa; how a coach relates to their client and vice-versa; and how a client relates to a given situation.
An analogy; if a part of the body is infected and not functioning as it should, a message goes to the bone marrow to produce more white cells. These white blood cells go to the infected area to repair it. A parallel comparison is the coach working with the client, i.e. identifies and removes an infection (problem), to enable the client to restore optimum functioning.
When we have a cold or have a virus, this negatively impacts the function of our body, it slows us down. When we introduce a new person into a team, and they don’t integrate well with others, this will also slow the team working and progressing.
As we know the skin acts as a sensory organ. From here, sensory neurons convey information to the central nervous system to alert it to any potential threat or change in circumstances. In turn the motor neuron carries information from the central nervous system to activate the appropriate muscle or gland.
In a similar way, in an organisation, a team member may sense a change in circumstances. The question is, how well does that person communicate that information to the relevant people in order to prompt appropriate action.
In preparation for a coaching or supervision session, I use this concept when preparing for and during a session. I consider the thinking processes the client uses (logic, creativity, feelings, emotions, survival instincts), how they sense and communicate information, what energises and motivates them, the environment they are in, and the impact of their reaction to external influences and pressures. These are all illustrations taken from the working of the human body.
The smallest organ can have a huge impact on the body. Similarly, the coach or the coach supervisor may feel that they are playing a small part in a person’s development, but, could have a major impact on the client and people around them.
Whatever organ we think we represent, we continue to play a vital role in enabling people to develop, thrive, grow and keep the body alive.
These metaphors are a work in progress and I would welcome your thoughts or similar analogies.
- Covey, Stephen R. 1992. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Paradigms of Interdependence. Simon and Schuster, Ltd.
- and 3. – Definitions from the Oxford Dictionary.
- – Professor Rogers, Carl. 1967. On Becoming a Person, Constable and Company.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Webb (UK based Executive Coach and Coaching Supervisor)
Jon is an award-winning Facilitator, Executive Coach & Coaching Supervisor with over 25 years’ people development, coaching, team development and service experience working with organisations in the UK and abroad.
Jon founded and has run Webb Development, a Director/Management development and consultancy business. His aspiration is to (i) continue to challenge and support people in identifying and achieving their true potential, and (ii) help share their energy, enthusiasm and drive with others to provide a positive contribution to the organisation.