One of my favourite coaching techniques to use with a client, especially when they’re facing a challenging decision, is to enable them to clearly visualise each of the paths available to them. As they walk through and explore these avenues in their mind, often the body will reveal the answer – one path may give you a knot in your stomach, whereas down a different path you may notice your shoulders relax.
Recognising the impact of this coaching technique, in 2013 I experimented further and actually took my coaching sessions outdoors. Asking my clients at the end of the programme which sessions provided the most progress, 90% cited the outdoor coaching as their most memorable.
During the last 7 years, I’ve incorporated these sessions regularly into my coaching practice entitled ‘Open Space Coaching’. This can take place literally anywhere outside where you feel comfortable. I’ve found myself coaching in city parks, woods, on the downs, by the sea and even at a live outdoor event that my client was hosting.
Studies have proven the connection between being outdoors and the benefits it provides to our mental wellbeing. If lockdown has shown us anything, it’s the appreciation and simplicity of the outdoors that we have been deprived of. Many senior leaders I’m currently working with are dealing with high levels of stress on an hourly basis; moving outside and away from their usual working indoor environment is the perfect coaching space and antidote as it helps reduce their cortisol levels and access the part of their brain which facilitates creative and intuitive thought processes.
There’s nothing quite like getting out into nature and movement to clear our mind, refocus our thoughts, and gain a fresh perspective. Taking time to pause, reflect, and integrate your internal journey with the external elements is extremely powerful. The visual metaphors are at our fingertips, whether it’s the horizon to look to the future, stepping stones to guide us in taking the first step towards a goal, or a mountain that is there to be climbed. Even the weather can stimulate creative thinking. Imagine walking through the woods on a windy day and coming across a clearing where the wind has stilled and everything is peaceful – being in moments like this can sharpen your perspective and allow you to enjoy the freedom of thought that can often feel so out of reach whilst indoors at work.
Even if we’re unable to physically meet, we can still take our coaching session outdoors. If you need some space and a change of scenery to be able to approach an issue from a different perspective then we will plug in our earphones, put on our coats and walk and talk.
With wellbeing and mental health rightly now at the forefront of people’s minds, coupled with technology overload and screen fatigue, ‘Open Space Coaching’ is a great way for clients and coach to “come together” safely and add a different dimension to your coaching experience.
“I had a particularly difficult challenge to face, and stepping outside the usual work environment inspired me to think differently and find a fresh approach”
– Charlie Nyren, Head of Sales Development, Bupa Global North America
About Yvette; A ICF Certified Executive Coach with 20 years’ corporate experience working with C-Suite, Board Level Executives, Directors, and emerging leaders in the UK and internationally. My clients include major organisations in tech, fintech, finance, banking, aviation, engineering, healthcare, and legal sectors.
To find out more about ‘Open Space Coaching’ – get in touch with Yvette at:
T: 07879 602286