Intention and Attention
Intention and Attention

Intention and Attention

Coaching and mentoring accreditation explores the interaction, differences and similarities of the two conversations. Reviewing the relationship with an educational lens, I came to the unstable conclusion that rather than focus on what made coaching different to mentoring, that it may in fact be more useful to focus on how they were in fact similar. Though they are undoubtedly different. It may be more insightful to review coaching and mentoring as

informed points on a series of continua: timeframe, focus, structure, agenda, questioning, connections and relationships. Whereby the nine conitua represent the similarities and the points on each continuum, the differences.

ILM Assignment 500

After drawing that loose conclusion, I found numerous examples of tables presenting similar comparisons/differences where coaching and mentoring are, in effect, informed points on a series of continua: timeframe, focus, structure, agenda, questioning, connections and relationships. Reviewing the continua, I didn’t explicitly cover, what Caitlin Walker referred to “intention and attention.” As I went onto the learn and then to conclude, these terms are integral – woven into the coaching and mentoring denotation.

Intention – is what the client wants to happen.

Attention – is where the spotlight is shining and where your thoughts are as a coach or mentor. (Also where the client’s thoughts are).

With a single cursory internet search, thousands of articles and 11,000+ books on coaching references “intention and attention.” After reading about the goal setting or ‘intention’ camp and the presence or ‘attention’ camps of coaching, I then read about ‘intention’ underpinning ‘attention,’ which underpins action… both interesting topics but not exactly what I thought Caitlin Walker or Olaf Lewitz were referring to exquisite “attention” when they discuss coaching practice.

“Exquisite” focuses your intention (what you want from me) on my attention – rather than my experience, advice, opinions, judgements… I offer my attention and it’s your call to use it for what you want. Does that make sense?

Olaf Lewita

Yes, it does. As I hear that response, it is relinquishing control of the conversation and offering it to the client. Free from “experience, advice, opinions, judgements…”

I am also grateful to Caitlin Walker who offered

For me exquisite attention means multilayered – that is – what am I thinking, what might they be meaning, where are my inferences coming from, where might theirs be? Not using my working attention but being present and ‘Clean.’

Caitlin Walker

At the Master Certified Coach level, the ICF highlight that the coach is “completely attuned” and that listening is “both linear and non-linear.” That the coach recognises both their and the client’s ability of “intuitive and energetic perception that is felt when the client speaks of important things.” That the coach’s listening is “in the present, but hearing also the client’s future develop,” and “cumulative from session to session and throughout each session.” – exquisite? I would probably have to ask Caitlin or Olaf. So have done so.

As I understand it, that is one important step beyond ‘listening to understand,’ that is listening ‘to help the client understand.’

Without intention, attention directs us.

Back to intention and attention.

Intention, attention and spotlights

Two hypothese:

Intention is less secure and achieved less frequently in more mentored styled conversations.

In coaching style conversations, attention, the spotlight of both your thoughts and the client’s thoughts are with the client.

For “exquisite attention,” the coach must be fully present. It is the coaches responsibility and skillfulness, that keeps the spotlight on the thoughts and reflections of client – withholding their own. That is must interpretation of exquisite attention.

In mentoring, that spotlight moves between mentor and client, sometimes it is shared even. Attention may, or not be solely on the client and in being so, allows insights and reflections to be exchanged, benefitting the conversation.

That is not to say that mentoring does not include coaching approaches. However, as I understand it, coaching rarely incorporates mentoring approaches.

Following a purposeful conversation / interrogation of that appraisal –

To be absolutely clear, coaching AND mentoring are not the same, yet more similar than different, conflation of the terms is both accurate and required. Both are anchored upon a relationship of two people, three forces (A, B and C).

My first observation is that in mentoring, C is more influential. Second, coaching less often employs mentoring styles, than mentoring employs coaching styles.

Moving from mentor to coach, first we rescind our influence over the intentions, then shift our attention, then our thoughts?

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

Maria Robinson

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