[Who are you and what type of coaching do you do?]

I’m Daniel Minis, I’m originally from Germany, I'm now based in London, in the UK. I work as a leadershipl consultant and coach with the Alexander Partnership, which is a executive coaching organization, actually the one that brought coaching to the UK and was the founder of the GROW model back in the early eighties.

What I do with them is one to one executive coaching, and team coaching. I work in particular with high potentials in predominantly tech. In addition I'm also a PhD researcher in coaching psychology. I work with the the holding environment, psychodynamic coaching and how coaches can apply this kind of psychotherapeutic concept in their work.

[What is your coaching approach?]

So my background is psychodynamic coaching. But the actual kind of coaching experience is, I think, a bit more eclectic. It really depends on what the what the coachee wants and needs. Depending on the situation, depending on who they are. So to me the kind of psychodynamic thinking is something that informs the way I listen and the way I am present in the coaching relationship

[For anyone not familiar with psychodynamic coaching, what is it and what do you like about it?]

Psychodynamic coaching comes from the psychoanalytic school of thought. The difference is that basically if you did psychoanalytic coaching, you do like 50 minutes every day in a kind of very Freudian sense on a couch and all of that. And psychodynamics taking the core tenets and principles and trying to apply that in a coaching space.

So you look a lot at the unconscious. You look at patterns of thought and behavior and see how they play out. You look at patterns and relationships in particular, and it is something that I bringin the way I listen and form questions. So it gives me a lot to basically work with and to think about as I'm listening to a client.

[What sparked your interest in having psychodynamic coaching be your approach with clients?]

I feel that in the current coaching world of, let's say, applying psychology to any space in the professional world, there's a lot of talking and thinking about positive psychology. There's a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy approaches, and I think they're really valuable and they're really interesting. But what seems a little bit undervalued is the kind of source of psychology in the old school psychoanalytic thinking of what's going on with the unconscious, you know, what's happening behind the scene.

What are the dynamics that were not immediately obviously seeing and that's why I think psychodynamics has a lot to say. And systems psychodynamics, the kind of Tavistock tradition, also just gives you a lot of new ways of looking at the same situation.

[What research are you doing in psychodynamic coaching?]

I noticed in my own coach training that if you look at coaching handbooks, in particular when they start talking about psychodynamic coaching. They'll often reference Winnicott’s holding environment. And that is basically an idea that comes from how the mother holds her child. It's like 1950s or 1960s thinking. Winnicott noticed that the holding of the child made the child feel safe.

Winnicott then made that physical holding into the emotional holding. And again, that was about mother and child. He then noticed that was actually what he was doing in his therapy. He was holding people and he was creating a holding environment in a kind of psychological sense.

Since then, the holding environment in therapy is commonly used, and is a commonly referred to concept. When I looked at my own coaching training, I saw it referenced a lot. But what I didn't see was an appreciation for the difference between the coaching context and the therapeutic context.

I flippantly said this like the handbook will tell you, ‘well, just do a healing environment, it'll be fine.’ And I thought, well, I'm not sure that it works like that. I think it's a different context and that's what I'm trying to explore.

[For you right now, where do you want to grow as a coach?]

For me and newer coaches, it is still a developing idea to coach less, to hold myself back as a coach.

When someone hires a coach or a therapist, the person is experiencing high psychological discomfort, we automatically want to save them. But it’s not about the solution as much as it’s about the journey. In transformative coaching engagements clients need to sit in their fire and burn. With that comes a moment when someone realizes that they are burning and they have control and don’t want to be there anymore, they can stand up and get out of the fire.

Earlier in my career I would act like a consultant and come up with solutions and that was mediocre coaching. Something my own coach has been challenging me with is to do less, ask non-leading questions. And don’t save your clients, if they’re suffering, reflect that but allow them to suffer and make mistakes. Because they are going to want to save themselves, but if you always go to save them you’re short circuiting their ability to grow. 
So as a coach that is one of my growth edges. 



[With you clients, what type of holding environments you see requested]

I think there's a lot about taking a time out. People that are very, very busy with a lot of pressure on them, a lot of pressure to perform, particularly in the time we're in now where there's a lot of financial pressure because of the economic situation in the UK here, but also abroad. A lot of people are feeling that, and I feel that coaching space is giving them a moment to breathe, to reflect, to take stock and to plan how they want to go forward. I think that's a little kind of bay of safety that is seems appreciated.

[Do you feel that you have to provide a different space for each one of your clients, or is it a similar approach for each client?]

There's definitely a difference in how I relate to each individual client. In part, that's because of where they're based. I'm based in London, so when I have clients that are abroad, typically I do most of the coaching sessions online and sometimes I then fly over and do them face to face. When clients are based in the UK I do them mostly face to face.

That already gives you a different space. If you're meeting in the client's office or meeting in a park. Going for a walk is very different to a zoom call. And I feel it requires a different level of effort to make it feel as safe and reflexive.

[Do you find that people are crunched for time and they're trying to rush through everything and you're trying to slow them down?]

Yeah, absolutely. I think there is real value in taking the foot off of the gas, if you will. To think together with somebody that can react to your thinking and may spark your thinking. I think there is something in this dyad that's really interesting and almost risky in the sense that you never quite know where it's going to go.

You can't plan a coaching session, you can plan for it, you can try and prepare for it. But what happens in the room is always different.


[Is that something that attracts you to coaching? That risk or curiosity of what is to come?]

I find it really fascinating to spend thinking time with people who appreciate it.To think together and to see where things go without having a goal myself or having an aim myself. A broad direction, maybe. There’s not a point I want to run to it’s almost like a wandering together, if you allow that image.

[Tell me more about that aspect of wandering together. What is that?]

Yeah, I think that when a coaching session works particularly well, it reminds me of two people wandering through some kind of sunny, hilly, green, lush environment and just looking around. Noticing what's there with interest, not rushed and just talking. And as as you talk, things emerge that kind of emerge. When a session goes well, I feel that's what it feels like.

[How do you feel when you’re in that place of being with someone just wandering around?]

I feel very content. It’s very intellectually and emotionally stimulating because it's kind of a very human endeavor to do this, to do this wandering together with somebody.

Because it's executive coaching. There's often a business goal attached to it. So I also feel like there's this interesting balance or tension between talking at a very human level and talking about a strategy, a product, a project, a budget, whatever it may be.

Coaching and executive coaching in particular, it is this space where you can touch a lot of areas where other specializations may not go as much. Let's say therapy, for example, in a therapy session, you would probably not talk about product strategy with a CPO.

It's a space where you're allowed to go many places, not too far, but you're visiting a lot of a lot of topics together that are all relevant. You know the classic trope. We spend so much time at work, we should make it an enjoyable, valuable time, a fruitful time for us.

[How did you get involved in coaching initially?]

From childhood, I was always interested in psychology as a kid I thought, well, psychology, that's what somebody does in mental health institutions, helping people feel better and get well. My journey took me to a few internships in that space, and I realized pretty quickly that that wasn't really for me.

It didn't work for me, but I was still excited by psychology. So I saw there's actually a way of applying psychology in a work space. And that I found really interesting. So I studied business psychology in Germany.

I almost fell into a consultancy in Germany that applied this psychological thinking to both one to one coaching, but also team coaching. And that's in particular what I worked with at the time. So I met some people who did it and I thought, well, this is a dream. I want to do that when I when I grow up. 


[For you, what is the importance for people to be given a space for their development?]

I think often the professional environment is one that's geared to not allow for that. It's because it needs to be fast and high quality. At times it can take over and it can almost squeeze out the the warmth that can also be part of of working life and the human relations that are part of it.

And if I can play a very small role in pushing that balance a little bit back, then I'd be happy.

[What is most exciting about the work that you're doing within coaching, whether that be one or one, team, or the research?]

It’s the impact it has, because when it works, it really works. And what I mean by that is it works for the individual. If I'm just focusing on 1 to 1 coaching, it works for the individual, it makes them more content in the work they do. But what that also means, it makes their colleagues, their team members, it has the potential to make their lives better also.

And I think when that works, that's a wonderful thing to be able to to deliver.

[What was your coaching practice like before you found the IOC?]

Yeah, it was more junior. And I think the the main thing the IOC has changed is it's a space that provides you pretty constantly with great new ideas. And it's something that's very additive to my coaching practice. Very often I find myself watching a CoachX or a webinar. Or reading some of the research doses, and it really enriches how I'm able to work with clients because it just gives me that one new idea, which informs that one new question. It is really useful to have that addition of in my backpack, if you will.

[Are there specific resources you found very specifically impactful?]

I like in particular interviews with researchers. So I think, for example, there's one with Robert Biswas-Diener coming up next week, which I'm really looking forward to. I remember one or two years ago, Lisa Feldman-Barrett, really informative, wonderful, and very engaging. And I think the kind of closeness to psychological research is something that I find really rich.