While there is an abundance of stressful or low moments for all of us in pandemic time, coaches are also experiencing peak moments in coaching. What is a peak coaching moment? Czech authors Honsová and Jarošová published a lovely qualitative paper on peak coaching experiences (2018). Here is a summary of the research, as well as actionable tips for coaches.
Maslow described peak experience in the whole life context as ‘something like mystic experiences, moments of great awe, moments of the most intense happiness or even rapture, ecstasy or bliss’ or ‘pure, positive happiness when all doubts, all fears, all inhibitions, all tensions, all weaknesses, were left behind,’ or simpler – moments of highest happiness and fulfillment.
The authors note that the construct of peak experience was introduced by Abraham Maslow. Originally Maslow hypothesized that only self-actualized people have peak experiences. Later he concluded that most people have peak experiences, which was confirmed further in research studies.
The authors note: Maslow described peak experience in the whole life context as ‘something like mystic experiences, moments of great awe, moments of the most intense happiness or even rapture, ecstasy or bliss’ or ‘pure, positive happiness when all doubts, all fears, all inhibitions, all tensions, all weaknesses, were left behind,’ or simpler – moments of highest happiness and fulfillment.
Other peak-like phenomena that while all being positive subjective experiences, they are distinct, including:
Peak experiences have a variety of triggers, can happen unexpectedly, and are often not brought on at will. They happen in several areas – family, children and friends, other relationships, and work. Even though they can be brief or elusive, they tend to prevail in our memories. They can influence our futures and change how we view ourselves and the world. They can have permanent effects including improving self-esteem, relationships, or optimism.
The researchers interviewed 18 coachees, senior managers at a large Czech bank going through extensive organizational change, using the Life Story Interview method, adapted for the coaching context.
The coachees were asked: Please describe a scene, episode, or moment in your coaching that stands out as an especially positive – peak experience.
The researchers conducted a thematic analysis, compiling the data, disassembling and reassembling into labeled themes, and then reassembled into themes – summarized next:
The authors conclude: “Our research shows that the key benefits of coaching might not lie only in what comes after coaching (e.g. leadership style change, stress reduction or enhanced self-efficacy) but also in the experience lying in the coaching process itself. Each of the participants associated their coaching experience to unique positive experiences, many of which were connected to learning and growing…”
Honsová, P., & Jarošová, E. (2019). Peak coaching experiences. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 12(1), 3-14.
The IOC is a global community of coaches.