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Reflections on the climate crisis and coaching

By Wendy Robinson, Executive Coach and Coaching Supervisor

I feel pretty ignorant about the climate crisis, and pretty inactive in terms of doing anything about it. Just being honest. I do some things e.g. I recycle conscientiously and I really limit buying of plastic (I refuse to buy water in a plastic bottle now….before this pandemic I carried a reusable water bottle with me everywhere and became very au fait with water fountains in several UK and Irish airports!). I’ve been pescatarian for over 30 years, so no red meat. We grow some of our own vegetables, we compost, and I support our local community of food growers by buying local. In the current situation, a quiet pleasure of mine is that I am not adding to emissions by flying and driving long distances with my work. We improved our home insulation last year, and dream of solar panels and heat exchange systems to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and electricity. Still…do my individual actions really mean anything, in the greater scheme of things?? I was delighted to attend the opening session of the Climate Coaching Alliance’s second 24 hr event on 3rd March. Listening to the Chief Political Strategist for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (Tom Rivett-Carnac) interview his Executive Coach (Jo Confino) sounded intriguing! We were all in for a real treat. I had many takeaways, here are just three:

1. ‘Restriction’: when we feel helpless in the face of the climate crisis, we constrict or restrict. Tom referred to the scarcity mindset – ‘there is not enough time to save the planet, not enough technology, not enough engagement’ etc. This is true…. AND ….approaching the problem from this perspective only makes it worse. In his coaching with Jo, Tom was able to perceive a sense of spaciousness around time, which he said led to all sorts of benefits for him. He also learnt the importance of self-kindness, another antidote to the sense of constriction.

2. ‘Meaning = Control’: Tom: “We have made a fundamental mistake as we think about climate change, we have associated meaning with control. I.e. it’s only meaningful to take action on climate change if we have a high degree of control over the outcome.This is used by people to disempower other people who are trying to do something – e.g. to be vegetarian, or to not fly. I.e. ‘It’s not going to make a difference’”. He went on to say that in many other areas of our lives, meaning equates to a loss of control. For example, if a child is sick, you have no control over the outcome, but it is the most meaningful thing you would do, to care for that child minute by minute. Tom: “So we need to see the inherent meaning and the inherent satisfaction in taking action to protect the planet that we love at a moment of great consequence, even though we can’t control the outcome. And to get friendly with that.”

3. There is cause for hope: over the last 20 years organisations have moved from Corporate Social Responsibility, to Corporate Responsibility, to Sustainability and now to Regeneration. Even 5 years ago ‘the climate’ wasn’t a concept for people. Jo: “It’s now hitting people in a different way and people are able to hear the challenge….The paradigm shift is happening, and from many directions.” Part of the paradigm shift is happening in organisations, and in how we view leadership. The ‘old system’ says you’ve got to be the best, stand out, strive for status, to be ‘separate from’, to show up in a way that will be impressive.We almost create a fake persona of who we are, an ‘egoic mask’ of who we are.The art is – being who we are. When we’re rooted, truly who we really are, we can heal our past and change our future. When we can come home to ourselves, we can be a force for good in the world.

In conclusion, I believe that coaches occupy a rare position, to enable leaders to do this inner work, and to powerfully support them on this journey. We can’t force a change, we don’t secretly manipulate people to change. But we can be open about what we stand for, we can be real, we can self-disclose, and if our client is interested in that, we can explore that with humility with them. You can join the CCA and catch up on all these events and others at Climate Coaching Alliance. The Climate Coaching Alliance (CCA) was set up in late 2019 to bring together coaches, coaching psychologists, and coaching supervisors, facilitators and other leadership professionals. We are aiming to enable individual practitioners, and the profession of coaching to develop strategies and practices that provide our clients (individuals, leaders and their teams) the right space to step into their necessary leadership role in the face of the climate emergency.

Taylor Clarke subscribes to the Joint Global Statement from the Professional Bodies for Coaching, Coaching Psychology, Mentoring & Supervision.


Wendy Robinson, Executive Coach and Coaching Supervisor

Wendy is an experienced consultant, organisational psychologist, Executive Coach and facilitator. She works skilfully with clients to enable real change to happen, for individuals, groups and the wider organisational system. Her 20+ years experience has covered both internal senior roles in L&D and OD, and external OD Consultancy. She has consulted to hundreds of organisations spanning the private, public and social enterprise sectors. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and has trained extensively in psychotherapy within the Transactional Analysis School. She is an Accredited Coach, and currently trains and supervises Executive Coaches.


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