What does coaching have to do with climate change?

What does coaching have to do with climate change?

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25 May 2022

In the first of a series of four articles, Charly Cox and Sarah Flynn of Climate Change Coaches look at the role of coaching in addressing climate change. The article accompanies the release of their book, Climate Change Coaching: The Power of Connection to Create Climate Action, published by Open University Press. We’ll be posting the other three parts of this series during June, as part of our Spotlight on Climate Change.

At Climate Change Coaches, we believe that coaching is a vital component in tackling climate change. Climate change threatens our very existence, and yet we are not changing at the speed or scale that is required.

When the science is so unequivocal, why haven’t our behaviours or our systems shifted faster? We believe a large part of the answer lies in how our human brains react to change. In the face of a threat that requires radical change, a common first response is to resist it, and deny it is our responsibility, such as we have seen for decades in relation to climate change. When or if we do face the threat, we are likely to experience a range of emotions that are challenging to be with, such as fear, anger and grief. The sheer enormity, complexity and urgency of the climate crisis create a compelling sense of doubt as to whether our individual actions even matter, or whether action can be taken at all on a systemic level.

As coaches, we recognise these responses as simple (and natural) disempowerment and ambivalence in the face of complex change. When you realise that this is not just a problem of science and technology but one of human behaviour, coaching skills have a critical role to play. Agency and action (of lack of them) are subjects we work with every day in our coaching practices – moving people from a place of powerlessness to one of capability, so they can act from a place of purpose, in alignment with their values.

We know that by using coaching skills we can dial down the sense of overwhelm and scarcity that keeps people stuck and bring them back to what matters to them. When you connect people with their intrinsic motivations for action, rather than extrinsic incentives of what they feel they ‘should’ and ‘ought’ to be doing, you create a powerful foundation for resonant, sustained action.

If we reframe this problem to be not an environmental catastrophe, but rather a failure of humans to change our individual, organisational and systemic behaviour, then we find a different set of tools with which to get results.

In our upcoming book, Climate Change Coaching, we explore how a range of coaching skills can be used to create empowered climate action in individuals, groups and systems. More than just the things that coaches do, we explore how a coaching approach of curiosity, non-judgment and acceptance is essential to move through resistance and create the kind of sustained collaboration we need to tackle this challenge.

When we unhook from the mindsets that keep us feeling overwhelmed, defeated and stuck in relation to the crisis, we can cultivate a deep sense of belief and agency, galvanising action not only in ourselves but in others. Imagine the positive ripple effect this would create, and the collective potential it would unlock.

Read all the blog posts in the series:

What does coaching have to do with climate change?
How can coaches help define a climate dream to run towards, rather than a nightmare to run from?
What role can coaches play in changing organisations and systems for the benefit of our climate?
How can coaches cultivate a solid inner ground to withstand outer world shocks?

For more information visit Climate Change Coaches

Buy the book: Climate Change Coaching