Breathing Space

How, as a coach, you allow a team to develop itself by balancing on the thin line between giving attention and letting go.

Patrick Heller
7 min readMar 12, 2024


It remains a difficult pitfall for anyone coaching — being too present versus feeling like you’re not adding enough. If you say too much or ask too much, you risk the person you want to help shutting down or drifting away. On the other hand, you don’t want to contribute too little, after all, you’re paid to further the organization with your coaching skills.

I’ve heard it so many times from fellow coaches: the imposter syndrome is always lurking. “Am I doing it right?” “Am I doing enough?” You don’t want to make the client feel like your work isn’t very important to the organization.

Imposter Syndrome

Ironically, the feeling that you need to do something can lead you to be so present in conversations that your influence works against you. One of the world’s most famous coaches, Marshall Goldsmith, once remarked that the client he spent the least time with made the most progress — jokingly questioning what that said about his coaching skills. His client, former CEO Alan Mulally of Ford, replied that Goldsmith needed to realize that his coaching work wasn’t about him, but about the client and what the client does with it. I…