How to self coach

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We don’t usually have the luxury of having a coach to hand when we encounter a problem, when we are grappling with an issue or when we want to think something through with more objectivity or perspective. Very often we don’t even consider the idea of giving ourselves some ‘thinking time’ before taking a decision or reacting to circumstances. Most of us go through life in ‘knee jerk’ mode, reacting to our circumstances rather than responding to them and getting results that we are ‘given’ rather than choose.

There is real value in taking structured ‘time out’ to think more objectively and rationally about our lives and how we might respond differently to circumstances to get better results. This could be a set period of time each day you allocate for thinking things through for yourself or it could be the practice of stopping to think on any occasion when you want to create a change in your behaviour or approach to something (and therefore how you respond to it) – or both.

For those with some time to spare, taking a few days ‘out’ on a retreat to focus on yourself and your thinking can be very valuable and time well spent. More often, it is the day-to-day thinking time we need to find. You will often find that successful people allocate specific times of day for self reflection and to ask themselves questions like:

- What do I want to achieve?
- What will success look or sound like and how am I doing so far?
- What might prevent me in action?
- What help do I need and where can I get it?
- What have I learnt today and how can I apply that in the future?
- What areas do I need to develop in to be more effective?
- What am I missing/what would my fiercest critic tell me that I am missing?
- What can I do differently now to move me forward?

This is an approach that can be done individually or in a team and either on a daily or regular basis, or say during a specific project.

Whether individually or as a team, one of the most effective tools for this kind of reflection is Tim Gallwey’s STOP tool. STOP stands for:

- Step back
- Think
- Organise your thoughts
- Proceed

This simple process can be applied to regular daily ‘time-outs’ for individuals or teams, for one-off thinking time and as a practice for preventing ‘knee jerk’ reactions. For instance, say a colleague has just said something to you which sounds condescending and irritates you. Your immediate reaction is to reply in a forcible way. STOP! Take two seconds before reacting, and RESPOND instead. What are they trying to say behind the words? What is going on for them? What do I need to ask them to really understand this? What would be the most effective response here? This very brief pause will allow you to respond in a far more effective way to the situation. Do this regularly every day, it will become second nature, and you will become far more effective as a result. There is much more information on the STOP tool in The Inner Game of Work.*

Another way you can self coach is by using the GROW model structure to ask yourself (or as a team) a series of questions under the GROW headings. You can change the questions of course to suit the circumstances of your self-coaching inquiry:

Goal

- what do I want to achieve specifically?

- how will I know I have succeeded?

- what is the timeframe?

- what are my success measures/criteria?

- what baby steps or milestones are there on the way?

Reality

- what have I done so far?

- what effect did that have?

- what is stopping me / what am I afraid of?

- who else is involved or could be involved?

- what is happening inside/outside my control?

- what does my intuition tell me about the situation?

- what impact will success have on me/others?

- what might I have to risk or give up?

Options

- what could I do now? ...and what else?

- if I was in complete control and answerable to no-one …

- what would a respected friend or colleague advise me to do?

- With the benefit of hindsight, what one or two things did I do that really made the difference in achieving my goal?

Way forward

- what am I going to do now specifically, and by when?

- what might stop me in action/what can I do to minimize that?

- what help do I need and where can I get it?

You can also try using the NIP tool for those moments when you choose to respond rather than react:

Notice - what’s occurring in the moment that you notice without judgement (what are you hearing,

seeing, feeling, thinking?)

Interest - be interested in what you notice, try to be as objective and non-judgmental as possible.

Pose questions - such as:

- what is the other person feeling/thinking /wanting?
- what do they need/want from me?
- what do they need to hear from me
- what do i need/want form them?
- what requests do i need to make of them?

Similar to the STOP tool, the NIP tool will give you a few seconds ‘thinking space’ to notice what is happening, take a non judgemental view and then respond effectively to the circumstances.

Practise is key to being effective with this kind of self-coaching approach. Try using one or more of these approaches every day, both on an allocated time basis and spontaneously in the moment.