Much is said in coaching circles about the need to be a ‘reflective coach’. Most experienced coaches would have us believe that they already are ‘reflective coaches’. But what does being a ‘reflective coach’ really mean, and why should we bother thinking about it, let alone work towards embodying it?
In this post, I’ll be looking briefly at what the word ‘reflective’ means in the context of coaching, how we can put together a template to use in our reflections, and 5 good reasons we should all put our efforts into becoming truly reflective coaches.
To me, this isn’t just another ‘flavour-of-the-month’ phrase to be batted around. Along with deep, transformative listening, it’s at the very core of what coaching is about. Listening is the coach homing in on the coachee – and reflective practice is the coach homing in on her or his own internal dialogue.
Have you ever left a coaching session groaning, “Can things really get any worse? Is my coaching really so dire? I’m an idiot!”? Whilst this can be a common reaction amongst coaches in training, don’t be fooled into thinking it doesn’t happen to more seasoned coaches from time to time too.
Possibly the reaction is accurate. The coaching session was that dire, and you really are an idiot. I’d hazard a guess, though, that if you’re a qualified experienced coach (or even a newbie in most cases), the more likely story is that something’s been triggered in you which has retrospectively coloured your memory of the experience of the whole session. It’s part of a reflective coach’s duty to try to get to the bottom of such things rather than brush them under a convenient carpet to be tripped over at a later date.
Here I’m going to touch on the kinds of circumstances that might cause such an extreme reaction in a coach, and suggest 3 simple processes we can build into our planning which can help put the experience into perspective. These 3 processes are things we should be incorporating into our thinking anyway, but here we’re looking at them as being helpful when we really need to find a different perspective.
In a previous post I outlined the 5 basic coaching skills we really need in order to become effective as coaches. We’ve already taken a look at contracting, use of some kind of structuring mechanism (with the GROW Model as an example), and listening. This time I’m going to discuss questioning, which (coupled with listening) is the way coaching is given direction, and conversations can be taken forward into ‘light-bulb moment’ territory.
First, we’ll be looking at framing questions during the ongoing interaction with a coachee, before turning to the most important questions we coaches need to ask ourselves.
It had been a taxing coaching session. Concentration on listening, feeding back, spotting limiting self-beliefs, challenging… Even, let it be said, dealing with a little voice of frustration whispering in my ear – a voice which faded away soon after it began…
Reflecting afterwards on the session it suddenly struck me. The voice of frustration had faded away so fast. Why? I puzzled over this and a realisation dawned… What if mindfulness were a coaching tool? It certainly looked like it had become so for me. How?
Last time in Part 1 we looked at benefits for coaches of having insight into coachee context, along with 5 questions that could help us build up a wider picture of a coachee’s situation. This time we’ll be looking into potential drawbacks to having wider insight.
The 5 questions we asked last time were aimed at information gathering about the organisation. This time we’re looking at the coach him- or herself. Could there be potential shortcomings or blind spots in a coach’s approach to what he or she knows about a coachee’s context? What could be the results? And most importantly, how can we as coaches strategise to avoid these deficiencies, minimising the drawbacks to having wider insight into coachee context whilst maximising the benefits?