Developing Awareness in Coaching Sessions
The development of self-awareness and that of situations and others around you is an important building block of coaching. Greater awareness leads stronger relationships in all areas and a more rewarding and satisfying life.
Once we understand ourselves from the perspective of others, we can modify our behaviour accordingly to given situations and people. By being aware of what brings out negative emotions in ourselves and others, we can modify our interactions and have greater control of both ourselves and the outcome. It is vital to understand all of our weaknesses, hidden and obvious, so that we can learn to manage them. If you can do that, you can learn to accept and manage the weaknesses in others and still guide and encourage them towards reaching their goals, dreams and ambitions.
Although it is difficult to come up with an accurate character description of ourselves, as others almost always see us in a different light to the one that we actually believe we shine. If you have ever done personality or team role tests, you are probably already more than aware of this. We are often at odds with the traits displayed in the results, although the reality is, that´s how people see us. Coaching gets people to have greater understanding and awareness. It helps the person being coached how their actions, reactions, responses and general disposition impact the world around them.
Important Considerations For Coaching Sessions
Before we get started on discussing the ideas and approaches for developing awareness, there are a couple of important considerations:
Some of the ideas that we will discuss in this section lend themselves to certain situations and others better to others. The important thing is to select the right approach for the situation or problem that you are trying to solve.
We must also decide, how we will give feedback for each of our coaching sessions. Remember that the idea behind giving feedback is not to just give information that you have gathered. The end result of the feedback is that it causes the other person to change their perspective towards the given situation.
When the above two things happen, you will be instrumental in developing awareness in those people that you are coaching. More than that, the ongoing positive compounding effects are endless.
When we take ourselves out of our normal routine, we are exposed to new and different situations. I don´t necessarily mean moving out of your comfort zone, although I thoroughly recommend it as a practice. What I do mean is opening yourself up to socializing with a different set of people, go somewhere different for a short vacation, try a new hobby, join a club or even a charitable organization. What you will find is that your reactions or responses to these different situations and people will provide a wealth of development material, providing that you look at them objectively.
In coaching sessions, encouraging people to explore new situations and horizons is an extremely effective exercise. Afterwards, the event can be used to identify new learning experiences that can be used in other everyday situations.
It would be very easy to go into a coaching session with pre-conceived ideas about a person. Wrong, but very easy. Before coaching sessions when we are gathering a little background information, we often hear things such as, “Person X is so negative” or “Person X just isn´t interested”. Of course, this is all from the story teller’s perspective and facts only according to them. This tactic is often used to deflect any poor management or leadership away from themselves and these so called facts are very often unsupported.
The best approach here, is to go into the coaching session with your mind and ears open. Carefully craft your questions beforehand and then steer the session along its course. When a coach listens attentively, they hear so much more than facts. By the way, there is a marked difference between being negative and being down. Fact!
When a coach takes time to listen, we become aware of all sorts of things that were previously unknown, such as:
- How the past has affected the current situation.
- Who or what has had the most influence on this?
- Do they understand how this has affected their decision-making process?
- The range of emotions that the person goes through on a daily basis
The stories that you hear as a coach will vary but for successful outcomes, your ability to bring awareness to both parties should remain constant. Some things we believe to be facts are nothing more than labels. Temporary labels that can be changed and renamed. It is purely a matter of both parties being aware of how past events created the current situation and understanding how those labels can be renamed and put to greater use.
Keeping a Journal
Keeping a journal affords you the opportunity of reflection. Not just things that you did that day, but how those things made you feel. What were your thoughts about having to do this particular thing or even not getting to do it? What emotions did this stir up? Writing these things down in a journal identifies your emotions at a given time and space. When you take the time to read and reflect on these happenings, you will identify the wave of emotions that you experienced, and it increases awareness. These journals are a great tool that can be used in coaching sessions to explore what makes the person think and feel the way they do. Once you have identified the reasons, and the person becomes aware of the triggers and following emotions, you can go to work on a strategy for change or how to use these feelings and emotions as a spring board for development.
Who Are You?
Have you ever sat down and thought about who you really are? In that, I mean in relation to others. Take a moment to think about all the different ways that people see you as. Are you a brother, sister, colleague, client, friend, acquaintance, boss or employee? We could go on and on with this list and I encourage you to do so.
Now think about the different ways we interact with these people. What do you do when you are with them? What is the style of conversation? What are the topics? What is your role? What are the strong points? What things do you find difficult? Again, compose a comprehensive list for all your different relationships.
How we perceive ourselves in all these relationships, gives us greater understanding of what we do and why we do it. This is an extremely useful and beneficial exercise to use in coaching sessions. Exploring these relationships can help identify previously uncovered motivations and obstacles. You can then use this new-found awareness to help work around any identified issues and move the person further towards their goals.
Take a Risk
People usually only share what they want others to see. You only have to look at social media to understand this. How many posts of parties, nice restaurants, vacations and other happy times have you seen today? On the other hand, how many posts in the last year of someone sitting at home, down and depressed because of the pressures of life?
The above spills through into our coaching sessions. The conversations may not be all rosy but in general, people will only allow you to see the part of them that they want you to see. It is here that you can take a risk. Share something that you don´t put on social media yourself. You don´t have to give away really personal details but you could share things such as:
- What your biggest fears are
- Things you have failed in
- What things have tested you
- Your dreams and ambitions
Sharing this information will not lose you any credibility. In fact, your credibility is going to raise. By revealing your soft underbelly, you are demonstrating that you are coaching from life experience and not from a text book of questions. Once the person that you are coaching becomes aware of this, it is easier for them to open up and show you the other them. The sides that they don´t normally let people see. Not only have you just created awareness, but trust has increased, and the coaching relationship has strengthened.
Truth and Timing
Effective coaching relies on truth and perfect timing. Coaches who are able to skilfully tell the other person the what they need to hear at the right time save unnecessary hours of exploratory questioning and orchestrate development in a timely manner. Being aware of what puts a spring in someone´s step and what weighs them down, and then honestly but tactfully conveying your observations is a skill well worth the effort of practice. The skill here is delivering the feedback in tactful and diplomatic way without sugar coating the truth.
Using Psychometric Tests
I have left this one until last because it doesn´t normally form part of a coaching session but well worth talking about. The camp is divided here. There are those for psychometric tests and those against. In my opinion for what it´s worth, they shouldn´t be disregarded. That said, they should always be used in conjunction with other methods, if you are attempting to match someone´s personality to a particular job. Here though, we are focusing on coaching awareness and although psychometric tests don´t capture some things about the individualism of a person, they can identify similarities and differences across a range of people. They do this by grouping or categorizing character traits such as, how open we are to things or situations, our levels of conscientiousness and our degree of extraversion. Others include, how we interact with others and our ability to make decisions.
There are a range of psychometric tests and they can help you to understand others more but perhaps more importantly in a coaching situation, they can help others become more aware about themselves.
One thing that you should take into consideration is that it´s essential to understand how these tools work and you should be comfortable in using them before introducing them into any coaching sessions.
Coaching is a great opportunity to create awareness. Understanding why we are where we are now, the events that brought us here, our relationship roles and the emotions that are inextricably linked to them are key points in moving our life in the right direction.
As a coach, our job is help people unravel these complex pieces of information that all seem to conflict with each other and present themselves as obstacles for future development. There is no one true idea or approach, no one size fits all and I encourage you to become skilled in all approaches and ideas that are relevant to your area of coaching.