Coaching Yourself

by Melanie Greene

Realistic and constructive debriefing

To be able to effectively self coach, you must master the art of realistically and constructively debriefing yourself. This needs to be a balanced process, one that neither glosses over the weaknesses and mistakes nor ends up focusing on these and forgetting what went well. Neither extreme will lead to effective and constructive debriefing.

It is important to be able to realistically debrief after carrying out difficult tasks or activities. People who lack confidence – or whose inner critic gets the better of them – will often focus on what went wrong, rather that getting a balanced view of the event.

Questions to assist you in debriefing

Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • What happened? Talk it through or write down exactly
  • What you did and what others did
  • What was the background to the situation
  • What led you to make certain decisions or take particular actions
  • What factors you took into account
  • What the consequences of your actions/decisions were.
  • What went well? What were you particularly pleased with – this can include how you redeemed situations that were going wrong!
  • What would you do the same another time? Consider
  • How you prepared
  • Actions you took; decisions you made
  • How you reacted and responded to the situation.
  • What would you do differently? Consider
  • How you might prepare in the future
  • Actions you might take and decisions you might make
  • How you might react and respond to such a situation in the future.
  • What do you think someone else would have done in your shoes? Maybe you could think about a colleague, manager or mentor.
  • What words of advice can you give yourself, either from your own wise self, or from a respected wise mentor (real or virtual).

You will find that some questions are more useful to you than others; it is about personal taste.

Sometimes it can be beneficial to change the questions you ask yourself to ensure that you are not avoiding questions that perhaps challenge you.

What stops us from debriefing effectively?

Below are the three chief internal blocks to effective debriefing.

I just want to move on – I don’t want to go over old ground.

The problem with this is that unless you fully learn from your experiences, you can end up repeating past mistakes or poor performance. Coaching yourself is about constructively debriefing yourself to ensure that you take forward the lessons learned, continuing to improve your performance and behaviour in different situations.

I am too soft on myself.

For most people, it is about being overly harsh on themselves, rather than too soft. However, it might be that you are not asking sufficiently searching questions about what you are doing, rather than being too soft with yourself. Simply be open and honest with yourself about what happened, reviewing what went well so it can be repeated, and what you need to do differently next time.

I give myself such a hard time, I don’t end up learning anything.

Many people have their own inner critic, who is often harsher than anyone on the outside. This is that little or big voice that so many of us have in our heads; it’s the one that says things like

  • Why did you say/do that?
  • You’re hopeless/useless; you’ll never be a success...
  • Why didn’t you do/say X?
  • Why did you not stand up to Y?
  • Just pull yourself together and stop being a wimp.

If you experience this kind of undermining barrage from your inner critic, it will often result in you feeling either despondent, under-confident and demoralised, or angry and frustrated at yourself. Any of these negative emotions are likely to prevent you from being able to rationally and constructively debrief yourself. See Mastering your inner critic.