Coaching Yourself

by Melanie Greene

Tools for self coaching

Self coaching is not just a matter of thinking over the events of the day, week or month, though this is part of it; there are tools that will help to identify and capture the learnings.

Write it down

Writing down your thoughts has a number of benefits:

  • You can look back on what you have learned and see how much you have developed
  • The information will help you to prepare for appraisals and interviews
  • You can collect evidence for your CPD
  • If things are confused in your head, getting your thoughts down on paper can often help you to clear your mind and see things more clearly.

Use a journal, folder or document on your computer – somewhere private and confidential.

Learning and planning logs

These can provide a useful structure for your coaching process. They also assist you in completing the learning cycle and therefore help you to maximise your learning from any particular situation. For more detail about creating learning and planning logs, see the topic on Learning.

Other people

Although, ultimately, the person organising and maintaining the process is you, other people will play an important part in your self coaching.

Coaching yourself can feed into your appraisal and performance management process, partly because it will place you in a better position to know, beforehand, if and how you have improved. In other words, the process itself will increase your capacity for self knowledge.

How will I know if I am improving?

Many people are concerned about how, when they are coaching themselves, they will know if they are improving. However, self coaching rarely happens in isolation. It includes asking others for feedback and support to assist in the process.

Coaching yourself does not have to be a solitary activity, and those people who are more extrovert are likely to involve other people, in addition to spending some time on their own, reflecting on their learning. Those who are less extrovert should be aware that asking for feedback from appropriate people and learning from it is part of the self coaching process.

When asking for feedback and support, it’s important to make sure that it is constructive and meets your needs. (You might also want to look at the topic on Feedback for more information.) Below are some of the ways you can involve others.

Peer coaching

This can be an incredibly rewarding process for both parties. It might be with a colleague directly within your team, within another department, another organisation or even with a friend. Your peer coach can be a useful sounding board for the thoughts arising from your self coaching.

Coaching from your manager

This can be either through asking for coaching on a specific development need or from the general coaching that you receive from your manager. The coaching support that you get from your manager can assist you in coaching yourself. In fact, it will hopefully prove an ongoing cycle, in which you, through coaching yourself, identify your development needs, are proactive in asking for coaching and, in this way, get further insights as well as constructive help.

Action Learning Sets

An action learning set is a group of individuals who gather together over a period of time to explore a particular topic. Between meetings, the members of the set go away to explore issues back at work that are related to the topic. They then bring their experiences to the next meeting and discuss them with the whole set. Coaching yourself can assist you in getting the most out of an action learning set and vice versa. See Action Learning Sets for more information about setting them up and running them.

During a 360 degree feedback process

Some organisations use either ad hoc or regular 360 degree feedback processes. If you are actively coaching yourself, this is likely to assist you in completing the 360 degree questionnaire, getting the most out of the feedback from the whole process and acting on it to further develop yourself. See the topic on 360 Degree Feedback for more information.

Mentors (real or virtual)

This might be someone within or outside the organisation that can act as a mentor. You can test out with them the ideas and reflections that have come from your self coaching. Nowadays, mentoring can be face to face, on the phone or via email. See Mentoring for more information on this.

You might be asking what virtual mentors could be. Well, even if you don’t have an actual mentor, or if you cannot contact them when you need to at a particularly challenging time, there is an exercise that can help you to tap into a mentor’s wisdom. Virtual mentors are people who you call on in your mind, rather than in reality. They could be dead, alive, fictional or real, mythical, historical, known to you or famous. Your mentor could even be an animal: for example, some people have a courageous lion or wise owl as a mentor.

The following exercise works well if you have a decision to make or are facing a difficult problem. You can do it either in your head or on paper, and it can work very well if you walk around and step into the different mentors’ shoes. The latter tends to be the most effective way of doing this exercise, so you will need a private space for it.

Step 1 Think about the issue or question you are facing.
Step 2 Think of three virtual mentors whose wise words about this particular issue you would like to hear. Perhaps mark a space with paper on the floor where they would stand.
Step 3 Take one of the mentors and step into their shoes, onto the piece of paper on the floor. As you stand in their shoes, imagine you are them. From their perspective, look at you, back where you were first standing. From their shoes, give yourself some words of wisdom, encouragement, support and/or inspiration to help you in the situation you are facing or the decision you are making.
Step 4 Step back into your shoes and take on board these wise words.
Step 5 Repeat steps 3 and 4 with each of the other two mentors.
Step 6 When you are back in your shoes, take on board the wise words from all three of your mentors. Then look up and visualise yourself acting on these wise words (see Visualising success to help you with this process).