The Importance of Self Discovery in Coaching


Put simply, there are two ways an individual can discover something during a coaching session. The first way is for the coach to point something out to them, such as “You no longer have any interest in your job” or “You don't seem to enjoy serving your customers”. The second way is for the coach to ask a series of questions that lead the individual to discover something on their own.

For instance the client may have stated that they no longer enjoy the job they are doing. When the coach asks them why they think that might be the case, the individual could think about it and reply, "You know I just realized it's because I don't really enjoy serving customers in a face to face environment any more. I used to, but now I prefer more hands on practical tasks."

You might wonder if there is any real difference in the two situations. After all, the same answer has been arrived at in both situations; once by the coach and once by the coachee. But in the latter situation it has been arrived at through the process of self discovery by the individual.

Self discovery - a powerful way to motivate and engage a individual.

Coaching could also be called guiding. It is the process of guiding someone towards the ideal conclusion for them. Guiding is not the same as grabbing someone by the hand and stomping off in whichever direction you feel would be best for them.

Let's consider this a little further to see just how beneficial self discovery can be for the coachee (person being coached). If I were to tell you that you no longer had any interest in your job, you would probably get quite defensive. I wouldn't blame you either! This is a very aggressive way of speaking to someone. It assumes you know more about them than they do, which of course is silly. If you go down this route it is very hard to turn back too. You will have to work on rebuilding trust with your coachee; they may well offer much less information too for fear that you would criticize them again in some way.

But let's suppose I tackled the situation in a different way. Suppose I asked you if your job still held your interest. In essence I am still fishing for the same information, but this time I am letting you answer the question instead of making assumptions and answering it for you. You may well say that it doesn't, but the information is coming from you - it is your act of self discovery.

This in turn allows the coach to probe for more information. The next natural step would be to ask why your job doesn't hold your interest any more. From previous information I have already gleaned from you, I may have my suspicions as to what the answer will be. I may think that you have outgrown your role or are simply looking to be challenged in another way altogether.

But if I were to tell you this you would not have the same benefit from the information as you would if you arrived at the revelation on your own. It may be the same information, but since you have discovered it for yourself you will gain far more from it.

Supposing the coachee does not know the answer to the question?

Some people are likely to take longer than others to arrive at the answer to why they are struggling with something or finding something in their life particularly difficult. As a coach you must learn to identify those times when you can gently guide a person, and times when you need to help them along a little more.

On a few occasions you may find you have to suggest a solution or answer to a problem if they really cannot see it anywhere. But instead of stating it as an answer you should suggest it as a possibility. This still allows them the freedom to work towards it in some sense.

We sometimes call this a ‘buy in'. The more work a coachee does to arrive at the solution, the more likely they are to take it on board. Lessons are always learned much more easily when you can be a part of the lesson. For instance if you wanted to learn how to swim you might learn a bit just by sitting by the pool watching someone else do it. But you would learn far more by getting into the water and actually trying it for yourself. The same applies to driving. You can read about it and talk about it but you still won't be able to do it well enough to pass your test until you have had the practical lessons behind the wheel.

The process of self discovery assists the coachee in getting the most out of the coaching sessions.

This point is also worth making. Very few people have just one coaching session, since this is an ongoing process to ensure the coachee gets the best possible value from it. If the coachee feels very early on that they are beginning to discover things about themselves that were previously blocking them from making progress, they are much more likely to achieve more in a shorter space of time.

If all the sessions consisted of most of the input coming from the coach (which can happen on occasion, if the coach is not fully trained to understand the value of self discovery), very little would be achieved by the end of the sessions. Even though all the discoveries were there to be made, and they were all stated clearly by the coach, the coachee would not have taken an active role in the process.

So bear this in mind and take a step backwards whenever you coach anyone. Allowing for the process of self discovery is one of the most powerful things a coach can do for their staff.

Derek Good
Managing Director
Rapid Results Limited


Productivity, confidence and leadership are areas Derek Good writes, presents and works with businesses to develop.

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