Becoming a Coach or Mentor 6: Understanding Self

becoming-a-c-or-m-red-whiteA deep understanding of self is central to effective coaching and mentoring.

Why? Because it is central to knowing when your own thoughts and feelings are influencing the coaching relationship and when you should be challenging your assumptions.

We began to explore the importance of ‘knowing’ yourself when we looked at how you can ‘Become the Best Coach or Mentor You Can Be’ (Blog . . . Great Coaching: knowing yourself). Recognising its importance, however, is very different to taking action.

Effective coaching and mentoring is definitely not about ‘doing what I say and not what I do’! It is about role modelling how a deep understanding of self leads to being able to take the action that gives you more control over your life and more choice about, and influence over, what you do.

So if a deep understanding of self is central to effective coaching and mentoring what do you need to do to achieve it?

To really understand yourself at a deep level you must be willing to take risks and to put everything up for scrutiny. That can be quite scary because once ‘known’ it cannot be ‘unknown’. It can be filed away again in your unconscious and ignored but will pop up from time to time to remind you it is there!

This, of course, mirrors what happen in a coaching or mentoring session and why it is so important for you, as the coach . . .

  • to secure a safe environment within which your client is willing to explore and take risks
  • to establish a coaching relationship which supports your client to access a deeper understanding of them self rather than bury it
  • to provide a framework within which your client can test out their learning through action

In last week’s Blog (Becoming a Coach or Mentor 5: Challenging Assumptions) one of our programme participants shared how, as she Becomes a Coach and Mentor – my own values and beliefs are under the strongest scrutiny by this being I call ‘me’.

Part of this scrutiny comes through the recognition of self as a whole. Often in coaching I see people seduced into focusing on one bit. Your client as: a leader who feels isolated; as a person who has taken early retirement and lost sense of self; an employee who has been ‘sent’ to coaching to resolve a performance issue; a parent who wants to resume their career. Even in books on coaching and mentoring you see reference to: life coaching; performance coaching; leadership coaching and so on.

While clearly the context within which we come in to the coaching of a client will be different the client you will meet will be a ‘whole’ client.

The more you know yourself as a coach or mentor the more understanding you will have of how what you see and experience and how you respond to the world influences everything you do not just one part of it. What you decide to ‘show’ to the world might change but who you are won’t.

Accessing these deeper levels of the unconscious is not always easy.

One of the first activities we do, on our Optimising Coaching development programmes, is give access to psychometric tools and techniques. Most people have met psychometric assessment in some part of their life – perhaps for recruitment or even in a magazine. Sometimes this experience has not been positive. Often this is because it is not a cooperative venture but something that is ‘done to’.

When given the opportunity to access information that you cannot get consciously it should be experienced as a gift. Something that gives you a greater insight into what you can do rather than what you can’t do and who you can be even when you believe that you can’t change. This is the lens through which we come in.


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