Becoming a Coach or Mentor 8: Reflecting on Practice

becoming-a-c-or-m-blue-whiteLast week we explored how reflecting on practice is key to learning your craft as a coach or mentor
It is the first port of call for every coach or mentor at whatever stage on their coaching and mentoring journey.

So, if reflection on practice is key to learning your craft as a coach or mentor, how is one course participant finding the experience?

Here are her thoughts . . .

Reflection is a habit to be acquired

. . . some of us do it naturally, and some, like me, have to practise in order to make it a relevant part of my coaching. In other words, to make it explicit.

I have a habit of questioning, born out of many years teaching, and realised early on in my coaching practice that often I don’t give myself (or the coachee or mentee) time to answer them! Encouraging coachees to ask questions too and to reflect on their thoughts and feelings thereafter, is something I will only be proficient at if I have honed the process myself.

Reflecting is a skill I tended to assume was left to the end of a session. But – I have learnt that reflective practice happens at every stage of an effective coaching session and before.

What do I mean by reflective practice?

The action of considering in depth, aspects of what we do, say and mean – aspects which we may not have considered before – so we can take learning to carry forward from our conclusions.

For example, during one of our 2 day modules I worked with another coach to practice our skills. She was keen to explore issues relating to the care of a family member and as the session developed it became clear that there were a number of wider elements that she felt were affecting her judgement. She was able to reach decisions that potentially would not have happened if I, as the coach in this situation, had not given her space and remained silent, while she reflected and drew her own conclusions.

Our experiences as a human being can be immensely important in coaching and, while the agenda is the coachee’s, our own style of delivery, the responses and emotions around our delivery – then the analysis we generate through our own reflection as a coach – can make a huge difference to the success of an individual session and the ones following.

In reflecting and asking the coachee to reflect, we ask a series of questions about the W’s of a situation (the what, why, when, who, where . . .) and what outcomes they could expect from any changes they decide to make, as a result.

Reflecting in action:

is about being self-critical during a session – for example making decisions about which processes to ask a coachee to undertake based on their personality preferences, and then assessing the suitability of further processes based on the resulting outcomes

Reflection on action:

takes place before and after the session – after involves analysing the overall success of the learning experience; judging how much the coachee has learned and concluding what I can do differently to ensure they gain greater benefit in future sessions

enables a coach to draw conclusions – about how their own expectations, limitations, beliefs and opinions may have affected the coachee’s or mentee’s desired outcomes. Quite often a coach’s assumptions about a coachee can affect the quality of the learning taking place, and it is important to be aware of this in professional practice so improvements can be made in future delivery. It is important to take a step back and eliminate the coach’s agenda from the equation so the coachee gains maximum benefit from their reflections on their practice and experience

I have experienced the benefits of reflection already and know that it is enabling me to be a more responsive and focused coach and mentor.

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