Today we’re going to explore in more detail one of the links between coaching and psychology – self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy relates to an individual’s beliefs and confidence in their ability to complete tasks and reach goals in a specific context.
How is self-efficacy related to coaching?
The construct of self-efficacy is probably not useful if attempts are made to use it directly when coaching. ‘How would you rate your self-efficacy in this context?’ is a question that most of our clients, if not all, would find difficult to answer. However, you can tap into self-efficacy with questions such as ‘How much do you believe that you can achieve this goal?’ and ‘What is getting in your way?’
So, self-efficacy can form a framework for a coaching line-of-enquiry. We can start by taking a few elements of the definition; context, ability and beliefs.
Why is context important, or is it important at all?
It sometimes seems to be all too easy for our clients to separate their lives into different areas, segments and contexts. We all have many transferrable skills and it is only when we update our CVs that we might become aware of them as we strive to get that new job or win that contract. Self-efficacy can be bolstered by taking a Gestalt/holistic approach to highlight those skills.
The point is that it can be difficult to apply skills learned and applied in one context to a completely different setting. For example, the skills of relationship building and conflict management can be applied in many different contexts.
With this in mind you will be able to help your clients explore what skills they aren’t using.
You’ve either got it or you haven’t, right? No, not really.
Although the word ‘ability’ seems quite clear in terms of either have-got or have-not-got it is often something that is either under or over perceived. Take driving for example, there are millions of drivers in the UK who happily transport themselves safely on a daily basis but there are only a handful of drivers globally who can drive a Formula 1 racing car safely.
A few years ago I walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall, and how did I achieve it? One step at a time of course.
If I wanted to drive an F1 car then there would be a series of steps to take before I strapped in. Maybe driving a fast saloon car round a circuit with an instructor, driving the same car solo, driving a single-seat car, etc, etc. The inference being that you might be able to help your client identify the steps needed to gain the abilities they need or want.
I don’t believe I could drive an F1 car tomorrow, but give me a while.
Having identified the steps then it might be possible to work with your client’s beliefs. I don’t believe that if someone plonked me in an F1 car tomorrow that I could drive it safely. However, I do believe that I could go at a fair lick in a fast saloon car with an instructor guiding me. My self-efficacy associated with that first step is high whilst my F1 driving self-efficacy remains low. Maybe when I’ve learned and experienced a little more . . .
Work with beliefs could also involve looking at the obstacles and how to remove or go-around them. Practical, emotional and social support may also be factors as well as the resources available to your client. All of these things can be explored with self-efficacy in mind with an aim of improving your client’s confidence in their ability to achieve the next step and ultimately the final goal.
Now, where’s the number for that motor-racing school?
In the next post we will look at another psychological theory and its links with coaching and mentoring. In the meantime try to spot where psychology might be informing your practice and please leave a comment on what you notice.
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