Coaching to Develop Self-Awareness
Helping People Get to Know Themselves
Developing self-awareness is important for better relationships and for a more fulfilling life, both in the workplace and at home.
With a good understanding of how we relate to others, we can adjust our behavior so that we deal with them positively. By understanding what upsets us, we can improve our self-control. And by understanding our weaknesses, we can learn how to manage them, and reach our goals despite them.
However, it's difficult to be objective when we think about ourselves, and how others actually see us can be quite different from what we think they see.
There are ways in which people can develop self-awareness on their own. However, coaching can be a better way of helping people view their own actions and reactions objectively, so it's useful for helping people to build self-awareness.
In this article we'll look at six approaches that you can use to help others build this self-awareness.
Some of the approaches we describe are useful generally within the workplace, while others are only really appropriate in situations where the person you're coaching has a very close and trusting relationship with you. Choose the approach that suits the situation.
As with all types of coaching, feedback is important. But feedback - even very accurate feedback - can be nothing more than interesting information, unless it causes the person being coached to change his or her perspective in quite a fundamental way. Do what you can to support these changes in perspective.
Approach 1: Using Psychometric Tests
Psychometric tests are useful for giving people an objective view of how they behave, and how they compare in outlook with others. The answers they give categorize them by the personality traits or preferences they show, and then provide some commentary on these.
Of course, none of these tools captures the richness and uniqueness of an individual person. But they can point out the similarities and differences between people.
One useful personality model, the Big Five or OCEAN model, looks at five main features of human personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. This tool can help people understand more about themselves and others. Tests like this one can give people a great insight into their behavior and performance in the workplace.
Another popular test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI) is useful for understanding our preferences for interacting with others, how we like to receive information, and how we make decisions.
Other psychometric tests can be used for other purposes, and it's worth exploring the full range of these to understand what you can do with them.
Once the people you're coaching have taken these tests, you can explore what the test results mean, and help them think about what have learned about themselves, and the way they interact with other people.
It's important that you, as the coach, are familiar with these tools before you use them with people in your team.
Approach 2: Sampling New Experiences
We often discover new things about ourselves when we're in unusual situations, or facing new challenges. Our reactions or responses to new environments, new people, or new demands can help us understand how we deal with some of the more familiar aspects of our lives. However, rather than waiting for new experiences to arrive, it can be really valuable to look for them proactively.
We can do this for ourselves by taking different types of vacations, or experimenting with new hobbies, for example. We may find hidden talents, or things about ourselves that we didn't know about - particularly when the new activities are stimulating and energizing.
One way of doing this in the workplace is to encourage people to explore unfamiliar roles or situations. The advantage of using coaching in these situations is that you can help the person you're coaching explore which new roles to try, and you can then help them analyze the experience afterward.
As a coach, the key is to help interpret the experience, and ensure that any learning from it passes back into the coachee's day-to-day life.
Approach 3: Telling Your Life Story
There's a big difference between reading a résumé, and meeting a candidate at a job interview. Likewise, it can be very revealing to hear someone's life story first hand.
An experienced coach who listens to someone talk about their life will see and hear so much more than simple facts. These stories can reveal whether people really understand who they are, and why their lives have turned out in the way they have.
Do they understand the impact of the way they were raised, and the influence of their friends and family on the decisions they've made so far? What types of emotional journey have they taken? Is their life full of joy, or weighed down with deep fears or anger? To what extent do their past experiences affect their current experiences? Do they accept themselves for who they are, or do they fight against this, and have a false self-perception?
Whatever the content of the story, a coach's questions and feedback often make the difference between a story that's just told, and a story that's really heard and understood - by the person being coached as much as by the coach.
Approach 4: Daily Writing
It's often said that to write well, you have to write every day. By writing down your thoughts and feelings on a daily basis, you build fluency - particularly, emotional fluency. This habit also captures the mood of the moment - when reviewed at a later date, the collection of writing can help the writer understand the range of emotions he or she has experienced.
For the creative writer, this is an exercise of skill and fantasy building. But for people who write about their experiences and feelings, this regular writing improves their self-awareness.
In coaching, a coachee's daily journal is great resource to use. The journals can often be an excellent prompt for discussion during your coaching conversations.
Approach 5: Defining Your Role
We all play many roles in life. To some, we are colleagues; to others, we may be family or friends. Describing the role each of us plays - at work, within our family group, across our circle of friends, or in our local community - builds a picture of how we see ourselves relative to others.
In coaching, the way the person being coached perceives his or her role can help you understand their underlying motivation for achieving tasks and goals. It can also help explain why coachee's may fail to make progress towards their goals and objectives. If you have issues with people in these areas, take your time to explore their understanding of their roles - this may provide a great opportunity to help people improve their performance.
Approach 6: Using the Coach as a Mirror
The very best coaches are careful to tell the people they're coaching precisely the truth they need, at precisely the time they need it. When they do this, they are the perfect "mirror" for coachees to see themselves as they really are.
To do this well, coaches need to invest time and attention in understanding how people see their lives, what they're sensitive about, what energizes them, and what makes them lose energy. Within a safe and trusted coaching relationship, coachees should expect that, when asked, their coach will tell them honestly what they've seen and heard.
As well as providing this valuable feedback, the coach's role here is to help the people they're coaching to be honest and straightforward when observing their own behaviors and actions.
With high levels of self-awareness, we can find a the right direction in life, and we can build better relationships with other people. Coaching is great for helping your people build this self-awareness.
As a coach you can help the people you're coaching interpret and understand information about themselves, and there are six main approaches you can use to do this. These include examining feedback, analyzing outcomes from psychometric tests, learning from new experiences, and considering people's life stories.
Try using these approaches with your people - you'll be surprised by how powerful they can be!