Using coaching to examine unhelpful habits

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers


Using coaching to examine unhelpful habits

Using coaching to examine unhelpful habits

Prominent amongst any list of internal interference will be the notion of unhelpful habits. We all of us have habits of thought and behaviour; they can be thought of our tendency to respond to things in a certain way. When we describe other people as domineering or shy we are simply indicating that this is the way in which that person habitually responds. Much of this is subtle stuff indeed and it would be true to say that there are more habits than those that have names. In fact naming habits can sometimes be unhelpful as names come with value judgements around things being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In coaching it’s far more useful to consider actual behaviour and examine the extent to which it is helpful or unhelpful.

We all have an endless number of habits, but we may not be consciously aware of them. As a coach you might notice that someone is habitually late for meetings, but they might not see that as a habit and be able to produce a whole list of reasons why they couldn’t help being late ‘this one time’. I remember being told by a manager that I had a habit of procrastinating, which was bad and I remember disputing this with great vigour. However I can also remember being invited by my coach to consider the pros and cons of putting things off which was much more helpful.

In the spirit of raising non-judgemental awareness our job as a coach is to help people notice the effects of their behaviour rather than try to force them to change. Remember that aspects of some habits are really helpful and not something that should be lost. The person habitually late for meetings for example may have developed habits in terms of preparing very quickly and picking out key information. It can be useful to offer your observations to the coachee by saying, “I’ve noticed that………”. You can them move into Reality questions around how much or how often the behaviour occurs.



Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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