Take time for Reflection

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Coaching Skills Series

This is one of many articles I intend to post this year considering the range of principles, skills and experiences you’ll need to be an effective coaching manager for the people in your team.

This post is about the need for a coaching conversation to encourage high quality thinking. The next post will explore how we can generate alternative courses of action.



We have now reached a point where, in your conversation with your coachee, the two of you have worked together to articulate some aims and explore the starting point; the reality. You’re at a point in the coaching session where it would be appropriate to pause and take a moment or two to think about what’s been discovered or reinforced before moving on.


Have a look at these questions:


In relation to your issue:

  • How big is the gap between ‘Aims’ and ‘Reality’?
  • How realistic are your aims?
  • How certain are you about the reality of the situation?
  • How could you find out more?
  • What assumptions are you making?
  • Have you been totally honest with yourself?
  • What’s really going on?

It might be that now we’ve considered Reality, that the Aims look over optimistic. We could revisit the aims and consider lengthening the time frame and perhaps putting some short term performance goals in place to provide some momentum.

On the other hand it may be that we are working from very limited information about current Reality and are dealing with a whole set of assumptions. In such a case it would be wise to consider stopping the coaching session at that point to make some further enquiries. Take for example the situation of a coachee that tells you management doesn’t support new ideas in answer to the question ‘What’s happening now?’ It might be that historically management haven’t supported ideas, but is it the same management team now as it was then? Even if it is, people and circumstances can change.

Asking what’s really going on can be a powerful way of uncovering true coaching issues where you sense that the coaching may only be answering the questions superficially. It’s a powerful question so use it carefully and sparingly but it can take the conversation to a much more productive level.

In some ways putting Reflection between Reality and Options was done purely for my convenience – to help spell ARROW! Whilst it is useful to spend time on reflection at that stage, it can be equally useful to make reflecting and reviewing a part of navigating through the whole ARROW sequence. It may be useful to think of the sequence as a series of loops rather than a fixed linear sequence. We may want to ask our coaching questions in a fixed order but you can be certain that your coachee’s thinking patterns won’t be so rigid and you’ll need to be prepared to jump ahead to Way Forward or return to Aims or to move flexibly in and out of the sequence as required.

Here are some more suggestions for thought provoking, reflective questions:

  • What do you believe to be true?
  • What information are you missing?
  • What could you learn from others who have done this?
  • Where could you get more information?
  • What are the risks?
  • What are you scared of?






Matt Somers

Matt Somers

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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One Response

  1. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but
    I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post,
    I will try to get the hang of it!

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