Using coaching to check Reality

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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.

Here we consider ways accurately analysing the current situation. Check back in a couple of weeks for the next post which looks at how we can promote high quality thinking and reflection.



Having established a specific, clear and measurable Aim, we can now turn our sights to working with our coachees to develop a detailed understanding of their starting point; the current reality in other words. This is a vital step in the coaching process as it helps coachees become sensitized to what is going on around them and the feelings it invokes. Most of us work for a lot of the time in an almost ‘auto pilot’ mode where our thinking becomes sluggish and we miss important opportunities to do things better.

Consider these questions:

In relation to your issue:

  •  What’s happening now?
  • How much/How often is that happening?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • Who else is involved?
  • What happens to them?
  • What have you tried so far?
  • What results did you get?

The intent of these questions is to encourage the coachee to live in the ‘here and now’ or ‘in the moment’ as it is only in the present that we can make changes.

We need to be mindful of the temptation at the Reality stage of slipping into old ‘tell and instruct’ habits. If ever you find yourself thinking along the following lines, you may have fallen into a common trap:

‘I know exactly how you feel’

No you don’t. You only know how you felt in a similar situation. If I’m having an experience then that experience is unique. It may appear almost identical to a situation you’ve experienced, but there will be differences, however subtle. Even if our two situations were exactly alike in every detail, I’m me and you’re you. I have fashioned my own model of the world from my own unique experiences and you have done likewise. Our two models cannot possibly be the same. Besides which, does telling me about your similar situation and how you felt, help me move forward?

‘No, you’re wrong’

I may look at a set of circumstances and see things differently to you and it may be impossible to determine which of us is right or wrong. Is the glass half full or half empty? It’s all a matter of perspective. One of the greatest assets you can utilize as a coach is curiosity. The next time a coachee describes a situation and you disagree try asking, ‘how have you reached that conclusion?’, ‘What evidence do you have for that?’ or questions that similarly invite the coachee to really examine things.

‘Right, let’s move on’

The final trap is moving on from Reality too quickly. There’s real insight to be gained in this part of the questioning sequence but it might need some time.

Other useful questions you can try at the Reality stage include:

  • How do you know your perception is accurate?
  • What do you think in that situation?
  • What do you feel in that situation?
  • What other factors are relevant?
  • Who else is relevant?
  • What is their perception of the situation?



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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2 Responses

  1. Hi Matt,
    always good to see your common sense advice. I guess another linked trap is not holding the silence long enough! cheers

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