Insight: The Essence of Coaching

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Coaching, in its essence, enables clients to gain insight into the

underlying dynamics of the challenges that they face, and guides

them to apply the insights in the real world to create the desired

change. The following case study illustrates how this process of

translating insight into action plays out in a coaching conversation.

Ted came into a coaching session wanting to work with his coach

on ways to improve a difficult but important relationship with a

coworker, Frank. His coach asked Ted questions that painted the

picture of what was going on in the relationship and also that helped

Ted get in touch with aspects of the relationship that were lying

below the surface. The coach asked Ted to look at the relationship

from Frank’s point of view. He also worked with Ted to surface

assumptions or judgments that Ted was holding about his coworker.

Some of these avenues of questioning surfaced more insights than

others. It is the coach’s job to guide the coaching conversation in

order to find where the richest insights are located. As Ted examined

the situation from different angles he realized that he had inadvertently

left Frank out of some important communications and that

some of the difficulty they were having probably stemmed from

Frank’s reaction to this perceived slight.

The coach then encouraged Ted to create a plan of action to apply

this newfound insight to attempt to improve the situation. Ted

decided to address this issue directly with Frank and apologize for

his oversight. He also decided to take steps to ensure that Frank was

included in important communications in the future. This action

alone did not resolve the friction completely, but it was a step in the

right direction. Ted understood that he needed to continue to

monitor the situation by checking in with Frank and making his

own observations about their interactions. As he reflected on what

was working and what was not, Ted continued to make adjustments

in how he interacted with Frank.

This simple example illustrates the iterative nature of learning

from insight. Clients reflect on their experiences, gain insight,

and translate their insights into action plans that lead to new experiences.

This process continues until clients achieve the desired

outcome. In transformational coaching, the coaches guide their

clients to establish this pattern of mining experiences for insights.

As clients gain more facility at learning from their own experiences,

coaches encourage their clients to tap into even deeper levels of

insight to support larger and more complex outcomes.