Reflective Insight

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The first source of insight that clients work with is reflective insight:

the ability to step back from an experience and notice what went

well and what did not. The learning comes through translating

insights into logical corrective actions, these actions then improve

the outcomes of the next experience.

Nora came to her coaching call complaining that she was getting

behind on her work. After some dialogue Nora and her coach identified

Nora’s difficulty in making decisions in a timely fashion as

being a root cause for her situation. Considered a high potential

employee, Nora had been moved from finance into an operations

role to expand her leadership experience. Nora’s coach asked her to

reflect upon how she had made decisions in her previous role. Nora

noted that she felt comfortable making decisions when she had the

numbers in front of her. Nora’s coach then asked if it was possible

to get that level of detail in her new role and Nora conceded that it

was not. There were too many gray areas to achieve that level of certainty.

Nora’s coach helped her to see that needing to have “all the

data” was impeding her ability to manage effectively in a more fluid

environment. Through their coaching dialogue Nora concluded that

she needed be realistic about the data that she could get in a reasonable

time frame and she needed to become more comfortable

making decisions without all the detail. Armed with this new awareness,

Nora can begin to experiment with making decisions more

quickly. She will need to go through several iterations of making

decisions and reflecting upon what information is essential versus

what information is nice to have before she finds the approach that

is right for her.

In order to be able to access reflective insight, clients need to step

out of the fast lane and focus long enough to ask and answer questions

that surface insight. As clients invest more time in coaching

relationships, they naturally integrate the reflective process into their

decision making and open the door to the next level of insight.

Emotional Insight

The next source of insight is emotional insight, which comes from

the ability to detect and decipher the information received through

emotions. Our emotions convey multiple levels of information, yet

many people have tuned out this powerful source of insight and

require some practice to bring it back online. When we tune into

our emotions and the emotional context of our relationships, we

start to notice underlying dynamics that greatly impact how we

interact. Some people may be uncomfortable with or feel unprepared

to deal with their own emotions and the emotional elements

of their relationships. As a result, they develop habits of sidestepping

or burying feelings rather than acknowledging that their feelings

and the feelings of others are valid and play an essential role in

forging strong, lasting professional relationships.

For example, in a weekly staff meeting, Joe made an off-hand

remark about an idea being proposed by Sandra, another team

member. Sandra left the staff meeting steaming about Joe’s

comment. After the meeting, Sandra spoke with her coach about

the experience, and she was clearly still upset about the situation.

Sandra’s coach asked her what bothered her most about what had

transpired. After a moment of reflection, Sandra conceded that it

was not so much what Joe said, but the disparaging tone that was

used that made her angry. Sandra acknowledged that she cared

deeply about the project she was proposing and had been working

on it intensively on her own for some time. Her coach asked her to

reflect on what might cause Joe to want to derail or diminish the

project. Through this conversation, Sandra realized that her project

would impact Joe’s area in some significant ways, and she had not

invested much time or effort in cultivating Joe’s support. She had a

new perspective on what happened at the meeting and worked with

her coach to role-play some different scenarios for conducting conversations

to smooth out her relationship with Joe and begin to

build support for the project.

By paying attention to her own feelings and reflecting on what

transpired in the meeting, Sandra was able to see that she needed to

take action. If Sandra had just decided to ignore the remark or lash

out at Joe in the next meeting, she would likely have exacerbated the

discord and could have jeopardized her project even further. Emotional

insight provides valuable clues about underlying issues that

can get in the way of realizing our aspirations.