Reflection: A Closer Look at Creating Change



In my last blog, I discussed how reflection can help promote change.  By recalling experiences, the coachee recreates situations that offer clues about how the coachee thought and acted at the time the situation occurred.  As before, I will use an example to help illustrate this point.

One of my coachees reflected on a situation that occurred when one of his employees failed to meet a deadline on an important project. The situation turned tense, and my coachee became angry, condescending, and demeaning toward this employee. He later learned that the missed deadline was due to circumstances outside the employee’s control. One of the coachee’s goals was to be approachable and fair with his management team. By recounting this experience, he was able to reflect not only on what he did wrong but also to consider alternative behaviors that would have been more fruitful in understanding the reasons for the missed deadline. Reflection allowed my coachee to realize he had missed not only the opportunity to solve a problem but had also fallen far short of his personal goal of being approachable. We next turned our attention to how he was going to reestablish positive rapport with his employee.

Here are some additional questions that helped in this case and will always help the coachee reframe reflected experience:

  • “What did I learn from this reflection and analysis?”  
  • “What mistakes could I have avoided by choosing a different approach?” 
  • “What could I have done differently that would bring me closer to a desired outcome?” 

Reflective coaching does not stop at recalling and analyzing past experiences; it also seeks to model desirable behavioral patterns.  Applying the new behaviors gained from reflection will enable the coachee to experience whether or not the new behaviors will lead to desired outcomes. Successful change will result from reframing reflections and applying and practicing new behaviors in new situations. It is not enough to reframe a situation in a coaching session. Applying the new behavior in new situations in real time is the true test of successful change.

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