The 3 Phases of Reflection
1. Shift from rehearsing the story to reflection
A good way to kick-start a coaching conversation is to ask questions to find out what a person is giving their attention to, in the moment. Of course, the real agenda might be forthcoming but this will get the ball rolling. Here are the questions I like to use and borrowed from The Coaching Habit by Michael Bunjay Steiner (used with permission):
- What’s on your mind?
- What’s the real challenge for you?
- What do you want?
- How can I help?
Inevitably, the people you are developing will use this as an opportunity to share about a situation that springboards into the agenda. As a coach, you ask questions that spur the people you coach to think deeper. Oftentimes, by the end of the conversation, they will gain new insight into themselves through this reflection.
For example: You are working with a church planter to relocate to a new location. But he has not surfaced any real options. In fact, over the course of several conversations, he realizes that the options he has at his disposal are thin and this is beginning to wear on his ministry and personal tolerance levels.
Questions for rehearsing to reflection:
- What did this conversation reveal to you?
- How has your curiosity been sparked?
- What are you sensing the Holy Spirit wants you to explore further?
2. Shift from reflection to action
Reflection is so helpful, but not worth much if it is not used to make positive changes. The next step is to take the information the people you are developing have gathered about themselves from the reflection, and take action.
For example: The church planter has pursued each lead but the trail always halts in a dead end. Now he is left with a real problem. What if a new path to relocate does not emerge? This throws him into a spiral of despair and unbelief. Your task is to help him see that this is not the end of the road but just the beginning of exploring new avenues, new relationships, and new opportunities.
The trajectory of your questions must help the client think beyond his circumstances so that he can move up and out of the spiral he finds himself in. There will be some heavy lifting involved for you to challenge the church planter’s assumptions and break through the mental and spiritual blockages that are holding him back. In this scenario, the client connected with another church in the community that eventually became a partner to help him arrive at a new location.
Questions for reflection to action:
- What would you like your impact to be?
- How can you create an environment where that is possible?
- Who do you know that knows someone who could help?
- Using post-it notes, take a pen and ask the people you are working with to brainstorm as many ideas as possible and write each individual idea on a new post-it.
- Explain that the goal is quantity, not quality and that they do not need to organize these in any order.
- After a designated time to brainstorm ideas, like 5-7 minutes, ask the people you are working with to organize the post-it notes into groups formed around a similar theme or affinity
- Examples of groups around the topic of impact: social, financial, spiritual, psychological, marriage, etc.
3. Shift from Action to Transformational Learning
The final step is coming together again to discuss the results of the action. Once more, this step revolves around conversation and you asking probing and thoughtful questions. The goal is to use the results to help the people you are developing understand their growth and see the transformation that has taken place.
For example: The church planter has made a shift. There are details to work-out every week but the strategy to relocate has been positive on many fronts: uptick in visitors, stability, and a sense of momentum that comes with those two things.
Questions for Action to Transformational Learning:
- How has this experience challenged your thinking?
- What do you need to change moving forward?
- What insights do you have about your leadership?
4 Benefits to the Client
Guiding people through the reflection sequence allows them to come to their own conclusions. A-ha moments are far more powerful than simply telling a person what they need to do
2. Slow down to go fast
Life in real time rarely leaves space for deeper reflection and learning. The result is repeating the same mistakes. Helping the people you are developing to see the story frame by frame leads to greater awareness and effectiveness in future projects.
3. Prescriptive vs. Descriptive
Steps and pathways to growth are great—unless they don’t have an onramp where the people you are developing have access to understand their needs or forcing them to go in unnecessary directions. Prescriptive formulas don’t always fit the context. Instead, taking on a strategic role in a creative process allows your client to describe and process their own experiences, which leads to powerful insights.
4. Surfaces values
Processing conversations gives people you are developing the opportunity to allow values to percolate to the surface. When a person has clearly defined values, they are able to make decisions with greater confidence.
It is so clear how this young man used each step of the sequence to great effect. He was given permission to reflect. To advance his thinking from reflection into action. And then from action into a plan for transformational learning that will change the trajectory of his own life and of those around him. This is a process that will push people to think deeper, ask more questions, develop a strong vision and take action. Ultimately, this process produces results!
Gary recommends the following resources through InFocus:
Coaching Effectiveness Profile- This downloadable profile provides a comprehensive process for assessing an individual’s capacity to coach others. This is done by measuring the respondent’s coaching ability in seven categories.
Coaching Introverts or Coaching Extraverts– These separate action-oriented resources present lots of information about what it takes to coach a person who has the opposite preferences to you as a coach.