Coaching Yourself

by Melanie Greene

How to coach yourself

Coaching yourself is a skill and it needs practising. Like any skill, it will eventually become habitual and part of how you think and operate from day to day.

What does it involve?

It involves reflecting on what you are doing day to day or on courses that you have attended. The aim is to identify what you have learned and plan how you can put that learning into practice. Perhaps, for example, you have chaired a meeting that was particularly difficult. You would spend a few minutes afterwards reflecting on

  • What you did that went well
  • How else you could have handled it
  • When and where you might apply what you have learned.

For some people, this will be a daily activity, while others turn to it during a crisis or challenging time, to reflect on what they need to do next. Different people practise self coaching in different ways. You need to find a way that suits you.

It can involve:

  • Self observation and reflection
  • Asking for and using feedback
  • Planning out what you want to do in different situations and then observing how things have gone
  • Realistically and constructively debriefing yourself after events to learn from your successes, mistakes or challenging times.

Coaching yourself can happen in a number of ways:

Being proactive

This might involve planning your own learning and development at the beginning of the year, month or week. Or you might want to plan and think ahead before you undertake a particular project or task.

For example, if you are carrying out a staff appraisal for the first time, you might want to reflect on the personal skills that you are bringing to the process and any of your own potential weaknesses that you will need to bear in mind and keep in check during the meeting.

Or maybe the last project you managed did not go very smoothly, in which case you might want to plan out how you will manage the next one, basing your plan on the lessons learned from your previous experience.

Increasing your self awareness

The more aware you are of yourself and what is going on around you, the more you will learn from day-to-day situations. You need to be aware of how you think, feel and behave, as well as other people’s behaviour and reactions to situations.

If you think you are not very aware of yourself and what is happening around you, practise the following process. Check in with yourself and take note of how you are feeling, what you are thinking and how this is affecting your behaviour at all or some of the following times:

  • Before, during and at the end of the day
  • Before you go into situations that you find challenging
  • After situations that have either gone well or that you have found difficult to handle.

You can do this in your head, but some people prefer to have a note book to jot down their thoughts.


Stop now and check in with yourself:

  • What are you thinking?
  • How are you feeling?
  • How are your thoughts and feelings affecting your behaviour and performance?

Drawing on your own inner wisdom

You might be asking what on earth is meant by ‘inner wisdom’. It is evident at those times when you instinctively know exactly what to say or do in a situation. It is always there, but often gets lost in our busy lives or when we get anxious, stressed, angry or negative in some way. When we feel any such negative emotions, it is hard to tap into our inner wisdom. Learning techniques to manage and transform these negative states will assist you in being able to step back and tap into your inner wisdom, which will in itself assist you in coaching yourself. See Managing your state in the NLP topic, and also Self management in the Emotional Intelligence topic.

Drawing on your inner wisdom enables you to know how to tackle different situations and which strategies to use. Therefore, if you are in a negative state which will block your inner wisdom, do something to change it before you make decisions or go into meetings, giving yourself a better chance of performing well and being successful.

Completing the learning cycle

All of us have most and least preferred learning styles. It is important to be aware of this, so that you complete the learning cycle and therefore increase your chances of learning from a situation. See the topic on Learning for more about this.

Challenging and being honest with yourself

Self coaching involves challenging and being honest with yourself in order to identify what works and what doesn’t work in different situations. You need to ask searching questions of yourself to identify exactly what you need to do the next time you face such a situation. The page on Realistic and constructive debriefing will assist you with this.

Asking for and using constructive feedback

It is no good asking for feedback and then not using it! Unfortunately, it is easy to dismiss what we don’t want to hear. Therefore, the more you challenge and are honest with yourself, the easier it will be to listen to and use feedback from others. However, think carefully about who you ask to give you feedback; be clear about what you want feedback on, and ensure that it is given in a constructive way. See the Feedback topic for more help on this.

Encouraging others to coach themselves?

Exhibiting the behaviour is the starting point. If others see how you do it and are aware how it benefits both you and them, they will be encouraged to do it for themselves. If you are coaching others, you can assist them, through your questions, to start the process of coaching themselves.

Key point

Encourage them to come to you with their own thoughts, observations and lessons learned, rather than just with their problems.