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Coaching Skills Training - The Coaching ARROW - Time for Reflection

By: Matt Somers

Management The reflection stage of the ARROW sequence provides the person being coached (the coachee) with an opportunity to reflect on what's been uncovered so far. Depending on the underlying issue and how much time is available for coaching in one session, Reflection may prove to be a minor or major piece of the whole process.

It is often in this part of the coaching process that true enlightenment happens; what some have described as 'lightbulb' moments.

Creating time is often auseful tectic here and some coaches have had great success in stopping a coaching session after Aims and Reality and leaving the coachee with certain Reflection questions to think about before they meet up again to explore Options and the Way forward.

It's important to realism that the coaching ARROW is simply a questioning framework, and it is not possible for us to coach effectively simply by reeling off the questions. The model must be used flexibly and at all times the needs and agenda of the person being coached must take priority.

We must use the Reflection stage with great care, as it may be that the coachee has been reflecting subconsciously as they have answer the questions under Aims and Reality. In truth, it is worth encouraging the people we coach to reflect continuously throughout the session and if necessary refine their aims or review the reality of the situation. Reflection is conveniently located between Reality and Options because it helps spell ARROW, but reflecting, revising, going back over and jumping forward are perfectly reasonable and indeed essential steps of working flexibly with ARROW or any other sequence.

Let's now consider the sorts of things coaches can encourage their coachees to reflect upon. When using Reflection as a defined step in the sequence I like to ask my coachee to consider how big a gap there is between their Aims and their Reality. It may be that on relflection the Aims now seem a little conservative or perhaps over optimistic. A new timeframe may need to be decided upon or some shorter term, milestone type aims generated. Similarly Reflection may expose a lack of detail in appreciating the current Reality. It is at this stage that awareness is most raised so it can be worthwhile to reflect and understand Reality more vividly.

I find the Reflection stage is a very good time to challenge any assumptions the coachee is making. Comments like "I'm just not able to do that", "senior management will never agree" or "I've tried that before and it didn't work" need challenging because they are not facts. Just because something was unsuccessful previously does not render it impossible for ever more. Senior management may not sign off the proposal but if we don't ask them the answer is already no. Nobody can know for certain that they are incapable of anything until they try. Remember the old saying; to assume makes an ASS of U and ME.

Coaches that allow their coachees time to reflect create an opportunity for a greater degree of honesty to emerge. If I ask you "Are you being totally honest with yourself?" I am not really accusing you of lying rather I'm encouraging you to go deeper. People who are unused to answering coaching questions can give superficial or lightweight answers in the first two stages (Aims and Reality). Here we can provide permission and encouragement to give more.

My personal favourite Reflection question is "What's really going on?" Many, many times I have asked this only to be met with a coy grin or a shake of the head. The answer that follows is invariably a more truthful, emphatic and revealing answer than what has come before.

My next article will build on this step by exploring how coachees can generate options.

Matt Somers is a leading "manager as coach" specialist. He advises organizations across the world on how to achieve results through coaching and is the author of Coaching at Work (John Wiley, 2006). He promotes a range of resources via his website and his popular guide "Coaching for an Easier Life" is currently available for FREE at http://www.mattsomers.com
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