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How coaching can help you adapt and overcome

Coach Alex Taylor by Alex Taylor
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From an evolutionary perspective, humans are the most successful species because they adapt quickly to their environment [1]. Human thinking and reflective abilities have enabled them to thrive all over the world. This ability flourishes when put in an environment that nurtures it, for instance when working with a coach. Coaching provides the space for clients to reflect and consider the barriers that may be preventing them from succeeding.

In more detail, coaching is the interaction between coach and client to improve the client's capability by increasing self-awareness and implementing new behaviours and actions [4]. Different forms of coaching can vary from life coaching, career coaching, all the way to executive coaching. Each one of these forms share the primary goal of empowering the client to achieve positive developmental change.

Self-awareness is the most important outcome of coaching. By becoming more aware of yourself and how you interact with the world around you, you will be able to overcome the obstacles that are preventing you from thriving.

The benefits of self-awareness

When someone is high in self-awareness, they recognise their thoughts, feelings, and values. More importantly, they recognise how these things can influence their behaviour [6]. A person with low self-awareness may not realise that they become blunt when stressed, leading to more arguments in the office and at home. The alternative to this is noticing this behaviour, and deciding to act in a different way to achieve a more desirable outcome. In many cases, barriers that are holding people back can be self-imposed. This can range from a lack of confidence, or ignorance to the impact of an action. By being more self-aware we begin to understand the ability we have to change our lives. We are then able to consciously think of solutions that will create our desired result.

How coaching can help build awareness

The first step to changing is being aware of what needs changing. A coach can achieve this by asking questions that challenge a person to think more deeply about their situation. This line of questioning leads to a thorough exploration, along with identification of the best actions moving forward. This can apply to workplace conflicts. If a person is struggling to interact and engage with their manager, a coach can help them identify the barriers in the relationship. They can also explore how personality differences can impact communication. Understanding these differences will help the person to communicate in a way that engages different personalities. People are inherently different. And learning how to change communication style to each personality can help to develop stronger relationships.

This is often the focus of executive coaches when working with managers. Research into coaching and leadership shows overwhelming support for the effectiveness of coaching in increasing leadership performance [4]. Executive coaching help managers develop insight into their impact on their teams, into their reactions to different personalities, and into the costs of their actions. From this insight, coaches support the executive in creating new approaches and behaviours that have a stronger impact. Through this constant re-evaluation, managers are able to become more effective leaders.

In summary, the primary value that coaching brings is helping people become more aware of themselves and the barriers stopping them from thriving. Through the practice of increased self-awareness, you will have a stronger impact on your life, and on the people around you.

Tips to increase self-awareness

Spend 5-10 minutes a day reflecting on the challenges you have faced. What helped you succeed and what may have prevented you from succeeding.

Write down three people you admire, and three people who annoy/frustrate you. Write down what they do that makes you feel that way about them. Finally, ask yourself, when have you exhibited these traits and behaviours yourself.

Ask for feedback. Being courageous enough to ask for feedback from family, peers, managers can help you understand how your behaviour impacts other people.

Mindfulness. Learn more about how you can start a mindfulness practice by downloading apps such as Calm/Headspace.


[1] Boyd, R., Richerson, P. J., & Henrich, J. (2011). The cultural niche: Why social learning is essential for human adaptation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(Supplement 2), 10918-10925.

[2] Caldwell, C., & Hayes, L. A. (2016). Self-efficacy and self-awareness: moral insights to increased leader effectiveness. Journal of Management Development.

[3] Higgs, M., & Rowland, D. (2010). Emperors with clothes on: The role of self-awareness in developing effective change leadership. Journal of Change Management, 10(4), 369-385.

[4] Kombarakaran, F. A., Yang, J. A., Baker, M. N., & Fernandes, P. B. (2008). Executive coaching: It works!. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 60(1), 78.

[5] Kress, D. M. (2008). A phenomenological study exploring executive coaching: Understanding perceptions of self-awareness and leadership behavior changes (Doctoral dissertation, University of Phoenix).

[6] Roelofs, B. (2019). How Shadow Coaching helps Leaders to Improve their Performance on the Job in Real-Time. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring, 17.

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