• Helen Burt Iain McCormick

Self reflection for coaches: a powerful development tool


Self reflection by coaches about their work and its impact can be a powerful process for turning experience into insight. This is the heart of a new model of professional development called Self Practice Self Reflection (SPSR) for Coaches.


A key requirement of any group-based reflection process for coaches is the creation of psychological safety in which participants can be themselves without fear of negative consequences for their self esteem, status or career. There needs to be a shared belief from all the group that confidentiality is respected and that interpersonal sharing is safe. Everyone must feel accepted and respected. After psychological safety has been established the SPSR process can move on to an exploration of a practical model of coaching such as ‘Coaching Plain & Simple’ by Peter Szabo and Daniel Meier (2009).

The best sort of reflection on coaching is done in a practical environment where the coach brings up a personal issue or challenge they want to better deal with. Being coached in front of a group of trusted peers takes courage, which is very much like the courage our clients need in order to share their vulnerabilities with us as coaches. This starting point for self reflection can be powerful and lead to a real understanding that while the coach may see 10 or even 20 clients a week, for each client the coaching is a highly personal or even intimate experience.


Reflecting on what it is like to be a client and facing an unknown situation leads to a deep understanding that can then be applied to the coaches own work. For example understanding that the coaching process is a not a linear or smooth process but is often punctuated by silences where the coach is thinking what to ask or say next. Talking about the power of silence leads to superficial intellectual knowledge but experiencing the reality of this leads to deep insight.


Preliminary data collected on self practice self reflection for coaches suggests the process is useful to assist coaches with their own issues as well as to improve their coaching impact on clients.

Iain McCormick - Executive Coaching Centre 021 575449

Photo credit: Dan Boțan

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