Episode 117: The Surprising Power of Self Coaching (and How to Do It Well) with Dr Claire Kaye
Problems are an inescapable part of life, especially in high-pressure jobs. Some are easy to solve; others make you feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders. You might think it’s impossible to solve these issues, but self-coaching might be exactly what you need. You may already have the answer within you without realising it.
In this episode, Claire Kaye discusses how you can use self-coaching to empower yourself. She shares actionable steps, a solid framework, and reflective questions to guide you on your self-coaching journey.
If you want to learn how to empower yourself through self-coaching, stay tuned to this episode!
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
Learn the right questions to ask yourself when practising self-coaching.
Find out how self-coaching can get you the answers you need.
Discover how to assess your emotions and what to do when you’re stuck.
[5:10] Self-Coaching for Career Development
Knowing what you want and aligning them with your values is crucial to effective self-help.
- Changing your approach and knowing where you want to end up can empower and help you feel more satisfied in your career.
[6:03] Claire: “It’s actually really easy to have those thought processes and those conversations with yourself and to end up at the place that you choose as opposed to just arriving somewhere.”
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[8:01] How to Change Your Approach to Work
Try to do more things you love in your role and lessen what you don’t.
- Collaborate with your colleagues to reduce stress.
- Keep a diary to track your mood at the end of each day. This can help you determine the change you need in order to reach your optimum level of good days at work.
[10:28] Rachel: It takes insight to understand yourself. It takes a little bit of reflection and maybe some things that you hadn’t thought of to really get to that place where you can say, ‘Well, I love doing that and I don’t love doing that. This is my strength and this is my skill.’
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[11:18] The Definition of Coaching
Coaching is a practical process involving setting goals and action steps.
- It guides you to find solutions by asking the right questions.
- Most people struggle with so much noise, both internal and external.
- You can eliminate noise, gain clarity, and regain control and focus through coaching.
- Self-help through self-coaching is about listening to and conversing with yourself.
[11:31] Claire: “Coaching is a really practical process, which involves setting goals and putting the next steps in place to allow that to happen. It’s very forward-thinking and it’s very motivating.”
[16:09] Asking Questions and Reflecting
When Claire was a GP, her trainer had started her on self-coaching.
- Not everybody has the time or money for a professional coach, so developing self-coaching skills is beneficial.
- Claire’s favourite questions are “What are you feeling?” and “If you were in this situation, what would your wisest friend say to you?”
- Writing or scaling your emotions can be helpful in your reflection.
- Ask yourself “what” questions to assess your emotions and the factors affecting them.
[19:55] Claire: “If you had a really wise friend, what would they do in your shoes?”
[27:13] Solving Problems with the 3 R’s
Fear, guilt, and avoidance are some things that might hinder you.
- Think about what you don’t want to deal with — then deal with them in smaller pieces.
- When solving problems, you can use the 3 R’s: reflect, reinvent, and rebuild.
- There’s no need to do the 3R’s all in one day; you can split them up into several days so that you won’t feel overwhelmed.
[30:48] Staying in Your Zone of Power
Know what you can control and accept what you can’t.
- You can make more impact and feel more fulfilled if you stay within your zone of power.
[30:54] Rachel: “When I am stuck is a simple zone of power exercise, which is, ‘Get a piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle — what am I in control of? And what am I not in control of?’ It’s amazing when you start to do that.”
[33:34] Silent Coaching Exercise
Grab a pen and paper.
- Think of any issue in your life right now.
- Listen to the full episode so you can answer Claire’s questions — remember that you do not need to answer all the questions!
[41:29] What to Do When You’re Stuck
- There are different methods of self-coaching for different situations.
- The most important thing is knowing the right questions to ask yourself, which you can do alone or discuss with other people.
- When you feel stuck on a particular issue, self-help can also mean consulting other resources or people.
- Sometimes, taking a break might be more productive when you feel stuck.
- Knowing your values can help you break down the problem and determine how to respond.
[44:56] Claire: “Self-coaching is very tailor-made. You can do whatever you want with it. It is essentially just asking yourself questions to move forwards, but it’s taking small snippets of time to allow that to happen.”
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[51:54] Some Resources
There are many books that you can read on self-coaching.
- Claire posts self-coaching resources and #CareerInspiration campaign on her Instagram.
[52:36] Claire: “Just starting to ask yourself questions around that will help to change your thinking as well.
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[54:05] Claire’s Top Three Tips on Self-Coaching
- Notice when things aren’t quite right.
- Pick one question you love, make it your go-to question, and answer it.
- Write the answer down. This answer will help you understand the work you need to do and whether you need help.
Claire Kaye is an Executive Coach specialising in career development and was a Portfolio GP for 16 years. She has also been the GP Advisor for BMJ LIVE and BMJ Masterclass GP Update courses since 2006.
Claire has spent 20 years developing, changing, and expanding her portfolio career, creating opportunities and connecting with many people. Her clients come from different industries, such as medicine, interior design, science, culinary and management. She provides one-to-one coaching, public speaking, podcasts, workshops, and content creation services. Claire’s mission is to help people reach their full potential by understanding what they really want.
If you want to know more about Claire’s work, check out her website. You can also connect with her through Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
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Dr Claire Kaye: Having a conversation with yourself means that you’re deeply listening to yourself — deeply, and you’re kind of having a one-way conversation with yourself, which sounds a bit strange, but it gets you into a similar zone that you would get to if you were in a coaching room, and that creates a huge shift in thinking and can be done for free on your own.
Dr Rachel Morris: Do you have some stuff going on in your life that you’ve been ignoring for far too long? Have you ever thought that coaching would be helpful, but you’re put off by the time or the expense? Do you secretly suspect that you already know what the answers to your dilemmas are? You know what to do, but you’re really stuck on how to do it. If that’s the case, then self-coaching might just be for you.
In this podcast I’m joined by Dr Claire Kaye to answer the question — can self-coaching really work? And how exactly do I do it? Claire is a former GP, now working as a careers coach, and she’s obsessed with self-coaching. We talk about how to use this technique, which is much simpler than it might sound to get you unstuck and moving forwards with any issues you might be facing. Now, whilst Claire and I totally believe in the power of coaching with a qualified coach, it can be time-consuming. With the best in the world, your coach can’t be with you seven days a week to help you think through every issue that comes along.
Now, this is where self-coaching comes in. By regularly asking yourself a set of simple yet powerful questions, it really is possible to shift your mindset and answer those questions that you’ve been avoiding. At the end of the episode, Claire even talks us through a simple self-coaching exercise, and you can get a free download of this simple self-coaching toolkit by clicking the link in the show notes. Listen to this episode if you want to find out how and when self-coaching works best, the sorts of questions you need to ask yourself, and if you want to get a simple strategy to get you started.
Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in healthcare and other high-stress jobs who want to beat burnout and work happier. I’m Dr Rachel Morris, a former GP, now working as a coach, speaker, and specialist in resilience at work. Like frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water, many of us have found that exhaustion and stress are slowly becoming the norm. But you are not a frog. You don’t have to choose between burning out or getting out. In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts — all who have an interesting take on this, and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you will live and work.
When we talk about CPD or Continuous Professional Development, we often mean updating yourself on the latest guidance, learning how to do that really difficult technical thing, or reading tons of the latest scientific journals. But I strongly believe that what you do to develop yourself in terms of increasing your self-awareness, getting crucial skills for looking after yourself or dealing with those tricky challenges in life matters as much if not more than increasing your theoretical knowledge. Actually, there’s no such thing as personal development that won’t benefit your working life too.
That’s why for every episode of You Are Not A frog that we record, we produce a short self-coaching workbook to go with the episode. It contains a short summary of the episode, links to further resources, and some questions and activities to help you reflect on what you’ve heard, and put your learning into practice. It’s totally free and will help you document your CPD, and more importantly, make a difference to your life. It’s those constant small changes that, in the end, will make a huge difference to you. You can sign up for free in the link in the show notes.
Before we start the episode, I wanted to let you know that we’re currently looking for doctors to help us run our resilience programmes in health and social care. If you love teaching and training and also have some experience in coaching, then please do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s fantastic to have with me back on the podcast again — Dr Claire Kaye. Claire is a former GP, she’s an executive coach who specialises in career development. Welcome back, Claire.
Claire: Thanks for having me.
Rachel: It’s really good to have you back. Your previous episodes have been really, really popular. I think there’s a massive appetite out there for developing our careers. When we talk about career development, I know we’re not talking about, ‘Oh, I’m desperate to change jobs, to change careers’, but actually taking control of our careers, and really crafting them to be what they need to be. I think what you bring there is the real thoughtfulness about helping people think about that because I don’t think we’re very good at doing that in healthcare, aren’t we?
Claire: No, I think a lot of us feel that we kind of get on the travelator at the beginning of our careers, and you carry on along this travelator, and it’s kind of then you end up where you end up. Actually, there’s very little thought for a lot of us about how that kind of happened. Then you get to be a consultant, or a GP, or whichever aspect of health care you’re in, and kind of turn around and go, ‘Oh, how did I end up here?’, as opposed to it being a really well-thought-through clear process that’s really aligned with your purpose and your values, and really thinking about, ‘Yeah, this is what I want and this is how I’m going to get there.’
Hopefully, we can start to change people’s approach. You might end up at the same place, but interestingly, it feels different when you arrive there because it’s actually something you’ve chosen. I think that’s really powerful and something really important. Actually, it’s really easy. I know it doesn’t sound it, but it’s actually really easy to have those thought processes and those conversations with yourself and to end up at the place that you choose as opposed to just arriving somewhere. That difference is very easy to create.
Rachel: I mean, when you go through medical school and you qualify — and I’m sure this is true of other professions as well. You just see your career in terms of, ‘Well, I’m going to be a gastroenterologist’, or, ‘I’m going to be a surgeon and I will pick my speciality’, but you don’t think about, ‘So, I want to be in a tertiary centre or a DDH. How do I want that to look in terms of what I’m actually doing day-to-day? Do I want to work less than full time so I want to have other interests within my career — perhaps teaching and training, or something else?’
I think it’s really good that we’re starting to think about all this. You’re right. You might not end up in a different place, but something about having thought about it, having made that decision — and my favourite phrase at the moment is, ‘I choose to…, so that…’ I think it’s so powerful. In fact, someone in one of our memberships was saying to me the other day that they had been off sick with stress from their work as a doctor, but they almost gave up.
But then they came across this phrase that we were talking about and the zone of power about staying in your zone of power — looking at what you can control and what you can’t. She said, ‘You know what? I am choosing to go back to work so that…’, and she had a variety of reasons. She said, ‘I feel really empowered to do that, whereas I was just going to quit. If it doesn’t work out and it’s not what I want, I will choose to leave or get a different job so that…’, and you could just see the spark in her eyes that things were completely different just from changing the mindset. I mean, the job she was going back into wasn’t really that different.
Claire: I mean, do you know what? This is so true. I love that you’ve brought this up actually because I’ve had some clients recently where, on paper, at the beginning of their coaching series, their job looks exactly the same as at the end. I had someone finished just really recently, and she’s a GP partner — she was hating it, just didn’t love it at all. Now actually, at the end of her series, she is so much more in love with her job, but doing more of what she really enjoys within that role and trying to do less of the things that she doesn’t enjoy so much. That’s really powerful.
That doesn’t mean sort of dumping on colleagues. It just means working together and going, ‘Actually, do you know what? I love seeing this group of patients and I love doing this bit, and I’m really good at this bit. I find this bit more challenging.’ Perhaps working with your colleagues in doing that give-and-take actually just really helps that approach to your role and helps you to think, ‘Gosh, there’s lots of positive things here.’ One of the things I get my clients to do is just a really simple little diary. At the end of the day, just to put a smiley face, sad face or a medium face at the end of the day — and to notice when they’ve actually had some good things happen, and to start to notice when they have had good days at work.
Just by doing that, you can go, ‘Oh my goodness, you know what 75% of the time or 50% of the time, I actually do have good days at work. That isn’t enough. What can I put in place that will get me to what my optimum is?’ That might be 60%, or 90%, or 100% — doesn’t matter, everybody’s different. But just by doing that, I notice a bit at the beginning, it’s really helpful.
Rachel: That’s fantastic. On a bit of a side note, I was talking to someone the other day, and they had done this — I can’t remember what it was, it was some sort of wellbeing at work survey and enjoyment of work survey amongst some health care professionals. I think it was in a hospital trust actually. But the really interesting thing was that 80% of the time, people were really enjoying it and people were really happy. I think we’ve been conditioned to think, ‘Oh, everyone in health care is so put upon, is so miserable at the moment, is nearing burnout.’
While I think that is a large extent true — and there are lots of people that are, actually the vast majority of us do find a lot of joy in what we do. It may just be that that 20% that we really hate or is making us miserable is sort of overwhelming the rest of it. From what you’ve said, it takes insight to understand yourself. It takes a little bit of reflection and maybe some things that you hadn’t thought of to really get to that place where you can say, ‘Well, I love doing that and I don’t love doing that. This is my strength and this is my skill.’ I must admit that I had no idea about that for myself until I went and got onto this whole coaching malarkey.
Rachel: We’re going to talk about, today, how you can do self-coaching, how you can get to these amazingly awesome insights by yourself. But first of all, I think it might be good just to talk about, actually, what is coaching in the first place, because I don’t think in healthcare we really understand what it is partly or mostly because we’ve actually never really been exposed to it properly.
Claire: I think that’s absolutely right. One of my massive passions is self-coaching, so I’m really excited to be talking about it. But you’re right — you can’t understand what self-coaching is until you know what coaching is. I always describe coaching when I’m speaking to people as being a really practical process, which involves setting goals and putting the next steps in place to allow that to happen. It’s very forward-thinking and it’s very motivating. Now, that’s kind of the bare bones, but I think really there’s much more nuance to it, which is really powerful.
I think for me, the big things are that firstly coaching allows us to extract the answers that are inside of us because it’s based on this concept that we all have the answers. When I say that and they get all, ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’, when I knew the answer is, ‘Just do it.’ But actually, the power is in having the right questions and knowing how to answer them.
Then, for me, the big thing, I have this big thing about noise, which is a bit of a bizarre concept. But I feel, and I see this a lot when people come to speak to me, that there’s a lot of noise in their heads. So the sense of, ‘On a Tuesday, I’m going to do X’, or, ‘On a Wednesday. I know what the problem is — it’s Y. Then, on Thursday, ‘Actually, it’s not Y.’ It’s, ‘Oh no, I don’t know.’ Then, it just goes round and round and round.
Then, the other bit of noise is kind of this external noise where like friends, family, relatives, colleagues all go, ‘I know what you should do, Claire. You should do this because this would be perfect for you’, and, ‘Do you know what? Why don’t you do that?’, or, ‘Come along with me and do whatever.’ Actually, so many of my clients kind of follow that thinking because it kind of lands on their lap — number one. Number two, the people around them, they trust and love. They think, ‘Well, they probably know what’s right for me. I’ll just do it.’
But all this noise, this external noise and this internal noise, basically means it’s really hard to know what the right path is and inverted commas. For me, the biggest understanding about what coaching does is it basically gives you a platform where there is no more noise. It gives you this sense of clarity, direction, focus where you’re just really clear about what you want.
It comes back to what you were saying before about this sense of choice, of control, of influence. It might be that you end up in exactly the same place as you would have done anyway, but there’s just this overwhelming sense of control and focus that’s just so calming and so motivating in the same breath.
Rachel: I love that — eliminating the external noise for a start, which is never really that helpful. But you’re right, it’s the internal noise that really confuses us. For me, I think the real benefit of coaching as well is really, really simple. It’s this concept of active listening and the concept that a lot of us — not all of us need to talk — to know what we’re thinking, this sort of external processing, particularly if you’re an extrovert on the sort of Myers-Briggs type indicator scale.
There’s a pretty quote from Peter Ustinov, which is, ‘I love being interviewed. It lets me know what I’m thinking.’ We’ve all had that time where we’ve just been chatting to a friend who’s been really listening, and we’ve suddenly come up with an answer. We thought, ‘Well, how come I couldn’t come up with that myself?’ But actually, the process of saying what’s in your head and getting stuff out there and getting insights is so, so helpful.
Claire: I suppose that brings us really nicely to self-coaching because having a conversation with yourself, which is essentially what self-coaching is — I can give you a more complex definition in a minute, but that’s essentially what it is. It means that you’re deeply listening to yourself, like deeply. You’re kind of having a one-way conversation with yourself, which sounds a bit strange, but it gets you into a similar zone that you would get to if you were in a coaching room. That creates a huge shift in thinking and can be done for free on your own, and is really easy to access.
Rachel: That’s fantastic news, isn’t it? Because while both of us would advocate getting some coaching if you can afford it because it can be really expensive, although there are lots and lots of free schemes around there and available at the moment, which is just fantastic. It takes a while, it takes sort of one to two hours per session, and you have them at prescribed times.
Quite often, you come up against something that you need to sort out in the next 24 hours. With the best one in the world — with the best coach, you can’t really just bring them up and go, ‘Quick, have you got 2 hours free?’, and you’ve got a clinic starting and whatever. I think, to be able to get good at self-coaching as a both — and it’s normal coaching as well — is really, really important. I know you’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, Claire. Have you got much experience of self-coaching yourself then?
Claire: I do all the time. I’m obsessed. Actually, I was thinking about it before I came on today to do this podcast with you about when I first experienced self-coaching. It goes back to when I was a registrar to my trainer and when I was a GP. She was very much involved with the narrative approach to the consultation and do all of that. That was how she did her consultations.
But I don’t know whether it was consciously or unconsciously — she was clearly into coaching. Whenever I used to knock on her door and say, ‘Oh, I’m really stuck with this and I don’t know what to do. Is this the right management?’, and all those self-doubt moments. She had her first question to me. She’d say, ‘Claire, what do you think you should do in this situation?’ Every time I go, ‘Oh, can’t you just answer me. I just need you to tell me if it’s okay.’ Then, I’d answer her and she’d go, ‘Oh, there you go then.’
That question has stuck in my head and has actually been part of my consultations with every single patient I have ever seen, and has been one of the most useful things she’s ever done for me. It has actually transformed my career because I use that question all the time and I use that question going forwards. It really made me think when I was thinking about this today when I was coming on here, ‘Actually, I’ve been self-coaching for probably 25 years without knowing it.’ Just asking yourself questions to change your mindset, and to grow and to develop.
The definition — well, one of the definitions that I was looking at was that ‘self-coaching is the process of guiding our growth and development, particularly through periods of transition in both professional and personal realms’, and that’s by Ed Battista. Now, that’s great, and I think that’s good for me. I’m a simple soul: it’s basically just asking yourself questions to move forward, and it feels great. I just think that it’s something I’m very passionate about, it’s something I work a lot with my clients, and I give them tools and tricks that are tailor-made to them so that they can use it to move forwards.
As you say, you can have a coach, and that’s great, but not everybody has access to that. There are lots of things you can do yourself. Even if you are having coaching — as you say, your coach isn’t going to be there for life. You need these techniques which are really simple just to have a go. If you can’t do the work yourself, if it’s a really big problem, then you can say, actually, ‘You know what? I’ve done it as much as I can, but actually, I need a bit of help.’
I’m not really, really good at being really reflective for long periods of time. I think we’ve talked about this before. I know I should be in my profession, but I’m really not. I just do it in really bite-sized ways, and I have a few favourite questions which I ask myself that really change my thinking. One of my favourite ones is, ‘What are you feeling?’
Because if you’re in a situation you just feel either, ‘Err!’, or, ‘Ugh!’, or really unsettled, or whatever your noise is when you just don’t feel right — by labelling your emotion, you can go, ‘Oh that’s it. I know what… The problem is here. What do I need to do next? Who might I need to help me? What are the resources I might need? How could I address this differently? Why am time be feeling like this?’ All those sorts of things. But labelling the emotion for me is really useful. That would be one of my favourite questions.
Another one which I absolutely love — again, these are like bite-sized. I don’t have to do a whole series of things — just a little bite-size. But this is one of my favourite ones is, ‘If you were in this situation, what would your wisest friend say to you?’ That, to me, is like transformation. I’ve done this multiple times — and my wise friend is so wise, she’s always got something fabulous to say, or rather rude sometimes as well. But that’s so helpful. So helpful.
Rachel: I love those questions. I’m writing them down as we go — what are you feeling? If you were in this situation, what would your wisest friend say to you? I love that. That’s a variant on one of my favourite coaching questions, which is, ‘What advice would you give to someone else in exactly the same situation as you?’ It’s amazing how just that external perspective. Even though it’s your perspective, but you’re thinking of it as an external perspective — really unlocks stuff, doesn’t it?
Claire: It does. I think the other biggest tip I’ve got about self-coaching is, ideally, if you can write stuff down. It’s all very well going, ‘Oh, what am I feeling?’ Then, ‘Well, I’m probably feeling…’, whatever. Then, you maybe come up with something, but it’s a little bit willy. But when you’ve got to write the word down ‘angry’, or ‘deflated’, or ‘depleted’, or whatever it is, actually seeing it on paper helps you to think, ‘Gosh, why am I feeling like that? What is it about this situation that is causing me to feel this way?’
I think the biggest tip I’ve got about self-coaching is even if you only have 5 minutes, just write the answers down to the questions that you’re asking yourself — and that creates huge change. If you really can’t use words, if you’re not a wordy person, I would do a lot of scaling questions as well with people. If you give scaling questions — it’s just giving yourself a mark out of ten.
So you might say — if ten is feeling really fantastic about something, and nought is feeling really awful about something, you might just start something about, ‘How am I feeling about this situation?’ And you might say, ‘I’m feeling two out of ten.’ Then you say, ‘Well, what is it about this situation that makes me feel ‘two’? What does ‘two’ mean to me? What would make it a ten? What do I need to put in place to allow that to happen?
If you’re not a wordy person and you prefer numbers, I find that scaling technique really helpful I do a lot of that with my clients. It works really well and it takes two seconds.
Rachel: That’s interesting. I love the idea of scaling — nought to ten, or one to ten. Actually, some people say, ‘Start at one’, because if people say, ‘Nought’, you’ve got nowhere to go. But if you start at one, then you can say, ‘Well, why is that a one, not a nought? Are there any good things in there?’ Little trick of the trade. But I think that’s really powerful because I think people are slightly put off stuff like this because of reflection and reflective practice. In fact, I was reading a really useful article in the Harvard Business Review today, which I’ve put in our Facebook group — all about reflection and why it’s so powerful.
People say all the time, ‘Oh, you should do journaling’, ‘You should do reflection and stuff.’ The idea of just journaling for journaling’s sake, I think of someone sitting down now writing reams and a diary, ‘Dear diary, this is what happened to me today.’ But actually what you’re talking about is a really amazing form of reflective practice that actually is going to be really, really useful.
Claire: You know what I say to people? Just in their diary — to have in your electronic diary on your phone if that’s what you do is to have, on the first Monday of the month or whatever day suits you, just literally your five-minute check-in. Then, you would have it in different areas of your life and just say, you know, ‘How am I?’ This is one of my favourite ones is just say, ‘How am I doing?’
Out of ten, you would have your number. If you’re kind of starting off in January, you’re an eight, and then suddenly by March you were five, then you’re going to start to think to yourself, ‘Okay, hang on a minute. What’s changed? Why am I feeling differently? What do I need to put back in place that perhaps was in place before that slipped? Or what else do I need to consider in this situation?’ If you’re stuck for a question — I mean, we will go through some examples of questions, I’m sure, later. Doing a few now.
But the easiest questions to ask start with a ‘what’. Whatever you’re thinking, put a ‘what’ in first, and it usually will create good thinking. It’s just a nice open question. But if you can’t think of how to start it, ‘What is a great word?’ Pretty much you can stick what on the front of anything and you’ll get a great coach-y question.
When you see your numbers slipping from an eight to a five out of ten, you can say, ‘What’s going on?’ There’s a nice ‘what’ question. That just starts to shift your mindset. You might sit there and your first reaction, particularly if you’ve got a piece of paper, is, ‘I don’t know.’ Then you might say, ‘Well, what would help me to know?’ Even things like that — just stick a ‘what’ in front of everything and it can help to create new thinking.
Rachel: I guess that’s a little bit like the five ‘whys’ that they talk about if there’s an issue. I think this comes from Japanese engineering, actually, ‘So why have we had this issue?’, ‘Okay, well, it’s because I know the paint didn’t mix very well’, ‘Why didn’t the paint mix very well?’, ‘Well, I guess because it’s got the wrong thing have led to this…’ or whatever. ‘Why is that…?’, not that you use lead in paint anymore anyway. ‘Well, why is that?’ Then, you keep going the five ‘whys’.
But maybe you can have the five ‘whats’, ‘Okay, what factors cause that?’ Maybe those factors will… ‘Okay, what led to that?’ I love that — asking the ‘what’ questions. Another thing that someone said once — I think it was Dr Karen Castille because we’ve talked about self-coaching on the podcast before, and she’s written The Self-Coaching Handbook, which is fantastic actually. There’s a whole list of questions that you can ask — really quite detailed questions.
She said, actually, ‘If you haven’t really got much time and you’re really stuck, just sit down and write a list of everything you’re stuck with and the questions that you can’t answer. Just write them down that you really don’t know the answer to. Then, sit down and answer them.’ That’s interesting. I tried it one day, and you know what? It was really interesting because I did know the answer.
There was an issue with somebody I worked with and I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do about this.’ Actually, I did know what to do about it. It was, ‘I was frightened to do what I needed to do about it.’ Then, it was like, ‘Okay, What do I need to do? How am I going to do this best?’ I always think, in this context, is somebody called Donald Miller, who’s written an amazing business book called Business Made Simple. There’s lots of little videos. I encourage anybody to check that out about how to develop yourself.
One of his little videos was all about, ‘Stop choosing to be confused’, which was really interesting. It was the question that a coach had asked him. Once again, he had an issue with a really difficult employee, and he’s like, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ The coach said, ‘You know exactly what to do. That’s not the issue, actually. What you don’t know is how to do it. There’s lots of things that are stopping you from doing what you know you really need to do. Now, do you think that’s the case for most people when it comes to self-coaching — that they sort of do know what they want to do, but they’re confused because of all these other factors?
Claire: Definitely. I think naturally we all have these blocks, which might be fear, it might be guilt, it might be just that sense of avoiding doing something — you try not to think about the things that are hardest. But actually, one of the best ways to move forwards is to look at the things that are most — the hardest bit for you. If you’re looking at something and actually going, ‘Actually, this is the bit I most don’t want to address today’, that’s the bit you need to address.
But that doesn’t have to be this sort of heartfelt, horrendous, traumatic experience; it could just be done in little bite-sized pieces. I think that’s really the key. I use a much bigger framework for bigger problems, which I call my three Rs. That’s also really useful for looking at the bigger picture of the self-coaching concept if you like.
My first one is the ‘reflect’ bit, which is kind of what we’re talking about. Then, to move forward once you’ve done the reflecting bit is the next R, which is the ‘reinvent’ bit, which is where you imagine that you have your own fairy godmother, and, ‘What would good look like if I could wave a magic wand and move forward?’ Those sort of questions, ‘In five years time, what would I want my perfect week be?’ Or what those… Sort of in a perfect world, forget practicalities, ‘What would the situation be like?’ A bit like how you had your birds, and then another come.
Then, the third R is the ‘rebuild’, which is the practical bit, which is then you start to ask yourself more practical questions — a bit like how you were saying just then about, ‘How am I going to address this? What resources do I need in order to move forwards? You don’t have to do the three Rs altogether. If you’re that sort of person that enjoys it, great — sit down for an hour and do that. But actually, you don’t have to do it in one big chunk.
You might say, ‘Today, I’m going to do a bit of reflecting. I spend 5 minutes reflecting on this issue that I don’t want to think about, and try and understand what’s the crux of it?’ Then, you might say, ‘Right, I’m going to spend the next time. I’ll sit down for 5 minutes. I’m going to do the, “Okay, in a perfect world, what do I want this situation to look like?”’ Like you were saying with your colleague and what are you going to do, ‘What would good look like in that situation?’
Then, the third bit, and that’s another point you might say, ‘Okay, we’re going to rebuild. What do I need to put in place to make this reality come to fruition?’ Actually, the practical bit doesn’t have to be la-la-land; it’s almost better if it isn’t. It’s actually, ‘Okay, well, how much am I willing to accept here that this isn’t perfection? Is 80% good enough?’ The answer may be yes or no. Actually, it needs to be 90%, or actually 50% is fine — but it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect to be acceptable. What you’re willing to accept is really useful as well.
I suppose that brings us back to a little bit about what you were saying with — that person you were talking about that was back in their work and really enjoying it again. A bit like my client that actually their acceptance levels had changed — so understanding what you’re prepared to accept, not as a sort of doormat, but as a kind of actually, ‘I can accept this because it gives me financial stability, I can play with my kids, it’s close to home, and I’m working part-time. Actually, it’s fine, and I’m doing lots of other things outside of work that really stimulating. Actually, I can think about this differently.’
Those sort of things can be done really systematically using the three Rs, and it tends to be — if you’re trying to do a bigger piece of work, it can be helpful to direct yourself forwards.
Rachel: I love that framework of the three Rs, and that’s really, really helpful. Something that I find really helpful when I am stuck is a simple zone of power exercise, which is, ‘Get a piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle — what am I in control of? And what am I not in control of?’ It’s amazing when you start to do that. The amount of things that we’re obsessing about and worrying about that literally we can’t do anything about.
Again, there’s the acceptance piece of, ‘I’m choosing to…. so that…Then, I’ll accept bits that I don’t like.’ But there’s also the acceptance piece of — actually, literally nothing I can do about this. Actually, that’s one of the things I’m going to have to accept. I could rally against it, but that’s just going to cause me stress and upset because I can’t change it. Then, you notice, ‘Well, what is in my zone of power? Then, those are the things I’m going to focus on.’
Claire: Definitely. I was working with somebody the other day and it was really interesting — she’s a consultant in the NHS. She was spending so much effort and time trying to change the whole of the NHS — which of course, with the greatest will in the world, one person, however wonderful they are, cannot do that. Actually, when she realised that there were certain things that she was essentially hitting her head against a brick wall, actually if she used her energy on the things that she did have influence over, there would be far greater change.
Actually, when she realised that that was hugely powerful because she could move away from doing the thing that was just so frustrating and not getting anywhere and just move, as you say, back into her zone of control and her zone of power and say, ‘Actually, I can’t influence these bits. But if I just let that bit go. and by doing this bit, I’ll have more influence overall.’
That’s a very strong Stephen Covey message from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I really love his book. I know it’s 40 years old now, but it’s got such incredible, useful concepts that kind of do underpin, I suppose, a lot of self-coaching as well, and coaching. So I think there’s lots in that’s really, really helpful.
Rachel: I think that book is a complete timeless classic.
Claire: It is.
Rachel: I encourage anybody to read. Actually, I think it was almost the first book on self-development that I ever read. Then I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is so helpful.’ That got me onto all of the other stuff as well. So I encourage people to have a look at that if you want to really understand some of those principles.
But, Claire, I’m looking at this thinking, ‘What people probably need to get started is a bit of a framework.’ Because it is quite difficult just to sit down and just randomly sort of think about the questions you need to ask yourself, particularly when you haven’t got experience of coaching. Do you have a bit of a framework that you could share with us?
Claire: I think what might be quite nice is to maybe do a silent coaching exercise. This isn’t my exercise, it’s one that was done on a course I went on, which I thought was really useful. I’ve done it a lot in seminars and with clients, and it’s really helpful. It’s based on the GROW model, which a lot of coaching is based on. That’s kind of a basic coaching model if you like. GROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options, and Will.
Basically what it does is it looks at what your goals are, what the reality of the situation is, what the options are, and what you will do. GROW has its place. I think for me personally, as a coach, I don’t use it that often. But I think in self-coaching, it does provide quite a nice, simple framework to start with as long as you don’t make yourself necessarily do it in that order because it just needs to come as it comes.
I think it might be useful if you’re up for it to do a little silent coaching exercise, which will do in real-time. What I’d like people to do is to grab a pen and paper. What I’m going to do is read out some questions, and I’d like you to write down the answer to those questions that you come up with. This exercise will probably take five to seven minutes — something like that. I just want you to be aware that I’m going to be maybe a little bit too quick for some of you and a little bit too slow for some of the others, and that’s totally fine.
Rachel: Well I think we could do Claire is make this available as a handout that people can sign up to. Really, just concentrate on the questions Claire’s asking. As she moves forwards a little bit too fast, then don’t worry — we’ll provide a handout in the link in the show notes. Actually, you’ve got the questions that you can run through in your own time as well. Just to take any anxiety of, ’I’ve got to note all of the questions so that I can use them again.’ Just listen to Claire.
I might be able to do something clever with the audio, and take this little snippet out also and put it in the PDF so people can listen back to it — just the questions if that’s helpful for people. I’m going to shut up now and let Claire lead us through a little bit of an exercise now. Okay?
Claire: Okay, Fab. What I’d like you to do is to think of an issue that’s going on for you right now. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be small — it’s whatever’s going on for you right now. It doesn’t have to be work-related necessarily. Something outside of work is actually fine. I want you just to think of that issue for a second. Just take a moment.
I want you to think about what is it that you’re trying to achieve — just write the answer down. What is it that you are trying to achieve? Imagine that you are successfully addressing your issue — what does success look and feel like? Imagine you are successfully addressing your issue — what does success look and feel like? What are the key features of this situation? What are the key features of the situation?
What assumptions are you making? Really focus on this question, it’s very important — what assumptions are you making? What, if anything, have you already done to address the situation? What, if anything, have you already done to address the situation? What else might you do? What else might you do? Here’s my favourite one — if you had a really wise friend, what would they do in your shoes? If you had a really wise friend, what would they do in your shoes?
Looking over your list of options. Which options will you commit to pursuing? Looking over your list of options, which options will you commit to pursuing? What help or support do you need? What help or support do you need? Lastly, what is the first step that you will take? What is the first step that you will take?
Now, that just took a few minutes. Some of it, y’all have been feverishly scribbling down. Other bits of it will be very easy and quick for you to answer. There’s no right way of doing it. But if you have one particular issue that you want to focus on, it can be very powerful. I saw you scribbling things away, Rachel, while we were doing this. Did you have a go at it?
Rachel: I did. It’s amazing, actually. There’s just personal issue at the moment. Actually, it’s amazing. The answer is, is I don’t have the answer, but I actually have the next step. And I think it was interesting, and I’ve got a couple of questions about this. The first one is — that ‘assumptions’ question is really helpful.
Claire: Really amazing question.
Rachel: ‘Someone’s really upset about this, they don’t want to do this.’ Actually, I don’t really know. One of the actions I’ve got is to go and really spend time with that person listening, and really finding out and helping them feel a bit more autonomy, etc., etc. That was helpful. The question that I have was over ‘what the key features of this issue’. Could you just expand on what you meant by that?
Claire: It depends on the issue, doesn’t it? If you were, say, in a work situation — I don’t know. Say the issue at the moment is your workload is too great as far as, maybe paperwork goes — let’s just take something quite defined. You might say, ‘Okay, what are the key features of this issue? Firstly, is my DocMan — I’m getting too much DocMan. There aren’t enough people to do the work. The admin staff, perhaps, aren’t as efficient as they could be. Maybe the processes aren’t in place. Maybe I’m not very good at actually understanding how to use DocMan’, those sort of things.
Just looking at what breaking it down, actually, what are the different aspects of this issue. I think that’s perhaps a less of a useful question generally, if I’m honest, but is quite less useful in relationship things, but in something that’s quite practical and kind of looking at process, actually it’s quite a useful question. I think the thing is, there’s loads of other questions you could ask. But if you’re trying to go down that route and the question doesn’t fit with your situation, you can just not do it — you don’t have to do them all. If it’s like, ‘Ooh, that’s a bizarre question, why would I ask that?’ It’s probably because it doesn’t fit into this situation. But if you were to do a different one, it probably would.
When I first did this exercise, I was kind of blown away. This is where I really realised that the writing down bit was actually vital because partly it’s fantastic seeing what you write. Secondly, you just have to make a decision about what it is that you think. You just have to go, ‘Oh, it’s this. Then, you might have lots of different things that are right written down. But then you’ll say, ‘Okay, what’s the most important here? Where’s this the priority line?’
I think this is a really useful exercise, but really there’s lots of other ways to self-coach. It doesn’t always have to be around an issue, it might just be around this sense of feeling a bit depleted and flat. This process is really useful if you have a thing. But if you’re not sure what the thing is or the thing is too big, asking a different random question like that or asking things like how might feel question, ‘How do I feel about this situation?’
Another really brilliant question is, ‘When have I felt like this before? And what did I do that helped?’ That’s a really—I mean, that’s a coaching question that we use all the time, but it’s so useful in self-coaching because you might have been in a situation where you felt deeply uncomfortable and you might be sitting there thinking, ‘I have no idea what to do.’Then, you remember when you felt like this before — in perhaps a different situation — and you think, ‘Oh, in that situation, I actually spoke to the people involved. I put in a few simple processes, and then I did lots of planning.
By doing the planning I felt much more in control and I was able to move forwards.’ You might think to yourself, ‘Ah, so hang on. It was the communication with other people and it was the planning that really moved things forwards. When I’ve been feeling like this before, communication and planning were the two tools that really helped me. How could I use communication and planning in this situation? What do I need to put in place to allow that to happen?’ It’s all really useful conversations to be having with yourself.
Rachel: Those are really fantastic questions. You almost need this sort of framework, and then some supplementary questions to ask when you don’t really know what the questions to ask is.
Claire: Exactly. I think the key with self-coaching is that it’s very tailor-made. You can do whatever you want with it. It is essentially just asking yourself questions to move forwards, but it’s taking small snippets of time to allow that to happen. It’s, ‘I’m really passionate about it.’ I think, sometimes, it can again be like, ‘I don’t know where to even start with any of that.’ In which case, that’s when…
On my Instagram, for example, that’s why I dedicate the whole of my Instagram pretty much to is around self-coaching and giving people ideas of things that they can ask themselves just to kind of go, ‘Oh yeah.’ There’s lots of people out there that wouldn’t even know the question to ask themselves even if it’s gotten written down because you kind of see a whole list of questions and think, ‘Oh, I don’t know which question today.’
By getting involved with people who are enjoying self-coaching, even if it’s friends — doesn’t have to be me, but friends who enjoy it. You might be able to throw a question out to each other on a WhatsApp group and say, ‘This is our question to answer for today.’ Just get a group of you together and do that. It’s really fun and actually doesn’t take your mind away from the job; it actually helps you to get back into the job, which is again, really important at the moment, especially how people are generally feeling.
Rachel: Claire, what if you’ve sat down — you’ve done some self-coaching, you’ve had some realisations, but actually there’s something that’s come up that you’re really stuck on. You’re finding it really difficult to move forward on. What should you do then?
Claire: I think it depends. There are lots of issues that are perhaps too big for self-coaching. I’ve got lots of people who are very insightful — who come to see me who are completely stuck from a career point of view, and they just don’t know which way to go. They’ve done a little bit of the work, but they feel like they’re sort of behind boundaries, and they always most need really difficult questions thrown at them so they can move forwards. You could have some coaching, which you’ve talked about lots of different avenues to have some coaching either within the workplace or outside of the workplace.
But there’s also books that you can read, there’s Instagram accounts that you can follow, and also, sometimes not thinking about the issue, which sounds a bit counter-intuitive but saying, ‘Okay, I’ve got to this point where I’ve done all the self-coaching I can. I don’t want to have coaching’, or, ‘I can’t afford to have coaching’, or, ‘It’s not for me’, ‘I don’t like reading books’, or, ‘I’ve read all the books that are helpful and I don’t want to do it’.
Actually, sometimes, just stopping yourself and going, ‘Okay, what might be helpful for me now to change my thinking?’ That might be having a holiday or going for a walk where you’re not thinking about it or you’re not talking about it, and that’s when often you get the epiphany. Sometimes, even though this is kind of different to the kind of self-coaching and the coaching conversation, by taking the conversation that you’ve had with yourself to somebody that you trust and say, ‘I’ve been having this conversation with myself, I’ve been trying to self-coach. This is the issue, this is what I’ve come up with. What do you think?’
Yes, it’s not self-coaching, yes, it’s not coaching — but actually sometimes by hearing the other person’s perspective and then going, ‘Oh, no, that’s not right’, or ‘Oh maybe there’s an essence to something that you’re saying there that feels quite good can also help you to move forward as long as you’re not going to multiple sources’, which goes back to the noise because then you’re kind of going back in a circle and not helping yourself. But sometimes that not thinking or taking it to somebody else and going, ‘Help me’, is good.
Rachel: I totally agree. It’s interesting because the neuroscience really backs up that — not thinking about it — because you focus on a problem for too long, you’ve got very linear brainwaves. As soon as you switch your brain off or have a good night’s sleep or you’re doing something else, your brain starts to connect across the hemispheres, and suddenly, you might have this epiphany, like you said. It really works that that adage to sleep on a problem is really helpful, but you probably need to have been working on that problem then to get that epiphany.
Claire: I think you have to be open to working on the problem. But even if it is something — let’s take a really simple situation. Say there’s a situation and you feel something, you don’t know what it is, and the one question you ask yourself is, ‘What am I feeling?’ The one answer you come up with is — I don’t know, ‘Jealousy.’ That’s a very provocative word. You can’t face the thought of deciding why you’re jealous or what it is in the situation that makes you jealous, and you just go, ‘Okay, I’m feeling jealous.’ Leave it there.
‘I can’t take it further. I don’t want to take it further, I don’t know how to take it further.’ It might be that you’re out for a walk or you’ve had your good night’s sleep or you’re two days later go, ‘I don’t. I felt jealous.’ And that’s it. That’s it — job done. It’s that simple often. It doesn’t have to be this arduous, exhausting piece of work. There’s so much more to self-coaching than this as well. I’m obsessed with people understanding their purpose and understanding why they get out of bed in the morning, because once you understand that, you can start to self-coach yourself towards your purpose — this sense of understanding your values, the three things that really underpin who you are and what your essence is.
Again, that’s the sort of thing that I think I’ve said before, ‘I kind of thought I knew what my values were, but I’ve never put the words on them. But when I put the words on them, it stands for everything for me, so I have to be in a situation that feels kind, that’s loyal, and has got integrity. And if those three things aren’t there, I can’t do it.’ That helps me to self-coach myself as well because I’ll go, ‘Hang on, maybe you’re feeling unsettled because your values aren’t aligned here. Which one isn’t aligned, Claire?’, ‘Oh, this is there’s no integrity in this situation. What needs to happen now?’
Having the foundations there are really important. I think we spoke — we did speak last time about success and understanding your definition of success, they are all forms of self-coaching. It’s just understanding this stuff about yourself and you just do it in pockets, or in big batches, or in little snippets, in whatever fits with you in your life.
Rachel: I think this is going to be really, really helpful for listeners because we’ve all got things in our life that we’re struggling with. Even if it’s not, ‘Oh, what should I be doing with my career?’ It could be, ‘How do I deal with the next-door neighbours that are causing an issue?, or ‘How do I deal with this problem here?’, or, ‘There’s a colleague at work who’s being really tricky’, or, ‘The rate has changed and I hate it, and I’m not quite sure how to raise that.’
All these little things, actually. conspire to make things difficult — just spending a little bit of time thinking about it Then, if you’re stuck — like you said, asking a wise friend, getting a bit of perspective on stuff, leaving it for a little bit, I think really, really helpful. In a minute, I’m going to ask you for your three top tips around self-coaching. But if people wanted to take this further and find out a little bit more, what could they do?
Claire: There are lots of books. I don’t have a favourite apart from Stephen Covey, so I’m not going to recommend any — I’m sure you’ve mentioned quite a few already. But they’re not, particularly about how to self-coach, they’ve just got concepts — so they’re relatively useful. Follow me on Instagram — there’s loads of things. I put loads of free resources around self-coaching all the time, and I’m running a campaign called #careerinspiration where I feature women with inspiring careers. They share their career mantra, and talk about how they have achieved what they have achieved in their career and how this career mantra underpins their career.
Essentially, it’s self-coaching. They will come up with concepts like, ‘Don’t be afraid of vulnerability’, for example. Just starting to ask yourself questions around that will help to change your thinking as well. Those sort of ideas are there. It’s just this ‘want to do it’ to actually say, ‘Actually, you know what? I’ve been in my fixed mindset, I’m stuck where I am — I don’t like it, I don’t like feeling like this. This is a really simple free tool that I can access whenever I want. Actually, it’s really simple to learn.’
Rachel: There are loads of resources out there in terms of self-development — maybe not so many about self-coaching. But I would point you to the previous episode on self-coaching as well if there’s something you’re really interested in with Dr Karen Castille. But I think what we’ll do, Claire, is we’re going to put together a download of those questions that Claire has just asked, will include a link to this episode of the podcast, but also an audio link so that you can replay those questions in your own time and just hear Claire talking through it.
Actually, Claire, it was really nice actually hearing that in your voice. It did feel like somebody else asking me the questions, even though essentially if I’d been doing that in my own time, it would have been me. We’ll put the download in the show notes, or you can find it by going to www.shapestoolkit.com/selfcoaching, and you’ll be able to get that download there, and there’ll be links to how you can access Claire and her work as well. We’ll put that there for you guys to get totally free. Claire, I’d love to hear what your three top tips for self-coaching are.
Claire: I think the first thing is: notice when things aren’t quite right. Then, pick one question that you love that’s going to be your go-to question. It might be, ‘How am I doing? What am I feeling? What’s the situation here?’ Any of those are good starting questions. Then, grab a pen, get a piece of paper, and just write the answer down. From that, you’ll know whether you need to go into a full GROW exercise, whether to go into my three Rs, whether you just need to ask yourself a random question, ‘What would my wise friends say?’ You’ll just know what’s written on that piece of paper, how much work needs to be done on this, and whether this is something you can do on your own or whether it isn’t.
Hopefully — fingers crossed — I’m going to have a book on this subject coming out soon. That will be a resource. Hopefully, that will be useful to people in due course. But it’s something that is so accessible and I really hope that people just have a go. Don’t feel that if it doesn’t go so well the first time that you can’t do it; it’s a bit like learning to drive. It takes a bit of work to begin with. Then, it just becomes really natural. When I’m feeling ‘Err!’, I just go, ‘Oh, I’m feeling “Err!”, what am I feeling? I’m feeling angry, I’m feeling sad, I’m feeling jealous, I’m feeling whatever I’m feeling.” And that’s just a great starting point.
Rachel: Fantastic tips. I think the only thing I’d add to that tip is make time to do this. Maybe schedule time in your diary to yourself. I do try and make some time to just sit down and think, even just thinking through your week. It’s one of my favourite parts of the week where I have that space and time to self-reflect and I think I’m going to start adding some self-coaching into that as well.
Thank you so much, Claire. That was so helpful. If people want to get hold of you, find out more about your work or get some coaching. Where can they go?
Claire: Well, as I’ve said, I’m on Instagram, @drclairekaye_executivecoaching. You can also catch me on my website and there’s a contact form there, which is www.drclairekaye.com, and you can just send me a note — people contact me all the time. I’m more than happy to get in touch with people. Or you can, on social media, like on Facebook, you can, again, just DM me and I’m more than happy to answer you. I’d love to hear from you.
Rachel: That’s wonderful. Like I said, we will put a link to that free self-coaching handout in the show notes. Do grab that if you’re interested in this. Claire, thank you so much. Will you come back onto the podcast?
Claire: Oh, I love it. I will, thank you.
Rachel: That’s wonderful. Have a good rest of the day and we’ll speak soon.
Claire: Take care. Thanks.
Rachel: Bye then.
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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
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