All too often in business, we talk about specific coaching models but rarely do we truly put these into practice and become inspirational coaches. We are constantly exposed to an abundance of people showing us how to apply coaching in a wide variety of situations and, regardless of circumstance, the best coaches follow the same core coaching process. A great place to start is by listening to the coach in your head.
Self-talk is the world’s most mysterious language. We all do it constantly – you know that whisper that comes into your head at key moments, the one that says, okay, take a breath…keep calm…now go! – but it happens mostly unconsciously, and nobody talks about it.
Good self-talk functions are like an early-warning radar system, helping us to identify key moves and navigate problems. Done well it’s like having a coach inside your head.
But here’s the question: if self-talk is a good thing, how do we get better at it? Is it possible to teach it, the same way you’d learn any language? With that in mind, here are a few tips.
1. Keep it short and chunky.
Good self-talk is never chatty or complicated. It divides the skill into key moves and uses those as clear cues.
For example, with a golf swing:
Say this: “Smooth arms, still head.”
Not this: “Okay, let’s keep the takeaway smooth, relax your posture, make sure to keep your head still through the backswing.”
2. Make it vivid.
The more vivid the image, the easier it is to remember, and to do. For example, with a leader about to deliver a presentation:
Say this: “Stand like a tree.”
Not this: “Make sure you stand up straight.”
3. Keep it positive.
Don’t focus on what you want to avoid, but on what you want to accomplish. For example, before meeting an important client:
Say this: “Take your time, listen to them.”
Not this: “Don’t rush; don’t forget the main points.”
Finally, and maybe most usefully, fluent self-talkers don’t just talk to themselves during their performance, they also do it before and after. Self-talk is like a game tape: you use it to preview what’s going to happen, and then afterwards you use it again to relive what happened and figure out how you might do it better next time.
This blog is adapted from the Raise the Bar book ‘Raising the Bar: A Leader’s Guide’ by bestselling author Damian Hughes. The book takes twenty-five great lessons from the most engaging leaders.
We run award-winning learning and development programmes including our acclaimed High-Performance Coaching Masterclass, which enables delegates to hone their abilities as a coach to achieve high levels of performance in others, don’t just take our word for it, click here to see our case study.