Warning – Unconscious Bias Can Seriously Damage Your Coaching Practice!

The human brain is amazing. It has the capacity to assimilate a variety of information and down load it without us even realising it. We all will have experienced many different things throughout our lives through a variety of stimuli from different sources, family and loved ones, work, friends, social media, taste, touch, feel and hear.

The brain downloads this stimulus which in turn make us able to make quick decisions and react quickly based on the experiences that we have unconsciously stored.

Unconscious Bias often gets a bad press, but it is not all bad. The quick thinking and reactions of our unconscious bias can often get us out of some difficulties.

So how can unconscious bias be detrimental to my Coaching practice?

In the world of coaching, Passmore and Mortimer argue that the use of coaching theories and models that we use can take more precedence than ethics (2011). Research also suggests that organisations and individuals that believe that they have a fair and ethical practice tend to have the poorest outcomes in this regard. Being an authentic coach is key, and this can be enhanced by having a raised self-awareness of how one practices their coaching skills.

Organisational impact

From another perspective, an over reliance on one’s unconscious bias can create institutional challenges. Let us look at recruitment practices …

Example: An organisation advertises for a post and a wide range of diverse candidates are interviewed. The interviewers (panel) are all from a similar social class, same region, UK white, heterosexual, female under 35 with children and practice the same faith. Many studies have suggested that such a panel line up would largely benefit a candidate of a similar likeness as panel.

Unless Unconscious Bias is addressed, the selection of the best candidate chosen from a wide selection would not be possible as the use of unconscious bias colours our decision making (Royal Society, 2015).

Ok, so as a Coach, what is the best way to minimise the use of my unconscious bias?

A good starting point is to become more self-aware of your own unconscious bias. Becoming more self-aware can lessen the impact of your unconscious bias taking precedence over your conscious bias.

Come and join me at The 3 Shires Coaching group on Monday 3rd July, where I will be facilitating the evening on the theme of Unconscious Bias, and where I will be sharing several top tips to help raise greater awareness of Unconscious Bias and its impact on your Coaching practice.

Posted by Beverley Powell

Beverley Powell is a UK accredited Life Coach specialising in organisational development, diversity and inclusion, and is also a Leadership Associate for the NHS Yorkshire and Humber Leadership Academy. A national award winner by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) 2014 as a BME Pioneer for her work around strategic inclusion within the National Health Service(NHS). Also, nationally recognised by NHS Employers 2014 for work on strategically embedding Diversity through the workforce and aligning to business objectives.

Royal Society YouTube November 2015 [accessed June 2017]

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Tools For Reflective Practice

Open Notebook or JournalLearning logs and journals are very much in vogue at the moment … whether you’re using one to reflect on your progress towards this year’s goals, or just to record and learn from things that happen on a day-to-day basis.

The process of recording your thoughts will involve asking and answering some searching questions. The questions you ask are key to the outcomes you’ll get from this reflective/journalling process.

There are lots of reflective practice models around that will help and support your reflective thinking. Below I’ve detailed 2 for your perusal. I like to use Rolfe’s model for general reflections, and Gibbs’ model when something more significant has happened … something I want to explore in more detail & gain greater learning from.

Rolfe’s* Model: The 3 Whats

What? (Description)

3d person character sitting on a question mark

  • What happened?
  • Who was involved?

So what ? (Interpretation)

  • What is the most important/relevant/useful bit of this event (or idea/situation)?
  • How can it be explained?
  • How is it similar to (or different from) others?

What next? (Outcome)

  • What have I learned?
  • How can it be applied in the future?

[*I’ve also seen this model attributed to Driscoll, but both stem from Terry Borton’s work in 1970.]

Gibbs’ Model

This is broken down into 6 parts and provides the opportunity to be more critical than with Rolfe’s model:

1. Description – What happened?

Just the facts! Don’t make judgements yet, just describe.

2. Feelings – What were your reactions and what did you feel?

Be honest about these. How did your feelings affect your actions?

3. Evaluation – What was good or bad about the situation/experience?

Now you can make value judgements. So what was positive or negative? Why do you think this?

4. Analysis – What sense can you make of the situation?

What was really going on? Try to find the key issue.

Here you can bring in ideas from outside experience to help you … Does any theory you know about this area help you make more sense of what happened? And could you use theory to help improve this aspect in the future?

bigstock-The-question-What-Have-You-Lea-431400675. Conclusion

Generally speaking … what can you conclude from the experience and the analyses you’ve done?

Specifically … what can you conclude about your unique personal situation, or way of working?

6. Action plan

What are you going to do differently in a similar situation in the future?

What steps are you going to take, based on what you’ve learnt? What will you do first?

Are there any other models that you particularly like / use?

What kinds of events / situations / ideas would you use a reflective model for?

Posted by Debbie Inglis

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7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches

 Motivation_7 habitsAt a recent 3 Shires Meeting a group of coaches brainstormed what the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches” would be. MOTIVATION came out as a habit.

During a coaching session this week my client said “I always feel better when I have spent time with you because you MOTIVATE me”. This got me thinking….. do I, or am I the catalyst for MOTIVATION?

Is it a coach’s responsibility to MOTIVATE a client? Or is it having the ability to RAISE AWARENESS that the client has stepped outside of their personal COMFORT ZONE and hence the magic is happening.

We all have different things that will motivate us as individuals to take action, however 9 times out of 10 we are MOTIVATED because we want to have, be or do something. To achieve those wants and needs, a coach will help a client SET GOALS and when setting goals the coach would ENCOURAGE the client to feel stretched and feel that this goal is currently out of their reach. Hence they have to work harder and smarter to achieve. As a result they will need MOTIVATION.

A coach can help a client IDENTIFY their motivators through using a variety of tools and techniques. My favourite is VALUES ELICITATION where I will raise a client’s awareness to their VALUES. The key words that move them towards and/or away from their GOAL ACHIEVEMENT. Through completing this exercise myself, I am now very self aware that for my MOTIVATION to kick in, ALL my goals have to be congruent with my CORE VALUES = Security, Family and Money.

Whilst working with my client this week, I helped her identify that her CORE VALUES are encouragement, support and recognition. This was the moment she realised that actually she doesn’t need me to motivate her as her coach, she has this resource inside herself. However she needs to make sure she regularly steps out of her comfort zone and into her learning zone for the magic to happen.

How do you know you are MOTIVATED?

  • What does it look like?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What does it sound like?

Next time you’re MOTIVATED – capture those thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Posted by Claire Cahill

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Developing New Habits & Changing Expectations

Missing the markWe’re at the end of January, and past the time when goals / resolutions tend to be broken (or even given up on!) So how are you managing with yours? Are you still on target, or have there been a few misses?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already had to make adjustments to my timescales for my running goal, as a result of developing a chesty cough, then having a wisdom tooth out!

But I’ve recently been comforted by an article I read in the Huffington Post by James Clear. If you’ve been setting your habit-changing timescales by the quote:

It takes 21 days to form a new habit

… then think (and plan) again!

This quote is actually a misquote. It’s originator, Maxwell Maltz – a plastic surgeon – actually said:

… it requires a minimum* of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell (1960).

[*My emphasis]

The book his quote was mentioned in became a best-seller, and the quote was shortened & taken on board by self-help professionals. Maltz was talking about patients who’d had nose jobs (for example), and them taking a minimum of 21 days to get used to seeing their face differently.

James Clear’s article then goes on to cite recent research by Health Psychology researcher Phillippa Lally (University College, London) who, with her team of researchers, took up the challenge of seeing how true the shortened quote was.

You can read more about the study here but the main findings were that it takes anywhere between 18 and 254 days to form new habits! The average is 66 days. It depends on the habit and the person / their circumstances, etc.

Motivational saying on chalk board with chalkUsefully, they also found out that if you miss the occasional event in your habit-changing schedule, it won’t have a negative impact on your success.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly.

[James Clear]

So, don’t beat yourself up about not sticking rigidly to your planned schedule. Learn from any blips in your schedule – are they to do with unforeseen circumstances, or setting unrealistic goals in the first place? Make sure you review the blips, and reflect on them where appropriate. Manage your expectations by thinking of your goal achievements as processes, and small incremental changes will win out.

A final thought … Which strategies could / do you use for getting back on track quickly?

Posted by Debbie Inglis

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Team Development – A Case Study

[For this post, Debbie shares a case study which focuses on her work with a local authority education team.]

a coaching case studyI’ve worked with this team on several occasions doing a range of training and 1-1 coaching. Although most of my work is usually in schools, this is a Local Authority team of teachers responsible for supporting SEN pupils in mainstream schools.


One of the main keys to success for the work of this team is to do with their relationships with schools. As their team manager said,

“Relationships with our schools are as important to us as our team’s teaching skills. The latter is only successful if we can develop positive relationships with staff”.

I was asked to work with the team in order to help them achieve this. It’s not that relationships weren’t good, it was more about – ‘how do we empower the Teachers and TAs to continue SEN pupil development when we’re not there.’


The ways I addressed this situation had a lot to do with helping this team develop their leadership skills, since they are effectively leading on SEN development and support when they go into schools and delivering in-house and local authority training.

3D Skills Coaching CrosswordI’d previously delivered Coaching Skills Training to the team, initially for team/peer support and development. So the first thing I did was a refresher day on this and how it could be applied to their work with the teachers/TAs in school. The day was entitled: Target-Setting and Coaching in Schools, and gave them tools to develop more effective target-setting skills with SEN pupils, encouraging the pupils to take more ownership of their targets and routes to success.

To add weight to this training I also delivered a bespoke training package to the whole team on the following areas under the heading ‘Developing Positive Relationships with Schools’:

  • different ways to make a positive start with your school colleagues at the beginning of the year
  • developing assertiveness skills (through clarification of assertive behaviours and language)
  • carrying out a leadership skills audit (with the option of the team using peer coaching to continue development of some of these areas)
  • emotional intelligence overview, then a focus on one of the 4 EI competencies: ‘Social Competence’ which focuses specifically on how we manage relationships
  • looking at 8 different behaviour types and how to positively manage each of them


It’s important to me to evaluate the effectiveness of my coaching and training, and I do this through asking for feedback at the end of training events, and also arranging at least one follow-up meeting/phone call with the client.

Feedback from training

“What I found really useful from the training was how to move forward to form positive relationships in schools,  how to organise meetings to get the best results, and how to deal with different personality types. I will be putting this into practice.”

“I will use all the ideas from today’s session. I will remember my own role as a ‘leader’! The session was a good balance of input and interaction. Many thanks!”

“Excellent ‘behaviour types’ list with very useful tips.”

Follow-up call with client

The following is the feedback I received with the SEN Team Manager, when asked about outcomes from the training I’d delivered.

“We recognise that the best progress with pupils will only happen when we have good relationships with staff in schools. To this end, we needed more formal coaching training, which you gave us, rather than our teachers going into schools and assuming they know how to empower the teachers.

By using coaching, we can step outside the situation, be less emotional, and find ways for moving things forward. We now have more self-awareness of how to solve problems; we can reflect better, and do self-coaching as well as peer coaching. We’ve used your training to develop each other’s skills with teaching and learning, as well as developing more positive relationships with schools.

“Schools  have different dynamics, and we need to adapt to the school rather than impose our own ways of working; coaching and the training you’ve done helped us do this.”

And finally …

As well as enjoying the lovely feedback this case study brought, I was not complacent about this work! I am always looking for ways to improve my offerings, be they coaching or training, and find the 3 Shires Coaching Group one of the key resources I tap into in order to do this.

If you’ve not been to a meeting before, I recommend you try it 🙂

If you’re a 3 Shires Member (Level 3) and you’d like to share a case study (or 2!) with fellow coaches, contact us with your ideas.

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Coaching Sessions – Where Do You Start?

Asphalt Road With White Start SignAs a coach – how do you start your coaching sessions?

If it’s a very 1st session, you may start by setting expectations, clarifying what coaching is, identifying session frequency, signing a coaching agreement, and agreeing the coaching focus area(s).

But when you’ve done all of that, what’s the first thing you say to get the session off to a good start?

If you’re following a coaching model such as GROW, you might start with questions around the ‘G’ (Goal area). For example:

– What would give you the best outcome for today’s session?

– What impact would this have on your performance at work?

– How does this support your overall goal achievement?

Or if you’re using the OSCAR model, you might start with questions to identify the coachee’s desired outcome (the ‘O’); such as:

– What is your long-term outcome?

– What would success look like?

– What would you like to achieve from this session?

Coaching questioning models are all fairly similar, and I believe they are there as a guide.

I tend to coach more instinctively now, and don’t tend to favour a particular model, although may draw on different ones from time to time depending on what’s most appropriate.

I still need to start the process off, and for a 1st session I’ll tend to use questions similar to the ones above, then to begin subsequent sessions I might start with something like …

So, (person’s name), what have you brought to the session today?

(Name), what would you like to work on today?

If we have a really great session today, what would happen in it?

A few thoughts …

  • The questions that start a session may be dependent on how familiar the coachee is with coaching. You can be more ‘artfully vague’ with context-free questions when the coachee has been coached before.
  • I’ve sometimes found it more useful to jump straight in with questions around the coachee’s current situation, the ‘S’ of OSCAR (the ‘R’ or Reality of GROW), because the coachee may not know what their goal is, (or what it could be), and they need time to get clarity on the issue before deciding where to go with it.
  • Sometimes it’s good to use a stimulus to get the ball rolling, and get the coachee focusing in on something relevant. So I may use a tool like an adapted version of the Wheel of Life (as this ‘Job Performance Wheel’ shows below).

S2_Job Perf_Blog


If you’re not familiar with this tool for coaching, drop me a line in the comments box below, and I’ll give you some tips on using it.

As a coach – Do you have a favourite way of starting your coaching sessions off?

As a coachee – How would you like your coach to start your coaching sessions?

Posted by Debbie Inglis

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Coaching in Organisations is not a Luxury

We live in a time of unprecedented change with increasing demands upon our time and energy. The workplace is also evolving rapidly, requiring workers to keep improving their skills and knowledge. These expectations and demands need to be managed to reduce the levels of stress and capitalise on the new opportunities.


Behind every high performing sports team is a coach. It is little wonder that top performing organisations adopt the same approach and have coaches raise their performance in order to move beyond mediocrity.

So what do coaches do? 

Good coaches provide the opportunity for people to move from where they are to where they want to go, more quickly and with focused support. An employee or leader’s performance can be greatly enhanced through assessing behaviour and skills, and learning new techniques and attitudes.

Is the cost of coaching worth the time and effort in a time of austerity?

Research in the US and UK has consistently shown that well-structured coaching has been a major factor in increasing the performance of individuals, teams and organisations. Actually cutting costs in developing people’s skills can be short-sighted and limit an organisation’s capacity to take on new challenges.

Good coaching does not just happen in any organisation. It requires proper thinking, implementation and supervision. The results demonstrate the value.

Posted by Gerard Pontier

Would love to hear your thoughts on experiencing or delivering coaching in organisations, and how it’s impacted positively on performance! Feel free to leave your comments below (Deb – Ed.) 

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