This is one in a series of blogs where I’m going to outline the differing coaching models that exist that great coaches will utilise with their coachee’s depending on the specific and personalised sentences. They may even use a combination of them in one session. The aim of this series is to help those of you thinking about engaging with a coach to have a better understanding of what coaches can do and how they can support you in your sessions. Cognitive behavioural coaching (CBC), like so many other coaching models has its roots in therapy. Neenan in his book “Developing Resilience: A cognitive behavioural approach” wrote extensively in how it can aid resilience. Its derision is based on parallel linked paths; (Albert Ellis 1962) developed rational emotive behavioural therapy and Aaron Beck (1976) created cognitive therapy. Don’t let this put you off!!

There are two main principles of CBC that determine when best to apply it in a coaching setting. The first is where a coachee may have limited problem-solving skills and has difficultly in finding the solution to a problem. In addition, the coachee may be extremely stressed and/or display deeply held beliefs that are self-limiting and resulting in a coachee feeling ‘stuck.’ CBC aims to focus effort in a coaching session on enhancing or maximising performance under pressure.CBC is about enabling the coachee, through facilitative techniques to achieve their goals through reducing thinking errors, stress inducing thinking and performance interfering thoughts. Ultimately, its aim is for the coachee to be their own ‘self-coach,’ I like this concept a lot. CBC is particularly helpful in benefitting coachees who want to enhance their workplace, achieve better academic performance, deliver improved presentations, time management or decision-making. It can also help people who feel they are feeling blocked.

For the purpose of this blog post, I want to concentrate on identifying thinking errors. Thinking errors are where we focus on insufficient data and come to irrational conclusions as a result. This affects decision-making that may be based on little evidence. We all do it and it can lead to stress induced thinking, performance interfering thoughts and negative automatic thoughts. I’ve been there in my corporate consulting days and it can be quite destructive.

The purpose of CBC is to unlock this thinking, change the coachee’s approach and help the coachee develop thinking skills that are stress alleviating, performance enhancing and help intermediate core beliefs.

So what do we mean by thinking errors?  Palmer & Szymanska outline some examples:

  1. Mind reading, jumping to conclusions– it sounds like; “If I don’t answer this email immediately the client will walk,” “Well if that’s not done by 5pm today, the boss will go mad.”
  2. Blame, not taking responsibility for ones own mistake– “Its not my fault the project isn’t delivering that’s the product teams job.”
  3. Demands you make on yourself or others, inflexible thinking usually sounds like should have, could have, would have – “If only I had known all the facts I could, should, would have made a better decision,” “I expected you to make a better job of that presentation.”
  4. Imposter syndrome– believing you will get found out to be an imposter – “One day someone will realise that I’m not up to the role.”
  5. Low tolerance, “I hate this,” “I can’t stand this.”
  6. Extremism, everything is black or white – “He always does this.”
  7. Personalisation, taking things personally – “If this proposal doesn’t win, its my fault,” 

There are more but by using CBC in a coaching session, a coach can help you overcome these thinking errors and develop a flexible style of thinking to enable performance enhancing, stress relieving thinking which will help you achieve realistic goals, resolve difficult problems and acquire new skills using constructive coping strategies. It can be used in a myriad of circumstances, however, if you’re feeling blocked, want to overcome procrastination, indecision, leadership or presentation anxiety, think about asking your coach about this approach.

However, if you want to start the process now, think about doing this; whenever you can hear yourself vocalising a potential thinking error whether in your head or out loud, ask yourself the following question – where is the evidence for my belief?