An insight is a clear, deep and sudden understanding of a complicated problem or situation. Coaching enables managers to gain insight into the underlying dynamics of the challenges that they face, and guides them to apply the insights in the real world to create the desired change.
Insight is the essential ingredient for transformational change. The continuous exchange of insight and action, one fueling the other, forms the core of the coaching process.
Dianna and Merrill Anderson describe four levels of insight: reflective, emotional, intuitive, and inspirational.
The first source of insight is reflective insight: the ability to step back from an experience and notice what went well and what did not. The learning comes through translating insights into logical corrective actions, these actions then improve the outcomes of the next experience. In order to be able to access reflective insight, coachees need to step out of the fast lane and focus long enough to ask and answer questions that surface insight.
The next source of insight is emotional insight, which comes from the ability to detect and decipher the information received through emotions. When we tune into our emotions and the emotional context of our relationships, we start to notice underlying dynamics that greatly impact how we interact. Emotional insight provides valuable clues about underlying issues that can get in the way of realizing our aspirations.
The third level of insight is intuitive. Intuition is the ability to detect dynamics and information that lie just below the surface of a situation. We use our intuition when we follow our hunches, detect patterns, and make decisions without having all of the information that we might like. As the complexity and speed of our world increases, intuition becomes an increasingly important component of our decision making. More and more, leaders are making choices based on an integration of logical, linear information and their best intuitive interpretation of a situation. The more leaders trust their own intuitive knowing, the sooner they are able to take action when situations are just beginning to derail, rather than waiting for a full-blown catastrophe.
Intuition leads naturally to inspiration. Inspirational insight occurs when all the pieces come together and something is seen in an entirely new light. Intuition tends to show up in pieces, such as knowing that an approach isn’t likely to work or someone is capable of something, even if they have never done it before. However it happens, inspiration takes the leader in a new direction, expanding the leader and the organization in some material way. Inspirational insight creates a real step change for the leaders with the courage to put their ideas into action and the organizations in which they work.
Each level of insight supports the next. Reflection is an integral part of emotional insight, just as emotional insight is an essential component of intuitive insight, and inspiration is a more evolved form of intuition.
Managers reflect on their experiences, gain insight, and translate their insights into action plans that lead to new experiences.
As insight deepens, managers will not differentiate between one level and another. Just as a tree uses all of its roots, they will tend to use all of their insight once they have access to it.
Adapted from Coaching that counts, D&M Anderson, Elsevier