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Coaching in Military Leadership Training

If somebody was to mention military leadership training you would be forgiven for conjuring up images of gruelling assault courses, tough marine sergeants balling at cadets with their faces down in the mud and mile after mile of marching with heavy packs. To some extent you would be correct, the training does still contain large doses of arduous conditions in order to prepare our future military leaders for the stresses of war. You will probably be surprised to find out however, that there is a much more progressive aspect to military leadership training, certainly in my experience.

I was fortunate enough to work alongside some excellent instructors during my time at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), teaching and coaching trainee military leaders from the UK and overseas. I can confirm that the principles of experiential learning, self-reflection, peer feedback and a coaching culture in instructors are all helping trainees to achieve their potential.

If you were a fly-on-the-wall, you would hear instructors ask questions such as:

On a scale of 1-10 how successful was that exercise in your opinion?

What would you change next time you face that type of scenario?

How will you change it?

Why is it important to do that?

Coaching feedback serves to help the trainees identify their own areas for improvement and gives them the ownership of their own development paths.

I understand that there is a plethora of diagnostic tools, models and techniques out there to use I would like to share three key elements that I’ve identified for my own coaching success:

1. Rapport – I’ve found that the most important foundation for a successful coaching session is to establish rapport with the coachee, making sure that you are operating on the same wavelength. Without this rapport it is very difficult to even start to raise self-awareness in the coachee.

2. Positive reflection – Helping the coachee to remember and reflect on their own past success in a similar context to the issue they now face has been something I’ve found to be very effective in assisting the coachee to break out of a negative belief cycle.

3. Help them find their why – By assisting the coachee to explore their own values and motivations I’ve seen individuals find reserves from deep within to make positive changes to their own situations.

These are my three key elements to a successful coaching session, what are yours?

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