A three minute mindset exercise, to support a coaching approach

For people to build their self-belief, they must feel and know that others believe in them too. This five minute action-oriented reflection comes from the practice of coaching pioneer Sir John Whitmore, and all you need to experiment with it is a place to think in peace.
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Card illustration by Leon Edler

A reflection exercise for building belief

In his definitive text Coaching for Performance, Sir John Whitmore (one of the founding fathers of the coaching profession) lays out a series of purposeful exercises to shift our mindsets in a coaching oriented direction — all in the service of removing interference from other people's potential.

The exercise outlined here supports the idea that what we think of a person will come through in our attitude, body language and other 'emotional signalling', even if we're not speaking.

Take three minutes or so to experiment with it, before reading the reflection summary that follows.

Simple steps towards someone's self-belief

Find somewhere you won't be disturbed for three minutes or so. Bring to mind someone you work with regularly; perhaps someone you manage or a colleague. Got them? Now try on each of the following mindsets, one after the other. Stay with each mindset for as long as you can before moving to the next.

And intentionally notice what feelings and responses each evokes in you.


I think this person is a problem


I think this person has a problem


I think this person is on a learning journey and is capable, resourceful and full of potential


What did you notice about the different mindsets?
What different feelings or emotions do they create in you?
What did you believe about the person's potential each time?
What changed in your attitude?
What mindset do you tend to adopt on a daily basis?

A final thought

The underlying and ever present goal of coaching is to build the self-belief of others. And so the invitation is to choose to adopt a mindset geared towards recognising the capabilities and resourcefulness of others, and see that we're all full of potential if treated in the right way.

Keen to practice your Coaching Mindset?

Join one of our regular cross-organisational coaching circles, and flex your questioning, listening and empathy muscles among a curious and supportive group of peers. Find coming dates here.