Performance Psychology is an effective practice that applies psychological principles to optimise performance. If you’re coaching for change, a well established clinical approach is emerging as a powerful tool to maximise performance and elicit serious change. Here’s how to use motivational interviewing for performance coaching.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a groundbreaking client centred counselling and coaching approach. Developed by two clinical psychologists, Willian Miller and Stephen Rollnick in the 80s and now used in the field of sports coaching, health and wellness along with performance improvement.

Miller initially founded the process of MI after working with problem drinkers. His research was published in Behavioural Psychotherapy in 1983. The article described how Miller had successfully combined the psychological principles of self efficacy, locus of control, cognitive dissonance, attribution and experimental social psychology for behavioural change.

Motivational interviewing is a powerful tool if you are coaching for performance, health, wellbeing or change. Let’s drill down into more detail.

William Miller on MI

MI provides a framework to recognise different types of change talk, along with the importance of eliciting and strengthening change talk as the coaching conversation progresses.

The video below MI founder William Miller talks about how MI is different from traditional paradigms.

Why is MI Different?

We frequently use MI with our clients and are often asked by the leaders, managers and clinicians that we coach, what is it and how can we use it? MI has multiple applications outside of the healthcare environment where it began.

Normally as coaches, clinicians or therapists, when we listen to others, we’re listening through our own filters. Research from neuroscience demonstrates that we take less than a second to make up our minds about the person in front of us (and that’s before they’ve even spoken). The human brain is an exceptional tool, but unless we apply mindful listening to our coaching, we’ve effectively decided what our clients are going to say before they say it.

Unconscious Bias

Our unconscious bias, time pressure, stress, workload and distraction all prevent us from truly focusing on the person in front of us and what they have to say. The rest of that second? We use it to look for information to support our initial assessment of them. Unless we develop self awareness, we’re not for changing our mind. As coaches, it’s important to be aware of this as a potential barrier to effective listening.

When we’re coaching, we adopt different types of listening;

Combative this is when we’re just waiting for the other person to shut up so that we can get our own point across.

Passive We’re making all the right noises, nodding, smiling, but our focus is elsewhere. We’re not really taking much in. You might be physically in the room, but your mind is elsewhere.

Active and Reflective is what we’re aiming for in MI. Actively listening and reflecting back using MI skills to create a more meaningful conversation.

Rolling with Resistance

The approach of MI recognises that resistance meets with more resistance. Think about the last time someone told you what to do, how did you react? Probably not well. Autonomy is key factor in motivation. If you’re coaching for change, this is critical.

In a coaching or therapeutic setting resisting this urge to ‘right’ others is key. Rolling with resistance is a core concept in MI. Managing your ‘inner righter’ is a key coaching skill. Telling someone that they’re wrong or that they ‘should’ be doing something is guaranteed to demotivate them. It will also create a barrier between you and the person that you’re working with.

Using mindfulness to develop your self awareness is a creative way to surface unconscious bias. It will also enable you to catch those moments when you feel the urge to ‘right’ clients and manage them more effectively. Head over to our free mindfulness toolkit to find out more.

How MI Works

Using a variety of tools and techniques, motivational interviewing moves through four processes;

1. Engaging

2. Focusing

3. Evoking

4. Planning

MI Principles

MI focuses on empowering clients, building their self efficacy and increasing their locus of control. It rests on the following principles;

• Developing autonomy and and supporting self efficacy

• Demonstrating empathy

• Managing or ‘rolling’ with resistance

• Supporting and developing discrepancy between where the client is now and where they would like to be in the future.

Want to know more about motivational interviewing, building positive emotions or sustainable performance? Take a look at our free tools in the resources section. or head over to our sister site Positive Change Guru

We work with individuals, leaders and Fortune 100 companies to improve performance, build resilience and embed sustainable performance in teams. We provide a training courses, leadership coaching and consultancy. Want to know more? Get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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