Coaching is the Key to Developing Your Mental Agility

July 15, 2021

by Management Dynamics

Coaching is the Key to Developing Your Mental Agility

It’s a common understanding that good coaching develops the coachee. But what hasn’t really been explored is how much coaching can benefit the coach. We’ve recently been applying coaching in our leadership development programmes where we’ve noticed coaching’s powerful potential. By going through the experience of coaching others properly, leaders have had the opportunity for a powerful development experience. One that is focused on using coaching as a tool to develop the mental agility of senior leaders.

Mental Agility

When developing mental agility, people will often think of it as simply a “mental process”. This idea that you’re scanning extensively for different types of information and knowledge in order to develop a wide perspective. And this notion that mental agility involves being interested in complexity, unpicking something and making connections. But also critiquing these things, constantly thinking how practical this is.


You might hear of individuals with higher mental agility being described as “easy shifters” – those who can move from one idea to another one fluidly. They find it easy to move across different perspectives and lenses, moving from the high level into detail. But the key here is that they always maintain a viewpoint to find a practical solution. Mental agility is not just academic nor is it about IQ. Rather it’s about looking at what you know and what you can learn, all with the view of what you are going to do with this information? What solutions does it give or offer?
And it is here where the real benefits of coaching as an active way of developing mental agility lies. As a coach, you have to hold your own judgement because you’re exploring the other person’s world – you shouldn’t be jumping to offering solutions. In fact, the coach is positioned as quite the opposite. Their position is one of exploring and being inquisitive, encouraging the coachee to approach and understand something from different angles with a view to find some connections to help them move forward.

What can You do to Develop Your Mental Agility?

The most practical thing a leader can do to develop their mental agility is to become a better coach. Rather than worrying about the complex, the knowable and unknowable unknowns and attempting to understand them, leaders should consider how much there is to be learnt from the coaching experience. Through this mindset of questioning and listening, leaders will develop a much deeper sense of mental agility. One is founded on shared knowledge and multiple perspectives. But also one that is relevant and applicable, offering a powerful value to the individuals and teams involved. By being inclusive and opening up to lots of different perspectives, leaders are going to enjoy much more diverse types of thinking. These new ideas, personalities and cultures will ultimately provide much more interesting solutions.

Some ways to develop your mental agility through coaching:

  • Ask open questions. If your question leads to a simple yes or no answer, think about amending your language to encourage an open response. The easiest way to achieve this is to start your question with a “what”. The response will be far more valuable.
  • Don’t jump to solutions. It’s tempting when coaching to skip offering solutions and quick fixes. Try to avoid this. You want to guide the conversation towards making connections instead of providing answers straight away. It’s in the connections where the best insights will come from.
  • Push for deeper meaning. A key skill of those with higher mental agility is being able to simplify the complex. The very best coaches will be able to get to the essence of something, partly to know it but also to know how to apply it. In this way, you are encouraging yourself and others to think things through and to approach the world with curiosity. But this is always with the mindset of how useful this knowledge and information is.
  • Be constantly curious. Embrace an inquisitive mindset by constantly asking questions and examining the answers. At the heart of high mental agility is this level of curiosity. You should constantly probe the knowledge and information presented to you in an attempt to discover and understand something new.

High-performing organisations and teams will be the ones who have developed their leaders to be amazing coaches. Not just because coaching develops the coachee (that much we know already) but because it develops the leader even more so.

If you want to hear more about how we can help your leaders to develop their mental agility by becoming amazing coaches, get in touch.

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