What have you learned about yourself today?

This is the first of  four Guest Posts by Master Coach, Aileen Gibb, where she poses questions you may Not be asking.  Be looking for Aileen’s future Guest Posts in the months to come.

I haven’t been asked that question before at the end of a coaching conversation,” ponders my client. Her surprise at the question causes me to pause.  She says she has often been asked “what have you learned,” yet rarely has the question directed her inwards, reflecting on what she has learned about herself.

As far back as our early childhood, the focus of our learning is on the tangible and measurable skills needed to tackle the daily challenges of growing up in the world: we learn to walk and talk and then, as we progress through our school grades, we learn what it takes to pass our exams and achieve the required grades that facilitate our entry to higher institutions of learning. Meanwhile, apprentices learn the immediately usable skills to function in their chosen field of work, and workers across a spectrum of factories, shopping malls and manufacturing operations are moulded into routines which they repeat hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day.

Whichever path we take to the world of work, we are shown how to use the appropriate equipment, what to do and not do according to company policy, and we are sent on training courses to develop the technical/operational skills essential to our role. As leaders, we are sent on behavioural training courses to run great meetings, negotiate and close sales, and give performance feedback —amongst many other topics.

And where, along the way do we ask what we learn about ourselves? 

It’s a brave and powerful question. One that it invites us to look in the mirror and question ourselves more deeply, which we might not be very keen to do. What if you don’t like what’s reflected back at you? Yet what if that’s where you learn something about yourself that’s going to help you grow and get even more successful. Something that can’t really be gauged by some end of course exam or questionnaire?

Something you can only learn by listening inside yourself?

Here’s a couple of times I discovered things about myself that weren’t directly obvious:

The first was a time when I was sent on a high-end leadership training course. I don’t remember anything about the course content, these many years later, yet I do recall how excited and inspired I got when I came up with a creative idea for my presentation at the end of the course. Never before had I found the confidence and the courage to do something based on a  creative cartoon idea, around which I wound a creative story, rather than produce a boring, ‘business-like’, factual slide (this was the days before powerpoint). I loved it and I can still see that visual in my head today.

The second was a time when I found myself in the centre of concentric circles of over three hundred executives at a company workshop and had to introduce the event. I learned I’m quite possibly at my best when I’m called up to the platform to speak articulately and hold the attention of the whole room. I still love what has now come to be called my ‘platform’ moment and know that I can step up and perform anytime I’m called upon.

What stays with me from both experiences is what I learned about myself. Nobody could have trained me in the inner experience of this learning or told me how I would feel from them.

What if, as a leader, you asked that question daily of yourself and of people around you. What do you imagine you might learn? What connections and deeper understanding of yourself and each other might you discover?

I read recently that one of the most receptive times for our brain to learn is in the few minutes before we fall asleep.

What if you created a nightly ritual to ask what you learned about yourself today?

Just as you lay your head on your pillow and your brain slips into that deeper zone, your  awareness reveals that whilst today’s training course added skills to your portfolio, it was the fact that you found the courage, confidence and leadership to lead the team through the biggest project they’d ever faced that taught you about you.

Wouldn’t it be something worth learning about yourself?

Aileen Gibb


Aileen Gibb works with interesting people  to re-shape life and leadership. She asks the questions you might not be asking yourself. Questions to shift everything and take your life from mediocre to great. She works with leaders internationally, whilst spending time in both her Scottish homeland and her adopted home in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada. She is constantly in awe of what her clients create in their lives and their businesses when they step into the bold questions they haven’t asked before. Her book Q-Asking Great Questions is described as an essential companion for every leader and is available on Amazon. Her forthcoming book The Conversation Edge combines questioning, listening and conversation as a daily practice of incremental awareness to enrich and enliven life and work through the principles of connection, caring, curiosity, clarity and complete conversations. Aileen can be contacted at AileenGibb.com  and on most social media sites. To explore working with Aileen email aileengibb@icloud.com


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