5 Tips for Coaching to the “Aha” Moment

Call it what you may – the “aha” moment, the light bulb, sudden awareness, or moment of meaning. It is that wonderful flash of insight learners or people being coached experience when the pieces come together and a shift in thinking happens. That moment extends well beyond learning and problem solving. It is the moment that can create lasting change in behavior or perception. It is, simply put, a magnificent moment.

Here are some suggestions on how coaches and mentors can facilitate more aha moments:

It’s all in the timing. Most of us tend to try to push insights so we can get to the next thing. Wait for it. Pause and allow silence in the conversation. The timing for aha moments is unpredictable.

Know when to nudge. This may sound contradictory to suggestion #1, but it really isn’t. When we truly pay attention to the person being coached, we can sense when they are on the cusp of an insight, but holding back. Some indicators are responses such as “yes, but…” We can help move people past the “yes but” place by asking challenging questions such as “What is the cost of staying put?” or “What is the benefit of moving forward?”

Notice energy. There are many indicators of the aha moment. When meeting in person, we can often see the change in facial expression from puzzled to happy. Even on the phone we can hear a change in voice or feel a shift in energy. The aha moment releases pent-up energy much like an opening in a dam releases water: it allows the person to move forward.

Celebrate success! So often, we rush to whatever is next on our to-do list without taking time to bask in the glow of the new insight. Celebration can be simply taking five minutes to allow the new awareness to sink in. If you are the coach, make a big deal out of it! A client’s shift in awareness is often the payoff for a job well done by the coach.

Cement the learning and establish clear next steps. Challenge the individual to create a specific action plan to bring their insights to life. Many aha moments open a door to a new direction. Encourage your client to step through the door and establish the path to the goal.

Think of the last time you experienced an aha moment. Remember the joy of finding clarity on something important? As a coach or mentor, you have the opportunity to facilitate these moments in others every time you practice your craft. It’s a gift your client will not forget.

About the Author

Kathleen Martin

Kathleen Martin is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Martin’s posts as a part of Coaching Tuesday here at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

7 thoughts on “5 Tips for Coaching to the “Aha” Moment

  1. Excellent tips! As I was reading, I could picture moments in conversations with past clients and imagine where the a-ha’s truly came into being.

    I especially enjoyed the suggestion to wait for it, to let the suspense of the a-ha hang there for a moment before fully forming. I have found this is key- if I push or even speak in this moment, it’s like taking a step back.


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  3. Thanks for sharing these tips! When coaching someone through something, it’s important to give them time and space (in the conversations) to work out their ideas themselves. Knowing when and when not to give them a push can make the difference in how they feel about the way they came to a conclusion or idea.

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