The Coach in Your Head

05 Oct 23 | Professor Damian Hughes

Professor Damian Hughes is an international speaker and bestselling author who combines his practical and academic background within sport, organisational development and change psychology, to help organisations and teams to create a high performing culture. Here, Damian discusses coaching models and how to put them into practice.


All too often in business, we talk about specific coaching models but rarely do we truly put these into practice and become inspirational coaches. We are constantly exposed to an abundance of people showing us how to apply coaching in a wide variety of situations and, regardless of circumstance, the best coaches follow the same core coaching process. A great place to start is by listening to the coach in your head.

Self-talk is the world’s most mysterious language. We all do it constantly – you know that whisper that comes into your head at key moments, the one that says, okay, take a breath…keep calm…now go! – but it happens mostly unconsciously, and nobody talks about it.

Good self-talk functions are like an early-warning radar system, helping us to identify key moves and navigate problems. Done well it’s like having a coach inside your head.

But here’s the question: if self-talk is a good thing, how do we get better at it? Is it possible to teach it, the same way you’d learn any language? With that in mind, here are a few tips.

Keep it short and chunky

Good self-talk is never chatty or complicated. It divides the skill into key moves and uses those as clear cues.

For example, with a golf swing:

Say this: “Smooth arms, still head.”

Not this: “Okay, let’s keep the takeaway smooth, relax your posture, make sure to keep your head still through the backswing.”

Make it vivid

The more vivid the image, the easier it is to remember, and to do. For example, with a leader about to deliver a presentation:

Say this: “Stand like a tree.”

Not this: “Make sure you stand up straight.”

Keep it positive

Don’t focus on what you want to avoid, but on what you want to accomplish. For example, before meeting an important client:

Say this: “Take your time, listen to them.”

Not this: “Don’t rush; don’t forget the main points.”

Finally, and maybe most usefully, fluent self-talkers don’t just talk to themselves during their performance, they also do it before and after. Self-talk is like a game tape: you use it to preview what’s going to happen, and then afterwards you use it again to relive what happened and figure out how you might do it better next time.


This blog is adapted from the Raise the Bar book ‘Raising the Bar: A Leader’s Guide’ by bestselling author Damian Hughes. The book takes twenty-five great lessons from the most engaging leaders.

Click here to find out more about Damian, or get in touch with our team at for more information on his availability.

Professor Damian Hughes

Professor Damian Hughes


Professor Damian Hughes is an international speaker and bestselling author who combines his practical and academic background w...