A Coaching Model Created by Meli Solomon
(Business Coach, GERMANY)
As a Business Coach, my clients are small business owners or people considering starting a business. In working with coaching clients, I have found that getting to grips with the situation, really understanding what’s going on, then gaining clarity on where they want to go, what their vision is and seeing the needed changes, is a common process regardless of the situation. Although the time spent on each stage has varied, the general arc is the same.
Despite the frequently small scale of client situations, they are complex, and sorting out what the parts are and how they relate to both each other and the whole system is critical. In a small business, especially if you’re a solo operator, there aren’t extra resources – time, energy or money – to squander, so working as efficiently and effectively as possible is mission critical. To do that, the owner needs to have a clear grasp on the current state of affairs, and where it’s not (yet) optimal.
Modifying the Four Stages of Competence model by substituting knowing for competence, they’re at the first stage – Unconscious/Unknowing. Through our work together, including using this model, they shift to the second stage – Conscious/Unknowing then to the third stage – Conscious/Knowing, depending on the length of the coaching relationship. Reaching the fourth stage – Unconscious/Knowing – comes with time and repetition.
To support this process, I have created a model that is a practical method to use in the session in order to gain the necessary clarity and move into action. It reflects the value I place on balance, in this case between the whole system and its parts. To improve a system you need to look carefully at both.
GEAR stands for:
- Ground – Where are you now?
- End – Where do you want to go?
- Arrangement – How do you get from here to there?
- Reflection – How do you move forward with awareness?
As I’ll explain in diagramming the elements, this is a very grounded, practical and yet flexible model, and can be used to look at various angles of a business. Additionally, it’s a forward-looking and positive approach to analyzing things and moving forward. In so doing, it expresses the basic coaching philosophy as well as my own approach to life and work. While random acts of kindness are wonderful, random acts in business can seriously undermine your prospects. With that, let’s walk through the GEAR acronym and how it can be used in the coaching process. While the image is of a machine, the process is anything but. How the model is used depends entirely on the coach, the client and the situation at hand.
Ground – Where are you?
Once wins have been celebrated and the focus and outcome established, the real work begins. The first step is talking about the current situation. This can be the hardest and yet most important step as the client sorts out just what is actually going on. With the help of powerful open questions, the client gains clarity on the situation and where things aren’t functioning as well as desired.
As the image illustrates, there may be elements that are connected, while others are disconnected but need to be a part of the larger system in a more integrated way. For example, is the marketing plan connected well to the needs of the target market? If your product is a performance enhancing energy drink for athletes, are you stapling flyers to lamp posts when you might be handing out samples at a running race and at a fitness center?
In the coaching session, the client begins working with the gears right away. The first step is to create the current structure, using different pieces of paper, drawing circles on paper or in a computer. Each gear or circle represents one element – a department (sales, production, finance) or roles in a team (leader, analyzer, trouble-shooter, cheerleader) or whatever set of elements is appropriate. In additional to naming the gears, the client identifies their relative sizes and how they interact.
ID 34053801 © Alexander Limbach | Dreamstime.com
End – Where do you want to go?
Knowing where you want to go in general, is likewise a basic element. Without that the coaching session becomes a gripe session or could slide into a therapy session about the history and background of the emotional aspects, neither of which is appropriate or helpful in a business coaching relationship.
In this illustration, there are various structures, with different types of individual elements. If the area of concern is the team make-up, what does the client want it to look like? What is the desired nature of diversity? Is it a matter of skills, cultures or ways of thinking or something else? Who needs to work together closely and who at greater remove? Seeing how differences can be appropriately structured into a functioning whole, is challenging but well worth the effort. Similarly, a marketing campaign benefits from a range of materials, from brochures, to blogs to books. Which materials are appropriate and how will they support each other?
As in the first Ground step, the client works with their own set of gears, except now they are exploring possible alternate layouts. This is brainstorming time and the time when limiting beliefs and fears are likely to arise. The coach can increase the learning and breakthroughs by asking powerful questions and challenging beliefs. It could be as simple as asking – How else could this look? Is anything missing?
Gear Up - ID 21732223 © Michael Brown | Dreamstime.com
Arrangement – How do you get from here to there?
In the first Ground step, we classified the general current situation, then in the End step, we identified the desired goal, again fairly generally. In this third step, Arrangement, we get to specific parts and how they might fit together – the arrangement.
This activity effectively externalizes the change process. How can the client move from the current situation to the desired end? What systems, such as financial oversight, need to be expanded? What positions created, combined or eliminated? How is that to happen? Does some work, say payroll, need to be outsourced? The order of these changes might also be discussed, and the effects of changes in one part of the company seen in another. This is often an opaque side-effect of change that is particularly challenging and therefore of value in this exploratory phase.
Keeping in mind the various learning styles, I’ll note that this exercise particularly appeals to the kinesthetic and visual learners, though not exclusively. The solitary learner will likely appreciate the chance to try out options without needing to defend ideas to others in the company, whereas the social learner might want to bring in team members. The verbal learner will benefit from explaining the pros and cons of options, while the mathematical learner uses numbers or percentages. Whatever the particular approach, they can explore various arrangements and retain the different arrangements for future discussion and refinement.
Big machine gears - ID 34053819 © Alexander Limbach | Dreamstime.com
In considering the arrangements, some basic questions could be asked:
- Is one or more gear larger?
- Is a gear separate from the others?
- Are two overlapping?
- Is there a chain?
Here we see the value of using gears. For gears to produce energy and motion, they must connect and do so in a comfortable way. When gears don’t connect to either a chain or another gear, energy is lost instead of harnessed. To apply this to a business setting, when a team member isn’t integrated into the team well or when departments don’t pass along information to relevant people or departments, customer service and revenue can suffer. Likewise, when departments or roles overlap, or don’t fit together well, there’s friction or the process seizes completely. Examples of frequent and costly result of such friction or lack of motion include a key project breaking down due to miscommunication or top performers getting tired of the red tape that only gets in the way, and decamping for the more nimble competition, taking skills and knowledge with them – and perhaps also some customers – and leaving behind a weakened team with low morale. These are expensive consequences indeed.
Reflection – How do you move forward with awareness?
The final step in this coaching process is to reflect on the discoveries made and lessons learned. Moreover, where and how does the client carry these new insights from the coaching conversation into their lives? It’s all well and good to gain a new perspective in the safety and comfort of the session, but what happens after that? Does anything happen after that, or do the insights get left in the notebook? Herein lies the importance of this final Reflection step. This is where the lessons learned get gathered and coalesce into a future perspective of change and action. This can take many forms, be it practical action steps of all types or attitudinal shifts.
Some questions that would assist include:
- What are the key lessons?
- What are the next action steps?
- Who needs to be involved in the change process?
- Who will be affected by the change?
- How does the client want to handle that?
In conclusion, the GEARing up for change Coaching Model is a flexible and effective model to use in the coaching process. While my examples of application come from the business world, it can just as easily and effectively be applied to other coaching conversations. Another benefit is that the conversation begins and remains firmly in the client’s world. They have the opportunity to describe and thereby clarify for themselves, the current situation, then explore, with supportive guidance from the coach, how things might be changed. The ease of moving the gears around, expanding, shrinking and altering the various elements provides an invaluable aspect of the brainstorming and an avenue to change.