A Coaching Model Created by Africa Hands
(Career and Transition Coach, UNITED STATES)
Welcome to my Open Funnel model! It is my aim that the open funnel model is useful to both linear-minded clients and those who prefer a more open system of coaching with recognition of the many inputs that influence our career and transition decisions.
Years ago a friend had an image on her wall of three overlapping circles representing Fast, Good, Cheap. The caption read ‘Choose two’. Life choices particularly career and transition choices are rarely as easy as choosing the two lesser evils. While the ‘choose two’ plan works for small decisions such as a purchasing a clothing item, the plan doesn’t work in the grand scheme of making life decisions. My Open Funnel Model with the accompanying stages – Pause, Consider, Choose, Evaluate, Repeat – comprises the steps I think are needed for making a variety of life decisions. I find it particularly useful for those making job-related choices.
Often times we reach a breaking point in our careers and jobs – the point at which we have reached our wits end. We are constantly annoyed by our coworkers and the demands placed upon us. Perhaps we haven’t received a raise in years and are expected to work longer hours for less money. There comes a time for many professionals when we simply crave a change – change of scenery, change of colleagues, change of duties, change of industry. When the itch comes to make a change we sometimes rush to scratch the itch, taking whatever escape route presents itself. The grass is greener, right? While I certainly understand the itch – I’ve had it a time or two – I advocate taking more structured, informed, thoughtful approach to making changes.
This informed approach is definitely influenced by my experience as a librarian and information professional and my own need to have adequate information to make informed decisions. The Open Funnel model also is influenced by principles of Ludwig von Bertanlaffy’s general systems theory, namely input (Pause, Consider), equifinality (Choose), output (Evaluate), and feedback (Evaluate).
The openness of the funnel (indicated by slits in the sides) implies an open system through which the client receives input that may impact her progress at any time during any stage. The client is not limited to input from the top of the funnel during the Pause stage; valuable information may come to the client during the Choose stage that impacts the client’s choice or during the Evaluate stage which leads the client to then Repeat the process. Hence the open system – a system which “continuously interacts with its environment or surroundings.” Wikipedia-Open System
While the client likely will start in the Pause stage the client is free to skip stages. This program has changed how I view coaching in that I was prepared to be more structured with clients, assign homework to review at the next session, move through the coaching process in a linear fashion. I have since learned that different methods work with different clients, celebrating wins, creating plans, the words I use have different meanings for each client. The coach has to adapt the structure to the clients. I realize that clients may not pass through the stages in a linear fashion, still this model is helpful as a way to identify which stage a client may be in and which tools and questions are useful at that stage.
Red represents stopping or rather pausing to gather oneself, a time for coach and client to get to know each other, build rapport, and learn about the client’s needs.
Blue represents the calmness I want the client to feel as she considers her situation and options and what insight was learned during the Pause stage. This is not meant to be a frenetic time for clients, so the blue represents stillness.
Green means go. It is at this stage that clients make decisions and plans for action.
Yellow means caution, use care to evaluate the choice made and the results. It is also a bright color that I hope will invite clients to openly and critically evaluate their choices and see evaluation as a source of power and control.
Purple is made by combining red and blue and in the model is used to encourage the client to repeat the process, to return to the beginning and Pause and Consider.
The funnel remains open at the bottom to represent the open system I hope this model encourages. The open space invites repetition. I don’t want clients to feel boxed in by the choice they’ve made. Thus Repeat follows Evaluate to encourage and support clients to feel free to make changes based on what is learned during evaluation.
Clients may come to coaching ready to act because they have already considered their decision and need help with implementation. Others come to coaching because they are struggling with making a decision and taking action. Still others may be unsettled, unsure which way to turn.
The Pause stage considers all of these scenarios by setting the stage for the coaching relationship. Rather than jumping head-on into an action phase, coach and client Pause to get acquainted. The client pauses to complete the pre-coaching intake form. This form provides the coach with an initial map of the client – the client’s goals and ambitions, struggles, support systems, hobbies, accomplishments, and other information. The coach pauses to get to know the client and build rapport and trust with the client.
The coach creates an inviting space where the client feels comfortable pausing. The client pauses to reflect on her current and desired states. Following the first 5 ICF competencies, the Pause stage is when the client and coach agree on the coaching relationship, the coach practices active listening with a pleasant coaching presence that builds trust and intimacy with the client. The coach also adheres to ICF ethical and professional guidelines. The coach recognizes that this doesn’t happen overnight and is an ongoing process and an open system. Additionally, during this time the client pauses for reflection and self-discover using a variety of tools and questions.
Tools: Client pre-coaching form, Wheel of Life, visualization timeline, StrengthsFinder, MBTI, VIA Me! Character Strengths Profile , values exploration, mind-mapping, self-development plan
In the Consider stage, client and coach further explore the client’s options with more direction because of the time taken to pause and reflect first. Now the client will consider various options, use tools to create pros and cons lists,
The Consider stage is client-driving with moderation by the coach. This may be a “tool-heavy” or resource-driven stage depending on client preferences. If the client wishes, client and coach will delve deeper into the results from any assessments administered during Pause. This can be a time to talk more deeply about values and priorities as relevant to the client’s coaching topic and goals. This is a fun and freeing stage for the client to openly explore possibilities in a safe space and with the aid of a coach practicing active listening and asking powerful questions while mirroring back what is heard, sharing insights, and helping the client to become more aware. The client feels supported and encouraged to explore and try on new roles, particularly helpful for client’s in career transition. The client is encouraged to communicate honestly, this is modeled through the coaches direct and honest communication. As such this stage supports the ICF competencies of Active Listening, Powerful Questioning, Direct Communication, and Creating Awareness.
Tools: Role play (particular transition discussion that the client may have with family and friends), creative visualization (imagining what can be), Appreciative Inquiry questions, The Miracle question, Responding/Reacting, Responsibility/Blame, exploration of pros/cons, paper dolls
It is important the client feels supported in the Choose stage as this is the crux of the coaching relationship when the client makes a decision to act. Rapport, trust, and open communication that has occurred during the previous stages, is continued during Choose as the client makes critical career and transition decisions. The client has taken time to Pause and Consider her current and desired states. The client has possibly tried on potential roles, considered pros and cons, reviewed her strengths and values in relation to her goals and desired state, and now feels ready to make a decision.
One particularly helpful tool is that of Kaizen steps – taking small, incremental steps towards a goal than rather biting off more than can be chewed and digested. By taking Kaizen steps the client eases into the transition or new decision, and it feels less like jumping off a cliff. The client can identify progress with each small step, thus feeling encouraged to carry on. Each big prize comes about through a series of small steps. Not only do small steps make big goals more manageable, they also build confidence upon achievement of said goal. Accomplishing smalls steps are a pat on the back to ourselves, a high-five that says you did it and you can do more. Small steps are celebrated and acknowledged in the sessions, and I have found that these acknowledges often comes as a surprise to clients who mostly see the big prize. I like bringing small wins to clients’ attention, helping clients to see that she is making progress towards the goal, it’s just coming about through smaller steps.
Client and coach create a plan for evaluating and learning from the client’s choice. Perhaps the client makes a list of possible choices to which the client can refer and feel comfortable knowing there are options. Just as library patrons are encouraged to keep books until the assignment is complete, the client is encouraged to keep notes or use other tools to recheck her choices.
This stage is about the client taking action as well as feeling comfort and safety in the options available. The client feels supported through the coach’s facilitation of designing action. The client is more aware and informed about self and the options available because the coach has facilitated client awareness. The ICF competency of planning and goal setting also is supported during this stage.
Tools: Scaling questions, Action/Delay, Respect/Invalidation, Trust/Doubt, Commitment/Trying, speed dating, Kaizen steps
Here the client evaluates her choice in light of her desired stage and goals. The coach asks questions to facilitate the evaluation based on the client’s evaluation plan established during Choose. Here, in keeping with systems theory, we use feedback from the client and the system to evaluate the choice made. The client has learned to keep her ears open to various types of feedback: direct and indirect, as well as intuitive cues that bring awareness. In general systems theory, equifinality refers to the idea that the same outcome can come from different paths. It is important the client understands that the decision need not be final, that she can take an alternate path to achieve the career or transition goal based on feedback from the system and honest evaluation.
Evaluate is also a time for checking the sustainability of the client’s choice, consider any maintenance required, and any necessary accountability measures that must be implemented. The client may choose to monitor progress and feelings about the choice using a journal or other means. Again, the client feels supported and encouraged to honest evaluate the choice with the recognition that the choice is not final. Another piece of the Evaluate stage is exploring how the client feels about additional coaching to support this or other goals and what other choices need to be made in pursuit of the goal.
This stage supports ICF competencies of planning and goal setting as this stage causes the client assess plans and goals against the choice made; this may lead to a new plan and/or goal. Also, in this stage the coach facilitates the client’s thinking around accountability, sustainability, and tracking progress against desired state.
Tools: Client-designed evaluation, check assumptions and reality using insights from the Consider stage, exploring the choice in relation to the 4 components of Emotional Intelligence.
Repeat is the final stage characterized by the client’s comfort and self-confidence to begin again if the choice made doesn’t work as planned. Repeat refers to the client’s current goal (repeating the stages to reach a different result because you know you have options) as well as encourages clients to repeat the process when a new situation, goal, or challenge arises. In general systems theory, because of the nature of an open system with input, output and feedback it is acceptable that there may be repetition of the process, repetition which may yield new results, or in the case of coaching clients, new choices.
In keeping with ICF competency #3, trust between client and coach has been established such that the client feels comfortable acknowledging the desire or need to repeat the coaching steps.
Tools: Time, space and support to pause again and complete previous steps as necessary.
I now know that randomness will be a part of coaching. I will use the Open Funnel model as a means to roughly identify a client’s current stage and appropriate tools that may help facilitate the coaching conversation. Open systems thinking relates to the randomness of coaching in that there are many inputs from both coach and client that impact the coaching conversation, and that these inputs can arise at any time. With evaluation of the output and feedback from the system and through the use of various tools, the client is supported and skilled to make transitions and to thrive.