A Coaching Model Created by Alberto López Mas
(Life Coach, VIETNAM)
DEEP (Drivers – Experience – Essence – Power) is a model that provides a general framework for both a whole coaching process and its individual sessions. It is action and goal-oriented, and aspires to achieve results through progressive self-awareness and the development of a solid coaching relationship. This makes it more suitable for life, career-orientation and transformational coaching, although it can be used in other situations where a good level of insight is needed.
It has the following characteristics:
- Goal and action-oriented: The process is triggered by the client’s goals and its outcomes are specific actions, and special emphasis is given to refining both.
- Using the Client’s Inner Tools: It puts the stress on discovering and using the client’s own values, strengths, beliefs and structures to solve any situation.
- Progressive: It builds every session on elements from previous ones.
- Adaptable: It recognizes that every session is different and the dynamics of the whole coaching process change over time.
- Evolving: It grows over time with the coaching relationship and the client’s awareness.
- Personal: It gives high importance to the coach-client relationship.
Description of Its Elements
(NOTE: The model diagram is shown on the next page.)
DEEP is structured in three interconnected layers. All of them are part of the client and therefore are present in every session, but probably not all components will be treated directly every time. It is important to note that all these elements are not isolated. On the contrary, just like the client is not formed by detached parts, the DEEP elements are related to each other within the same and other layers.
The diagram makes use also of four power catalysts (green and pink arrows). They change during the process and, at the same time, bring energy to it in a virtuous cycle that enhance its potential.
Drivers Layer (blue): This layer contain the factors that bring the client to coaching and track his/her advance. At the end of the day they drive the client (hence its name), and makes sense for him/her as the outcome of coaching.
- Goals: The objectives for the session and the whole process. Although some clients have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, others need help to define it. It is essential to devote as much time as needed to have well-defined goals (using the SMART methodology or a similar one).
- Actions: The plans that the client takes out at the end of the session and process. They must be defined and owned by the client, promoting his/her own agenda in order to achieve the goals defined previously.
Goals and Actions are interrelated: achieving goals is the cause to create action, and the result of those actions may change or bring new goals.
Experience Layer (orange): This layer contains elements that become apparent to the client in a first exploration. They describe how he/she is experiencing it and the behavior towards it.
- Thoughts: The “rational” considerations the client gives to the problem and goals. Usually, the client has given time to ponder the situation before coming to coaching, and has come to conclusions (or lack of them) that are important elements when exploring the situation.
- Feelings: The emotions, sentiments and moods the client has towards the situation are a key point in understanding the problem. Usually the feelings will evolve along with his/her views. Observing and understanding them unlocks deeper insights and predicts the client’s commitment in a defined path of action.
- Motivations: The impulses, inspirations, fears or rejections that rise in the client in the face of the coaching problem. It is essential that the client understand them in order to analyze his/her options with greater clarity.
- Options: Possibilities, opportunities and choices that open up in the coaching situation. They may be hidden at the beginning or evolve during the exploration of the problem.
Of course, these aspects are not static. They change and relate to each other in the course of a session and the process as a whole. New thoughts, feelings, motivations and options appear all the time.
Essence Layer (yellow): It contains inner straights of the client’s personality. They can be hidden obstacles on the road to a solution, or amazing levers for change. This is why becoming aware of them is so important as part of the coaching process.
- Values: They are the core drivers for the client’s decisions. They define what is most important for the client and take part in every choice, from the mundane to the life-changing.
- Beliefs: Beliefs are the client’s deepest convictions. Regardless their rationality or irrationality, they form his/her inner truths and, like values, are shown in the day to day behavior.
- Strengths: These are mental, behavioral or emotional abilities in which the client excels. When the client develops and uses them, they are his/her best tools for change, as they come naturally and without resistance.
- Patterns: The client’s patterns are ingrained behaviors and responses. They can be a mix of thoughts, emotions and actions, and quite often are triggered unconsciously. The client plays them and is affected (positively or negatively) by them, but many times is not aware of them. However, he/she has the power to modify them or create new ones.
- Structures: A structure is a set of ideas, habits, relationships, tools or any other aspect in the client’s life that support his/her beliefs, actions or behaviors. Structures can be limiting (e.g. when they anchor undesired behaviors) or empowering (e.g. when they facilitate action plans), and the client can choose to create or change them in order to achieve results.
Power Catalysts (green and pink arrows): As the process advances, there are certain aspects in the coaching relationship and the client itself that change and can be used to bring new energy to coaching.
- Confidence Catalysts (green arrows): The client’s self-confidence is essential to conceive meaningful plans and perform actions successfully. At the same time, his/her confidence in the coaching process itself results in more powerful sessions and more ambitious objectives. Both elements increase over time with the feedback of previous successes. As the client reaches milestones, these confidence factors grow and speed up the process.
- Awareness Catalysts (pink arrows): Coaching paves the path to self-awareness for the client, and this in turn makes meaningful change possible. The deeper the client explores, the more he/she knows about his/her beliefs, motivations, values…and this opens the door for even deeper insight. While this happens, the coaching relationship evolves and becomes more intimate; the knowledge (and awareness) of the client that the coach develops brings significant information to the process.
The Coaching Model in Practice
DEEP works with individual sessions as parts of a bigger coaching process. At process level, the entry point is a major goal defined by the client, whilst at session level it is a partial target on the road for the bigger one. In any case, the objectives are owned entirely by the client, and may change based on his/her situation and advance. In the case of session objectives they may be more or less aligned with the overall process depending on the client’s circumstances at that moment, but the whole picture should be always kept in sight.
The client comes to coaching in order to achieve something; that is the main driver and the most important way to measure advance and achievement. If the client does not have clarity about his/her goals (at session or process level), the coach must spend as much time as needed provoking exploration and definition until the objectives can be described in SMART terms (Simple, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based). The coach and client will agree on those targets, and this agreement will provide the framework for the process/session, as it will set up expectations, topics, boundaries and ways to assess advance.
At the beginning of the coaching process, the client many not know its dynamics and not be aware of his/her own possibilities. At the same time, he/she will have spent time pondering the problem and that could have built up a sense of blockage or “not knowing what to do”. That is why, in many cases, the client will need more help defining the objectives of the initial sessions, and they may be more immediate or urgent to him/her than significant to the whole picture. However, as they are perceived as very pressing, solving them will boost the client’s self-confidence.
In a session the goal triggers an exploration phase. Through powerful questions, active listening, paraphrasing and other tools, the coach helps the client to research the situation and its possible options. In an external level (Experience Layer) the research is focused on how the client lives the situation and his/her initial choices: What does he/she think? What are his/her feelings? What does the client want? Etc.
This can prompt a deeper level of exploration (Essence Layer) where the client becomes aware of the internal elements that shape his/her attitude and behavior to the problem. In addition, he/she will discover (or build) the strengths, tools and structures to handle it. These insights provoke new thoughts, feelings, motivations and options in a feedback loop. The coach facilitates this exploration and becomes aware of patterns, values, etc. to mirror them back to the client.
Usually the deepest level of insight is not achieved immediately from the start of the process. As said above, the client may not be aware of the possibilities of coaching and how it works. In addition, the coach-client relationship is just starting and the trust and intimacy needed are still building up. Finally, the coach does not have enough information to identify repetitive patterns or structures. As the coaching process evolves, though, so does its potential. The client feels more secure, the insights release new ones, and the achievements increase his/her self-confidence. The coach-client relationship grows and the coach develops a more holistic view of the client.
The last piece of the puzzle is action. At the end of each session the client uses the information gathered during the exploration phase, the new perspectives and insights, the discovered options…to create realistic action plans with the support of the coach. These actions will make use of the strengths, structures, etc. that the client has discovered or created. The plans must be measurable and based on time so the client can track progress and discuss any issues with the coach. This sets the client in motion and the success (or learnt lessons) from these actions will also increase his/her self-confidence and trust in the process.
Thus, a virtuous cycle is kicked off. With every session the client is more able to explore deeply, use his/her tools better, have more clarity of vision, more ambitious goals and draw more efficient action plans. New successes and awareness improve the coaching process and fuel the cycle. The coach nurtures it by acknowledging the client on his/her advances and giving feedback to promote discovery.
Finally, it is important to mention that, although all sessions in the coaching process are related, each one is a world on its own. The specific goal, the client’s situation or many other aspects will affect the session dynamics. All the information from previous ones will nurture a session, but the depth of the exploration or the elements at play may be different.
Usually the whole coaching process finishes when the client considers that he/she has achieved all major goals or that does not need coaching any more. The coach can put an end to the process due to ethical or professional considerations, but under normal circumstances the decision to conclude it belongs to the client.