A Coaching Model Created by Antonio Novais
(Wellness Coach, PORTUGAL)
Our coaching model is product of extensive research, not only on other coaching models, but also on frameworks, coaching tools and on elements of the coaching process.
Our first reflections focused on what we considered to be two different approaches to the model:
- Based on a coaching session, focusing our attention on the different components of a session;
- Based on a coaching program, meaning a set of coaching sessions, where certain issues had to be contemplated.
We decided for the latter.
We got inspired on the Mount Lasting Change Model from Wellcoaches®, and on the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change, developed by Prochaska & DiClemente. This coaching model is thought to be used on a health and wellness coaching context, but we found to be useful on other coaching niches, such as executive and business coaching. In spite of these all the examples found below are health related and refer to the acquisition of new behaviours. It is our understanding that all the changes that result from the coaching process will be expressed sooner or later through the form of a new behaviour, making that change visible to others.
The Pile Coaching Model Explained
The model is tri-dimensional and is represented by a set of 15 building blocks pilled in a 5 level pyramid shape structure. The 4 levels from the top are named after the last 4 stages of intentional change of Prochaska & DiClemente Model: Preparation, Action, Maintenance and Termination. The 1st level, Vision, has roots on the works of Cooperrider’s Appreciative Inquiry and on Boyatzis’ Individual Change Theory. The latter states, “…The ideal self – a vision of the type of person one aspires to be or the types of things one wishes to accomplish in life – is the fundamental driver of intentional personal change” – this is our starting point.
Level 1 – Vision
This is where the client begins to gain greater self-awareness, as well as an understanding of both the benefits of change and the obstacles. Helping the client to go to the top of the pile “requires a challenging shift from telling to asking; from knowing (the facts) to being comfortable not knowing (the client’s thoughts); from selling solutions to struggling clients to supporting them to think hard and find their own way; from not only helping clients recognize and build on the strengths they already have, but also helping them cultivate new and unfamiliar strengths.”
The aim of this level is to build a solid base for change. A vision is a compelling statement of who the client is, and what behaviours he/she wants to do consistently. It is a beacon that guides client’s actions.
For building the vision, it is necessary to define a topic and establish an agreement with the client.
What is the thing that is beyond client’s immediate self-interest? What is the thing that the client considers being in service of? What gives meaning to client’s life? Finding meaning is an incredible source of spiritual energy. Using Nietzsche’s words “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost anyhow”.
Values (a) are concepts or beliefs, (b) are about desirable end states and behaviours, (c) transcend specific situations, (d) guide selection or evaluation of behaviour or events, and (e) are ordered by relative importance (Bilsky & Schwartz, 1987). “Values are cognitive representations of the important human goals or motivations about which people must communicate in order to coordinate their behaviour. The content that distinguishes one value from another is the type of motivation or goal that it represents.”
What are the client’s values? Are they aligned with the purpose? When two important values are present, which one will prevail? To what extent are clients’ values consistent with their actions?
Using frameworks such as the Disconnect Values Model (DVM) can encourage clients to examine their life and to live in a manner that is consistent with their values. Clients discover the disconnect(s) between their negative habits and their deepest values and beliefs. The DVM is predicated on two postulates that define self-motivated behaviour The first postulate is that self-motivated behaviour reflects a person’s deepest values about his or her passion, that is, the “power of purpose” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003). Purpose prompts the desire to become fully engaged in activities that “really matter” in meeting personal goals and future aspirations. The second postulate is that the primary motivators of normal human behaviour are: (a) to identify a deeply held set of values, (b) to live a life consistent with those values, and (c) to consistently hold ourselves accountable to them.
Strengths are “pre-existing patterns of thought, feeling, and behaviour that are authentic, energizing and which lead to our best performance.”
Connecting clients with their strengths helps them overcome the negative self-talk that often accompanies efforts to change, and allows them to perform at best. Strengths that are authentic are descriptive of the true individual. Clients’ strengths are noticed when they talk about a situation in which they used their strengths, and become more alive, increasingly animated, communicative, and more alerted and excited (Biswas-Diener, 2010).
How might the clients know when to use one of their strengths more and when they should use it less? What is the impact of clients’ strengths use on others and how does that feedback suggest they might better use their strengths?
“Self-awareness is a psychological state in which people are aware of their traits, feelings and behaviour. Alternately, it can be defined as the realization of oneself as an individual entity.” (Crisp & Turner, 2010)
Raising clients’ level of awareness is an important step for change. By making powerful questions the clients are challenged to see things through different perspectives, to discover hidden things about themselves, allowing them to build on this new information.
Level 2 – Preparation
Creating a vision is fundamental but is of little use without the strategic thinking needed to work out how to achieve it. So, this level contemplates the mechanisms to be used to achieve the vision.
Preparation Level includes the following:
Goals + Plan
Goal setting is an intrinsic part of successful coaching (Kombarakaran et al., 2008). Goals provide focus, energy, motivation and help to achieve things.
S(pecific), M(eausurable) A(chievable), R(elevant), T(ime-bound) goals should be defined, but is not enough. Goals have also the following characteristics (Lyubomirsky, 2008):
- Intrinsic (vs. Extrinsic) - Intrinsic goals are those that the clients pursue because they are inherently satisfying and meaningful to them, which allow them to grow as a person, to develop emotional maturity, and to contribute to their community (e.g., to give my best performance ever). By contrast, extrinsic goals (e.g., to be respected by good work) reflect more what other people approve or desire for the clients.
- Authentic (vs. Inauthentic) - Do the clients value and truly "own" their goals, or are they really the goals favoured by their parents, spouses, or neighbours? The more a goal fits their personality, the more likely that its pursuit will be rewarding and pleasureful. “Is this really me?”
- Approach-oriented (vs. Avoidance-oriented) - Does the goal involve approaching a desirable outcome (e.g., being healthy) or avoiding an undesirable outcome (e.g., prevent disease).
- Harmonious (vs. Conflicting) – Clients’ goals should complement one another. Simultaneously striving for conflicting goals (like "build my business" and "spend more time outdoors") will make them annoyed and discouraged that they'll relinquish both goals and end up feeling stressed out and unhappy.
- Flexible/Appropriate (Rigid/Inappropriate) – As time goes, opportunities for pursuing goals are bound to change, sometimes opening up and other times diminishing. What is important to clients is subject to change, and goals should adapt to opportunities. One certainty remains: pursuing goals brings greater rewards than abandon them.
- Activity-based (vs. Circumstances-based) - Which goal is more happiness-inducing: seeking to better clients’ circumstances or taking up a new activity? Research suggests that when people strive to change their circumstances (e.g., buy high-definition televisions) by defining and then achieving their goals, they certainly feel happier, but they risk experiencing hedonic adaptation. In other words, they are likely to adapt quickly to their new situation and begin to desire ever-higher levels of pleasure (e.g., an ever-bigger HDTV) simply in order to recapture their previous level of happiness. However, the process of pursuing "activity" goals (e.g., learning about art, volunteering at a blood drive) allows a person continually to experience new challenges, take on new opportunities, and meet a variety of experiences.
Goals are a set of intentions that need to be translated into behaviours. This process is imperfect giving space for the existence of an intention-behaviour gap, partly attributed to motivation features such as salience, priority, strength and stability of intentions. All these influence whether a client who forms an intention to take a certain action remains disposed to do so at a later time when a performance opportunity arises. Planning increases the chances that the intended behaviour will be performed (Sniehotta, Schwartezer, Scholtz & Shuz, 2005). The acquisition of a new lasting behaviour (habit) requires the coach to support clients progressing through the four stages of habit formation (Lally & Gardner, 2011):
- A decision must be made to take action;
- The decision to act must be translated into action;
- The behaviour must be repeated;
- The new action must be repeated in a fashion conducive to the development of automaticity.
Brainstorming is a great tool for clients to identify lots of small steps they can take that are actionable and realistic. For having maximum effect, enactment of a plan is most likely if the cue to action is an event, rather than a time-based cue, due to the fact that the former requires on-going monitoring and the event-based does not. The most effective cues are distinctive events in daily life, which are unlikely to be missed. So, the work with the clients has better results if they get support in looking for cues that are more distinctive in appearance (salient), and therefore more effective in eliciting planned behaviour.
Visualization is also a great tool and can be used to for defining goals and planning. Visualizing an outcome is great, but not so effective as visualizing the process of getting to the goal – most part of the people can visualize the goal achievement but they are not willing to live the process to get there. So, when clients’ go through the process they are actually planning. This approach is not only effective with visual-oriented clients, but can also be adapted to clients with different learning styles: auditory clients may prefer to create a short story about achieving their goals; and kinaesthetic may imagine themselves acting out each step of the process.
Challenges + Lapse Prevention
Identifying and exploring clients’ challenges, such as competing priorities, lack of time, lack of confidence, and the benefits of not changing, are on-going life processes.
It is natural that the clients exhibit ambivalence, or resistance to change. By using tools such as Decisional Balance (Jannis & Mann, 1977) can be a great way to evaluate the pros and cons of change, and allow developing discrepancy between where the clients are today and where they want to be in the future. By eliciting clients’ motivators, by helping them to explore the barriers that prevent them from new behaviours, and by challenging them to find possible solutions, we create the conditions to move to the next level.
Lapse prevention involves anticipating challenges that might hinder action, and forming concrete plans to deal with these situations (coping planning). Sometimes, when designing action plans aimed to acquire a new healthy habit, can involve the breaking of unwanted habits. This can be done by discontinuing exposure to habit cues (e.g. through the coaching process, the client can find out that taking a different route home prevents him/her from buying unhealthy food).
Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honourable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself. Marcus T. Cicero
Confidence = self-efficacy + optimism
- Self-efficacy – the belief that one has the capability to initiate and sustain a desired behaviour (or that one can reach one’s goals).
- Optimism – the global generalized tendency to believe that one will generally experience good versus bad outcomes in life.
Confidence predicts achievement of goals and can be raised by helping clients’ paying attention to Bandura’s four sources of self-efficacy: physiological/affective states (cultivating eustress); verbal persuasion (evoking change talk); vicarious experiences (observing similar role models); and mastery experiences (one’s successes).
As a tool to assess confidence we can use a ruler and ask the client: On a scale of 0 to 10, with “0” being “not at all confident” and “10” being “very confident”, how confident are you that you will be able to accomplish the goal?” After answering the question it is important to talk about the number the client picked: e.g., “What would assist you to get to a higher number?”
Committed goal pursuit provides us a sense of purpose and a feeling of control over our lives. If all the previous work is secured, then commitment should be a natural and indispensable step. When the clients make an oral or written commitment to another person, they increase their probability of success. Honouring a commitment shows a high level of integrity.
Passionate commitment in and of itself carries many benefits. It fulfils people’s needs to belong and to connect with others, as it often involves social duties and obligations. Committing to important goals also reinforces client’s sense of autonomy, because while it may appear at first sight as a constraint to their freedom, the choice to commit is, and should be, made freely (Lyubomirsky, 2008).
Level 3 – Action
This level depicts the doing process with early wins and constant fine-tuning. The clients work on building new relationships, practicing new behaviours and establishing new habits.
Action Level includes the following:
Clients are actually doing a new desirable behaviour. Previous levels took the clients through cognitive processes that allowed them to initiate a new behaviour with a reasonable expectancy of success, meaning lasting change.
Knowing that clients can fail to act on their intention, when opportunity to act presents itself, because they forget to enact their intended action, previous work has been done regarding lapse prevention: clients know the cue to initiate the behaviour (preferably, event-based); they know the best point to insert a new habit; they can even have reminders, so they can be sure of performing at the right time. Consistency is key for habit formation, but clients should also know that a lapse, when it occurs (and will probably occur) has a negligible impact on habit.
Looking for Solutions
In spite of coping planning, unpredictable events will rise once the new behaviour is initiated. Self-monitoring can help to identify unwanted behaviour, and so is potentially conducive to the mobilisation and implementation of strategies to reduce discrepancies between current and desired behaviour. Our role as coaches is to support the clients in a way that encourages them “to internalise the need and desire for change, thus engendering self-determined, rather than compliant, behaviour change.” (Deci & Ryan, 1985)
Satisfaction + Rewards
Satisfaction is important in maintaining novel actions. “The feeling of satisfaction indicates that the initial decision to change the behaviour was correct.” (…) “Satisfaction arises from attaining valued anticipated outcomes of performance.” (Rothman, 2000). Our role is to ensure that the client has realistic expectations, and can manage the evaluation of outcomes once the behaviour has been initiated. We also need to ensure that clients are aware of outcomes that may be difficult to notice and so may otherwise be undervalued (e.g., keeping the same weight, but loosing fat and gaining muscle). Acknowledgment is also a great way to encourage coachees to continue the new behaviour, by promoting autonomy and competence.
Rewards serve as a reinforcement of behaviour. Intrinsic rewards, as pleasure and satisfaction, have a long-term effect, whereas extrinsic (tangible) rewards are likely to facilitate habit formation only where attainment of the reward does not become the goal of performance (Dickinson, 1985). Anyway, extrinsic rewards, self-determined by clients, are excellent to reinforce motivation and confidence. As coaches, we can encourage them to mindfully observe and enjoy in order to fully engage with and sustain the change process.
Level 4 – Maintenance
The characteristics of this level are behaviour stabilization and relapse prevention.
Our role is to support clients’ development of automaticity. Habit formation is best aided by consistent repetition of behaviour, and a single missed opportunity has negligible impact. The concern at this point is frequency of repetitions falling below the level of consistency required for habits to form.
Some self-help programmes have claimed that it takes 21 days to form a habit (e.g. Maltz, 1969) but it is generally agreed among researchers that habit formation is a slower process than this. Lally et al. (2010) found the average time for participants to reach the asymptote of automaticity was 66 days, with a range of 18-254 days. “It is important at this level to move from extrinsic inducements to intrinsic motivation and contentment.” (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2009)
Even after clients mastered a new behaviour, there is still potential to get side tracked. Shift happens and new challenges emerge. Developing strategies to prevent relapses is the thinking/feeling work required for this level.
Many health-related problems can be framed in terms of a conflict between immediate impulses on one hand and reasoned attitudes and standards to restrain behaviour on the other. These decisions require the clients’ volitional control or willpower in order to be effective. Willpower is indeed needed for effective self-regulation, but these self-regulatory resources are limited. The exertion of self-control seems to deplete these resources, which replenish only after some time has elapsed (e.g., Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven & Tice, 1998). The psychological term is ego depletion and refers to mental fatigue that reduces peoples’ capacity to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and actions. We have to support our clients to identify the risks of falling in these situations and help them to develop strategies to overcome issues as these (e.g., cognitive load, emotional distress, etc.)
Quoting Arloski, our role as wellness coaches is “to be an advocate of the client’s health and wellbeing, and to inspire and support their growth and development.”
Level 5 – Termination
The top of the pile.
Best Possible Self
Best possible Self – a representation of one’s life after the person has successfully attained their goals and aspirations.
Although the physical changes and increased confidence are valuable outcomes of behaviour change, what clients yearn for most is to be their possible best. Clients have expanded their own sense of self and become closer to becoming their best self. Often the real me is buried under emotional weight and stress and is revealed when change is mastered.
As coaches we should allow time for the clients take notice, embrace and enjoy their best possible self. It is time for the client to celebrate and for the coach to acknowledge.
The Pile Coaching Model is a set of building blocks that a coach has to be sure is in place to prevent collapse. Change is not a linear process. There will be upward movement and there will be setbacks. The coach is there to give support, to provide encouragement, to challenge, to acknowledge in order to improve clients’ use of their resources, and increase clients’ self-decisiveness, self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy. In short, clients’ autonomy to act at their best possible self.
 Biswas-Biener, R. (2010). Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching: Assessment, Actvities, and strategies for Success. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey
 Hance, B; Moore, M. (2009). Climbing Out of the Negativity and Up to the Top of Mount the Lasting Change. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. Vol. 13/No. 4
 Bilsky, W.; Schwartz, S. (1994). Values and Personality. Europen Journal of Personality. Vol. 8, 163-181
 Anshel, Mark H. (2006). Applied Exercise Psychology : A Practitioner’s Guide to Improving Client Health and Fitness. Springer Publishing Company. New York
 Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching: Assessment, Activities, and Strategies for Success. John Wiley & Sons. Hoboken, New jersey
 Biswas-Diener, R.; Kashdan, T.; Minhas, G. (2011) A Dynamic Approach to Psychological Strength Development Intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology Vol 6, No. 2, March 2011, 106-108
 Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. The Penguin Press, New York
 Giffen, D.C., Zhivotovskaya, E. (2007). Positive Psychology Toolkit for Coaches: Book proposal. Unpublished thesis. University of Pennsylvania
 The existence of coexisting and conflicting feelings.
 Lapse is a single slip in a desired behaviour that may or may not lead to a relapse.
 Habit is an automatic cue-response acquired through context-dependent repetition (Lally et al., 2010)
 Baumeister, R.; Tierney, J. (2011). Willpower. Penguin Press
 Arloski, M. (2007). Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change. Whole Person Associates. Duluth, MN.