A Coaching Model Created by Cara Amores
(Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
I came to coaching from a background as a Human Resources leader, keen to gain a better understanding of how coaching can be used to create a learning culture within an organization. Having worked in organizations where the majority of employees are millennials who are looking for leadership, connection, development, and community, coaching can be instrumental in building the competencies of effective leaders who in turn are better equipped to support the development of team members.
Accountability and growth are key components in building a cooperative healthy community of employees within an organization. The starting points are clear expectations and feedback. Coaching can be used to help leaders create sustainable change, and as such, I’ve developed a leadership coaching model that is simple and can be used to help leaders hold themselves accountable, gain awareness and determine their path forward. The AAA (“triple-A”) model can be used with a leader to work through any leadership competencies required for their role, and also for any other issues that are getting in their way of being the best they can be, including skill gaps. “Contemporary organizations are recognizing the need to develop leader competencies that enhance leaders’ capacity to understand and distinguish their own feelings, manage their own behavior, and manage relationships”.
A learning culture starts with the leaders but spreads throughout an organization. Most organizations today require leaders to “coach” team members. After making strong progress along their own journey of accountability and growth with the support of a leadership coach, leaders can in turn use the AAA model as a framework for development conversations with their team members. As such the simplicity of the model makes it scalable.
Accountability in the workplace shows up in employees who take responsibility for their actions. They hold themselves accountable against company policies, procedures, job requirements, social norms, and leadership competencies. They do this with honesty and humility. They acknowledge that an organization is a community of people and they are more likely to think in terms of “us” instead of “me”.
Accountability structures are important in organizations, and leadership coaching is a key support to those structures. An organization must clearly communicate its mission, values, behavior expectations, job requirements, and leadership competencies. This must start from the very beginning. Once these values and expectations are established, keeping them alive requires helping leaders to understand where they might fall short of any of the behavior expectations. Feedback mechanisms are crucial. The role of an internal or external leadership coach to support those feedback mechanisms is a very effective resource for organizations.
Accountability underpins my coaching model, the AAA model. By holding leaders accountable to objective feedback, the coach partners with the client as he/she acknowledges feedback builds awareness of gaps, and carves an action plan to close those gaps. The coach’s role in supporting this process helps to reinforce a learning culture free of entitlement and based on growth.
The AAA model is easy to remember, easy to learn, and easy to scale.
The acronym brings forth the image of a AAA battery. This image is powerful as the coach’s role is to partner with the leader as he/she embarks on a discovery of gaps in their behavior as measured against leadership competencies, building awareness around those gaps, and with this new energy to form action plans that will close those gaps. The coach is like a charger for a chargeable battery, as the coach supports the client’s growth. The image of moving from the “negative charge” through to the “positive charge” with energy and resilience resonates with millennial leaders.
Stage 1: Acknowledgement:
The first stage starts with feedback. A leader needs to receive feedback (ideally 360-degree feedback) which gives objective balanced data on where the leader is at regarding leader competencies. The coach’s role is to partner with the client as s/he firstly acknowledges the feedback and processes his/her reactions to that feedback. The ability to receive feedback with grace builds resilience in a leader.
Coaching questions to consider:
- What of this feedback is a surprise to you?
- What of this feedback is not a surprise to you?
- Using this feedback, what areas are your priorities to address?
- What will happen if you address these areas?
- What will happen if you do not address these areas?
Stage 2: Awareness:
The second stage is about building awareness. At this stage, the coach supports the leader as he dives further into the feedback to understand his/her behavior. Focusing inward in this way builds emotional intelligence. The coach uses powerful questioning to create this exploration. Further assessment tools may be utilized at this point to help the client uncover where they are stuck. Gaining an understanding of himself/herself is a critical point in the leader’s journey, this is where accountability and growth meet.
Coaching questions to consider:
- What is a great leader to you?
- What is standing in the way of you being a great leader?
- What are your strengths as a leader?
- How can you harness your strengths to become a great leader?
Stage 3: Action:
Once the leader has identified for himself/herself gaps between the current state (negative charge) and where he/she wants to be (positive charge), the client is ready to move through to the last stage, action planning. Action planning is led by the client, with the coach as a partner. The coach will use powerful questioning to support the client as s/he identifies what steps s/he wants to take to move forward.
Coaching questions to consider:
- When will you take these actions?
- What could get in the way of taking these actions?
- What supports can you draw upon?
- What commitment level do you have to these actions?
- How will you celebrate when you complete these actions?
Coaching Team Members:
Millennials today are both leaders and team members within an organization. The leaders need to build leadership skills. The team members need a development from their leaders. A key leadership competency today within many organizations is the ability to have development or “coaching” conversations with a team member. A coaching conversation is different from giving directions and different to giving feedback. Leaders who have invested in their own development via coaching to build effective leadership habits are better able to themselves have development conversations with their team members. As such, my model first focuses on developing the leadership competencies of leaders. Once there is considerable traction, the coach can support the leader to work off the same simple model (AAA Model) to have development conversations with his/her team members.
Leadership coaching helps to drive accountability and a growth mindset within an organization. Using the AAA model the coach partners with the coach as s/he develops resilience and leverages strengths to unleash their potential. Strong and effective leaders who know the power of feedback and have self-awareness are well placed to support the development of team members in turn, by utilizing effective feedback and supporting self-discovery and action planning.
“Coaching Models For Leadership Development: An Integrative Review”, W. Carey, G. Cummings, and D. Philippen, JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP STUDIES, Volume 5, Number 1, 2011, University of Phoenix.
“Workplace Accountability: Exploring the Role of Strong and Weak Accountability Environments on Employee Effort and Performance”, Vesey, Jermaine and Ford, Audira, The Journal of International Management Studies, Volume 14 Number 2, August 2019.
“The Focused Leader”, D. Coleman, Daniel, Harvard Business Review, December 2013, hbr.org/2013/12/the-focused-leader
 “Coaching Models For Leadership Development: An Integrative Review”, W. Carey, G. Cummings, and D. Philippen, JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP STUDIES, Volume 5, Number 1, 2011, University of Phoenix, p53.
 “The Focused Leader”, D. Coleman, Daniel, Harvard Business Review, December 2013, hbr.org/2013/12/the-focused-leader
 “Coaching Models For Leadership Development: An Integrative Review”, W. Carey, G. Cummings, and D. Philippen, JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP STUDIES, Volume 5, Number 1, 2011, University of Phoenix, p.63.