A Coaching Model Created by Michele Spencer
(Life Coach, CANADA)
Like many people that are drawn to coaching, it is because we care about people, about their lives and their hopes and dreams, and about their striving to gain personal mastery over these lives. How I show that caring is by bringing curiosity, attentive listening and powerful/intuitive questioning to each session to facilitate the process of them gaining this personal mastery. How that breaks down in a regular session can be loosely defined in four intertwining stages:
The coaching agreement is a twofold process, there is the over arching agreement the coach makes with their client at the beginning of their coaching relationship. Generally there is a contract that discusses and defines with the client general outline and boundaries of the coaching relationship, such as fees and agreed-upon times of getting together etc. This is also the opportunity for the coach to lay out what their particular style/niche coaching is and establish whether they are a match for the client. This is not the agreement that I want to define within the context of my coaching model as this is fairly standard and a search on the Internet will bring up many stock forms that a coach can use.
The coaching agreement that I refer to in my coaching model is kind of similar in that it is establishing the boundaries of the coaching relationship, but in particular, for that specific session. How this looks is that I begin by defining the goal for that session, which is designed and defined by the client and is based on their expressed interests and objectives, and then building the coaching agreement around that goal.
The clarity of the goal is very important as it helps the client to really define what it is that they want to achieve. An example of a very specific goal would be if a client comes to you and says that they like to get in shape. What exactly does this mean? As a coach you then begin to ask questions to define what exactly this means to the client such as finding out if getting in shape will be achieved through diet, running, or weightlifting for example.
Some of the ways that can help clarify the goal is to find out how, in that session, the success of achieving it can be measured. An example would be if your client is feeling a sense of overwhelm about an upcoming event, such as participating in a 10K run, than a reduction in the sense of overwhelm could be a measurement. Another way to bring about some clarity would be to find out how it will make a difference in their life. Continuing on that same example then perhaps the difference in their life would be a building of confidence so that they do not become overwhelmed the next time.
As you can see from this example through the clarity of the goal the coach discovers that it’s not so much the idea of getting in shape, but the corresponding sense of overwhelm that the client needs help with. The coach is able to help the client clearly define what the underlying target goal is and so they are more skillfully able to facilitate the process with the client. It is around the session goal that the coach forms the boundaries of their coaching agreement for that session.
Awareness can take part of the defining of the coaching agreement. It is important to remember that the four stages defined here are fluid and each one intertwines with the other.
As goal setting is a future oriented process it is important to work with the client to see where they are at in the present moment.
- What is your current reality – I like to begin by looking at goal setting without the restriction of where the client is at the current moment as sometimes it is important to dream without restriction. Inevitably though, in order to know the smaller steps to take in the process of goal striving, the client needs to be aware of the starting point. The coaches job is to hold the bigger picture for the client while being able to zero in on the smaller pieces that make up that bigger picture. With the starting point determined in the coaching agreement/goal defined it is time to fill in the steps between these two points.
- What are your values – helping the client become aware of what it is that they value can help determine how they will proceed on to obtaining their goal. This may as well bring up some conflicts for the client in that the goal the may be striving for could perhaps not be in alignment with their values. An example of this would be a client that is looking to spend more time with their family, but is as well, in the process of striving for a promotion at work. This can then become an area where the coach, through skillful listening and questioning, facilitates the client becoming aware of the conflict and determining how they want to proceed. As stated before this is a fluid process so this part may lead to going back to the coaching agreement and tweaking it or redefining it.
Reflection and awareness go hand-in-hand. It is through the process of reflection that an awareness is created, which leads to more reflection. It is important not to confuse reflection with reminiscing, as dwelling on the clients past falls more into the realm of counseling than it does coaching. The coach helps the client navigate into their past in order to glean facts that will be useful in the present moment and in the future without becoming mired down in past regrets or challenges where the client feels that they were less than skillful.
Areas that will be useful to reflect on for the client will be:
- Resources – resources can entail many things such as person's ability, this could even simply be the ability to learn so that the client can gain the skills that they need to attain their goal. Another resource may be as well an experience the client has had that they can build upon in order to bolster their confidence and skill development for goal attainment. An example would be simply building the confidence based on past experience, whereby the client begins to see that they do have the capacity to achieve what it is they are setting out for.
Resources can also refer to the people in the client’s life that can help support them during their goal striving process. The support can look like someone who inspires them, provides emotional support when they are facing obstacles, or can be someone who helps them overcome an obstacle. It is very important to check in with the client because some people are very self-sufficient and do not like or perhaps even know how to ask others for help.
- Possibilities – referring to possibilities means that there are often many paths that we can take when we go from point A to point B. Being able to reflect on previous actions that have been attempted can be useful but must be done very skillfully so as not to have the client be focused on what has not worked and any kind of sense of failure surrounding that. This requires fairly skillful questioning on the coaches behalf in order to avoid this. The key feature will be to maintain a sense of objectivity with the client to keep them on point and reflecting on the facts of the situation in order to facilitate what needs to change. This can be done by simply changing a question such as "what do you think went wrong" to asking "what did you learn from this experience". It is reframing questions in order to have the client continually reflect on what's possible, not what is not possible.
- Options – this line of questioning brings together the two previous areas of reflection. Armed with the information as to the clients resources available and what they perceive to be the possibilities of goal attainment the coach can then help facilitate the client in determining what their realistic options are at this point. One of strong features of coaching is that by being able to talk out loud and reflect with another person who is there just for you, the client can hear what perhaps was only thoughts previously. This is powerful in that getting ideas out of one's head and putting them out and hearing them can really facilitate the process reflection as the client can actually hear what is being said to determine whether it is realistic.
By this point in the coaching session, through the fluidity of defining a coaching agreement, bringing about awareness and reflecting on various aspects of the clients reality, the final stage of the session is the client feeling empowered to move forward and begin taking steps towards the goal of the wish to attain.
The definition of empower is to give someone the authority or power to do something or to make someone stronger and more confident so that they feel in control of their life and their ability to enact change. The coach cannot give this to the client because no matter how much we believe in them they need to believe in themselves. So it is through the skills of awareness and reflection the coach can find examples in the client’s narrative that can make them become aware that they already possess what they need to achieve their goal.
At the very first stage during the coaching agreement when the client is looking forward to a future by defining what it is that they would like to achieve they are already being empowered to realize potential. The process of even just looking at the possibility of realizing a dream/goal can empower a person to feel that they have control and autonomy in their life and can enact change. This step can also bring awareness to the fact that there may be multiple obstacles to overcome or steps that need to be taken in order to attain the goal so here is where the coach comes in to champion their client. By assisting the client to see their successes in the smaller steps that are leading to the bigger picture the coach can facilitate them recognizing their ability to realize their potential.
During the second and third stages, where the coach and client work together to bring about awareness and reflect on the clients current reality and everything that they have available to them, both internally and externally, to facilitate the realization of their dreams, the client may feel a surge of empowerment. This would be when they begin to realize and start owning their talents/abilities and build upon the confidence in themselves that will carry them forward. The coach’s role in this is to use their abilities in listening and questioning in order to facilitate the client clearly seeing that they do have a strong foundation in order to work off of. This would mean that it is important to acknowledge the clients abilities and achievements every step of the way. This acknowledgment should always be defined by specific examples where the client has shown whatever ability the coaches recognizing. In this way then it becomes a concrete reference for the client to reflect on and build upon.
A way to recognize that the client is feeling empowered is that they become ready to take the next step. I would like to put in a disclaimer that this does not mean that the client will achieve their goal, as goal striving and attainment can be impeded by unforeseen happenstance, but the only way to attain the goal is by taking that first step. This is again where awareness and reflection return so that the coach and the client can look at what has happened after that first initial step and the client can determine what needs to be done next. This begins the CARE cycle again.
Through this process the client will potentially gain a sense of autonomy and realization that they can enact change in their life. Each session during the coaching relationship than becomes one where the coach/client look at what the goals are, what obstacles have been an impediments to those goals, and look in particular at beliefs and behaviors that hold the client back. The client is responsible for his or her own achievements and success and the coach is the facilitator of the CARE process that supports the client to move forward.