A Coaching Model Created by Douglas Hensch
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
At the beginning of each coaching engagement, among other things, we tell clients that they own the content and we’ll do our best to drive the process.
That is, the coachee’s responsibility to is to be present at every session and be as open and candid, as possible. My role is to keep us on track so that the client is able to reach his/her goals and grow along the way.
Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., happiness researcher and professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, (USA), likes to say, Context matters.
What Todd means is that we must be careful of applying the same rules and processes to everyone as our uniqueness along with our ever-‐changing context requires a great deal of open-‐ mindedness and flexibility in our lives. And, so it is with coaching. The process described below is not a prescription. Rather, it is used as a set of guiding principles to help clients create the transformation that serves them best – transformation that comes from the coachee and is guided by the coach.
The foundation of our coaching process is goal setting. Each client is asked to work with us through a 360-‐degree feedback process. Depending on the situation, we may also ask the client to complete a psychological assessment, such as the Myers-‐Briggs Type Indicator or the Values in Action Strengths Survey. In addition, the client completes a values profile and completes a goal planning template which we discuss early in the process.
Once the goals are in place, we use this as the guide post to keep the conversations focused and to measure progress. To honor our commitment to context, each session begins with, What would you like to discuss, today? or What would make our meeting productive for you?
We use the answer to this to begin the coaching conversation with the following model.
Situation – Some models start with the end in mind. That is they ask the coachee to state a goal for the session and then work towards that goal. Our experience has been that many clients are not sure of one or two things. First, they may not know what it is they want to achieve. They need help determining exactly what it is they would like to accomplish. Second, they seem to have trouble articulating the goal (assuming they have one to discuss) in ways that are specific and productive.
With this being the case, we do our best to ask open-‐ended questions about their situation.
We probe. We ask clarifying questions and do our best to get to the heart of the matter. For instance, if the client originally states that she would like to be promoted, we may ask her to identify the benefits. We may ask what has been done to achieve this goal, to this point, or who they have enlisted to assist them. In some cases, we help the client determine that the goal needs to be re-‐evaluated and/or re-‐ stated.
Outcome – Once we know enough about the situation, we set our sights on the goal, or outcome.
We help the client identify the goal that he would like to achieve. We may ask questions that help the client gain more specificity in describing the goal. We will help the client make a commitment to when the goal will be achieved and push him make sure it is achievable. Finally, we will ask how the client will know when he achieved his goal.
Risks – A business leader we once worked with had a habit of telling his people, Be comfortably uncomfortable.
He usually made this announcement when he was kicking off a training workshop or a new initiative that required some amount of change within his group. The idea was that his team was going to be uncomfortable with this change but it would lead to learning and growth…and, that was ok.
Once the “outcome” has been articulated, we help the client figure out some of the steps she will need to take to get there. She is going to need to do something different from what she was doing in the past and, because of this, there may be some “risks” to take. Some are big and some are small. We encourage the client to identify all of the possible steps without judgment. It is similar to brainstorming where most (if not all) of the ideas come from the client. If the client gets stuck, we can ask permission to offer up some options that can be considered. Since we believe very strongly that the client be the source of their wisdom, we make sure not to dominate the brainstorming and that each idea we offer is met by at least one from the client. This can be a helpful way to get the client moving.
Take Action – At some point, the client is going to need to start working towards the “outcome” that was discussed. Some clients are excellent at generating multiple ideas for next steps, or “risks” that can be taken to move forward. Our role as coaches, in part, is to help the client determine the most effective path. With that as a guide, we can ask questions such as, What is your most powerful next step? and When will you commit to taking this next step?
This step in our coaching model creates movement and empowers the client as they work towards their goals. Many times, the client enters the coaching session with some fear and anxiety around how to get to the next level or where to start. By bringing them to the “take action” step, they get can attain a sense of autonomy and mastery that creates an upward spiral of success.
It is important to note that this is not a linear process. We may need to ask “situation” questions throughout to gain clarity on the issues. An idea for a next step (or “risk”) may come up early but we do not want to disregard this idea if we’re still articulating the “outcome.”
Coaching can be an incredibly effective tool. Through careful questioning and a curiosity that is aimed at the best interests of the client, we can help them clarify their goals, challenge unproductive beliefs, generate creative ideas and take accountability for moving forward.
The SORT model is one that draws on research and wisdom to get at the heart of the matter, quickly, and keep the client at the center of the discussion. This model is rooted in questions but gives just enough structure to help the client feel confident in the process with the flexibility to allow for new information and the unique circumstances of the client.
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