A Coaching Model Created by Eleanor Gurney
(Executive Coach, Wellness Coach, SINGAPORE)
I have participated in (and help others participate in) a well known Obstacle Race called the ‘Spartan Race’.
“Spartan Race is a series of obstacle races of varying distance and difficulty ranging from 3 miles to marathon distances”.
Anyone who has participated in this event knows that it’s super challenging and exhausting but lots of fun and rewarding. Whilst many of us participate in a team, ultimately it’s a personal challenge. Each Spartan obstacle is different and therefore requires different strengths, skills, and tactics to complete. As such, we have to:
- continually assess our base skill set against each obstacle (our strengths, what we know from experience),
- assess what support we need (if any) and ask for it,
- come up with a tactic to master the obstacle,
- have the bravery to implement it.
It’s a challenge and it’s why we feel euphoric on crossing the finishing line. We are left with:
- a deep sense of accomplishment (of purpose),
- a renewed trust in ourselves and our abilities,
- a grounding feeling of empowerment.
The Obstacle Race/Course Analogy
obstacle course noun
- a series of objects that people taking part in a race have to climb over, under, through, etc.
- a series of difficulties that people have to deal with to achieve a particular aim
All obstacle courses have:
- A START (line)
- A series of OBSTACLES, which the individual has to overcome.
- A FINISH (line)
The GOAL is to complete the course.
The Nature of an Obstacle Course:
In a typical course, the obstacles vary in nature and difficulty and, therefore, require different skills, techniques, and strategies from the individual.
As such, the nature of an obstacle course is that it can be:
- challenging or easy,
- fun or frustrating,
- exhilarating or exhausting,
- technical or logical,
- puzzling or obvious.
The Nature of the Participant:
Each participant experiences the course differently as they come to the challenge with different skills, strengths, beliefs, and perspectives.
- Whilst one individual may see an obvious solution to the obstacle, another might not even be able to fathom where to begin.
- Where one might see the obstacle is frighteningly high, another might not.
- Where one might see the hidden obstacle clearly, another might simply not be able to see it.
However, each participant has:
- A “bank” of skills, strengths, experience, and self-awareness that they bring with them on entering the challenge i.e. they know what they’re good at, what they’ve done before, and where their potential weaknesses lie, etc.
- The knowledge that there will be a certain amount of “unknowns” regarding the challenge ahead i.e. they don’t know for sure what the obstacles will look like or how challenging/easy they’ll be, whether they’ll play to their strengths or weaknesses etc.
- The understanding that this a game of strategy, therefore, they have a willingness to problem solve each obstacle by drawing from their “bank” and addressing the “unknowns” i.e. what shall I draw from my “bank” that will serve me at this moment and what do I need to address to move me forward?
The Nature of Success
To complete an obstacle course a participant needs to draw carefully from their “bank”, address the “unknowns”, and strategically blend these two to complete the challenge.
On successful completion, participants feel accomplished and empowered.
Coaching Application – Obstacles Lead the Way
An Obstacle Course/Race can be compared to the Coaching Process, which takes participants through much the same journey.
In entering the coaching conversation clients will find that:
- The distance to travel can vary, so too can the nature and structure of the obstacles.
- It’s a personal challenge of which oneself is in charge.
- It can be positively life-changing.
The Coach’s Role is to support the client on their journey to:
Identify – The Goal
- What’s the “finish line”
- What is the client aiming for?
- Where does the client want to get to?
- What’s important about this for the client?
- What will the client have at the end that they don’t have now?
- How will the client know when they’ve reached/achieved their target?
In getting clarity on this, clients can:
- Identify their motivation to achieve their desired outcome.
- Keep focused on their goal; keep the end in mind.
- Recognize when they have got there.
Evaluate – The Status Quo
- What “obstacles” can the client see?
- What does the client already have (strengths/skills/experience) that can help them with this?
- What beliefs does the client have about this situation?
- Are there “obstacles’ that the client is unaware of?
- What does the client need to address to progress forward?
In focusing on this clients can:
- Gain confidence by Identifying what skills, experience, and strengths they already have that will help them in this situation.
- Calmly identify what the gaps are - what they need to address to move forward.
- Feel a greater sense of control and power.
Strategize – Design a Course of Action.
- How is the client specifically going to tackle the “obstacles”
- How can clients use their evaluation to their advantage?
- What will the client need to take into consideration in coming up with a detailed action plan for success?
- What strategy will they implement?
- Specifically, what will they do?
- What measure and contingency measures can they put in place to ensure a fail-safe strategy?
By establishing this they will:
- Have clarity on what they are going to do next.
- Have confidence as they move into action.
- Be able to progress steadily towards their desired goal.
- Have clarity around actions in case of possible disruptions
- Have measures in place to hold themselves accountable.
Execute – The Plan
- When is the client going to “start the race”
- Now there is a strategy in place, what is the client’s first action?
- What resources does the client need to keep up the momentum?
- How can the coach support the client?
- How is the client feeling about action?
In getting into action the client will:
- Feel a sense of energy.
- Have a greater focus.
- Navigate with confidence and clarity.
Achieve – And feel Empowered.
- How does the client feel about “crossing the finish line”?
- How does the client feel upon attaining their desired goal?
In achieving their desired outcome they will:
- Gain a great sense of satisfaction.
- Feel more confident.
- Have greater trust in themselves.
- Feel empowered.
Reflect – To Learn
- What did the client learn?
- What went well?
- What could be changed?
- How can they use the learnings from this process in other areas of their life?
In considering this the client will:
- Understand themselves better.
- Be able to approach new challenges with more awareness.
- Be able to approach new challenges with greater calmness and ease.
- Feel more founded in themselves.
This model is created with people like me in mind – those that have hit “mid-life” and are beginning a journey of reflection about their personal and professional goals. Typical clients may be looking for a more balanced approach to life and are looking for a holistic approach to future-proofing themselves in terms of finances, health, happiness, and longevity.
Using this model, which focuses very much on reflecting and building on established skills, experience, knowledge, and awareness to build a strategy for success, is ideal for this particular niche.