A Coaching Model Created by Esther Chandy
(Business and Personal Coach, INDIA)
I have long been a proponent of separating fact from interpretation. Facts by themselves have no meaning, it is we who supply them with meaning and that meaning decides our emotions and consequent actions. Take for example:
1981: I get my first boyfriend
1981: I lose my first boyfriend
1983: I graduate from High School and join a prestigious college to study English Literature
That’s not a story. That’s a list of facts. Three dots. Depending on what other facts I decide are related to the base three facts listed, I get to decide how that story is told.
Put another way – flour, salt, butter, eggs, water, milk, sugar, raising agent – can make cake or fritters – depending on which ingredients I choose and their proportion (i.e. degree of importance in the recipe).
So what makes “facts” into a “story”? Your interpretation does. Change your interpretation and pick the right set of facts and I guarantee you can tell the story differently. How you tell your story reflects on how you perceive the world. We are always telling stories in our conversations.
Any embellishment of fact, has a story embedded in it. Whether it’s last week’s disastrous presentation or your Manager’s passing you over for a promotion. How can you re‐tell it in a way that empowers you? What story are you living right now? How would you like this story to play out‐ this story of your LIFE? My coaching model is all about deliberately creating your own story and creating empowering beliefs and interpretations of everything that comes your way, so that nothing gets you down. By the end of the coaching engagement, the client would default to seeking empowering explanations for everything that happens to him. He need never feel defeated, afraid, rejected or abandoned.
All the elements of this model apply to the overall coaching engagement as well as in the microcosm of a single coaching session.
The coach is the curious listener/reader ‐ the coach listens closely because he is interested in the outcome and is rooting for the success of the client. Sometimes the coach asks questions out of curiosity or because something is not quite clear to him or he seeks clarity on a seeming dichotomy. As a fan of the hero in the story, the coach is keenly interested in his success. The coach does not interfere with the narrative of the story teller (the client). Yet, as a well-wisher, (and to be true to the coaching agreement) the coach may ask questions to facilitate learning such as: Creating Awareness, Designing Actions, Planning/Goal setting, Managing Progress and Accountability.
Since the entire coaching model is based on the premise of the Client having the wisdom and intelligence to direct his own future and be the author of his own story, an important distinction must be made during the first session between fact and interpretation. And how interpretations can be empowering or not. There are 6 elements to my model
Exposition, Character, Setting, Plot/Conflict, Resolution, The Lesson/Moral/Theme i.e. the essential elements to a Story
Exposition: All characters in a story have a history, details of their past that are important to understanding their personality and their present lives. It is important that the listener knows about these details in order to understand a story. This is background information on the characters and setting explained at the beginning of the story. It has information about events that happened before the beginning of the story. It is the very first part of the plot The exposition in this model takes place during the exploratory session. To prompt a full exposition some questions that can be asked include:
- Tell me a little about your family
- What do you do for a living?
- What do you like best about your job?
- Where are you from? What has been your favourite place to live? Why?
- Name one great joy and one great sorrow you’ve experienced in the last year
- If you could do anything with your life what would you do?
- Tell me a story from your life that would give me a picture of who you are
During this stage, the Coach establishes Trust and Intimacy with the client by sharing a little about his own journey and his own story. The Coach also explains the coaching model and creates a distinction between fact and interpretation in the client’s mind. This is an important exercise for it lays the foundation of all future sessions.
The client may be given a set of facts and asked to construct 2 different stories about it
The client may be given a picture and asked to describe it in as much detail as possible.
In both exercises, the coach would then distinguish with the client the difference between what is actually stated and what is the client’s own construct.
- Characters: The people that form part of the story.
- The Main Character is the client – who is the hero.
- Villain: There could also be the villain who in this case is the alter ego of the plot. Almost all Coaching Contracts arise out of the presence of the alter ego who is the real obstacle that the hero must overcome.
- Other Characters: These are persons who are real and can either be supporters or detractors from the hero reaching his objective. They may be introduced as they appear during the coaching contract. However, in the role of curious listener/reader, the coach must ask how this character relates to the overall theme of the story that the client is authoring
Resolution: While in a story the resolution is part of the conclusion, in this coaching model, we seek to define the end game of the story in the beginning itself. Only then does the client become the “captain of his own fate and master of his own soul”. He leads his life by design. Questions that lead the client towards creating this possibility are those similar to the “Goal” questions in the GROW model…
- What do you want to accomplish?
- How will your life be different as a result?
- What is the time frame within which you will accomplish this?
- How can we measure your success and the achievement of this result?
- How will you celebrate your accomplishment?
- Describe your Vision for the future.
Setting: The function of setting in a story is to establish where the hero is currently in the story of his life. Similarly, it is important to establish in the coaching arrangement a starting point for the desired change. This can be done by asking questions such as
Plot: A key element of the plot is conflict or problem faced by the characters. Conflict occurs when the characters are pitched against each other. In this coaching model, the conflict is usually between the hero (our client) and his own alter‐ego. The conflict arises due to the gap between what he wants and what he currently has. The solution keys to his conflict lie in:
- Strategy – a step by step, action plan (involves creating actions, managing accountability , providing direct communication)
- Mindset – Facilitating learning and results by creating awareness around the limiting beliefs held by the alter ego and replacing them with empowering beliefs; retelling the hero’s past story in all its detail in a way that empowers him to create the belief that
- Where he is exactly where he ought to be;
- Everything that he has in his life right now is a reflection of his past desires‐ he just has to discover the link;
- Every self-defeating behaviour has a positive intent;
- Every perspective can be reframed – every problem carries a gift inside;
- Gaining control over mindset‐ including the tools to do so (Meditation, Affirmations, Awareness, Physical Exercise, Diet Modification, Journaling);
- Skillset – identifying knowledge gaps and the steps that need to be taken to acquire it. Skills of designing actions and planning and goal setting will be called into play here by the coach as curious listener.
The Lesson/Moral/Theme – Some stories have a moral/theme that emerges from the telling of the tale. When it comes to coaching, the Moral or Theme will be in the facilitating of learning and creating of awareness. As the client installs new behaviours and experiences the outcomes, he is able to personally grow.
This model assists both the coach (by its structure it reminds the coach not to wear a consultant
or therapists hat) and the client (that he is in charge of the content of the coaching conversation). The goal of this model is to help the client become an expert at managing his internal state, at being able to distinguish between fact and interpretation such that the awareness empowers him to choose an explanation that serves his best interests. Will this eliminate the need for a coach in the future? Will this empower him to self‐coach? Perhaps for day to day matters. It is my sincere belief that self‐coaching can never replace actual coaching for the bigger issues of life. It’s one reason coaches often employ coaches at different stages of their journey. They know how effective their product is. For more on that, read my thought leadership paper on the subject.
I drew my inspiration for my model from my life – from an early age I noticed how two people could see the same incident yet describe them so differently. As my awareness grew, I played a
game with myself of finding ways of describing myself that were either complimentary or uncomplimentary. It wasn’t until much later that the dots connected and I realized the impact that picking one view over another had on one’s entire world view. And our own future.
The following poem is one of my favourites and I am pleased to conclude my model by reproducing it with deep gratitude to the author who said it better than I ever could.
The author wishes to acknowledge the following sources that have strongly influenced the writing of this model
Elegantly Simple Solutions to Complex People Problems © 2015 by Jaemin Frazer
Rich Litvin – The Art of the Proposal (YouTube Video) :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjwzfLIA8w0
Annenberg Learner: Elements of a Story https://www.learner.org/interactives/story/index.html
Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Questions © 2008 Tony Stoltzfus
Lisa Bloom – Story Coach ( http://story-coach.com/ )