A Coaching Model Created by Eva Gysling
(Executive and Business Coach, SWITZERLAND)
From finding the root cause to Success
If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.— Albert Einstein—
The solution is hidden in the underlying problem!
As Einstein said, it is extremely important to understand the problem well and also to examine it intensively and from different angles. If you find the “true” problem and can name it, it is much easier to find a lasting and exactly fitting solution. The point is to find the deeper problem and not to look for a solution for a “wrong” problem or the cause. The first problem the client mentions is rarely the “true” problem, the one that deeply occupies and bugs the client.
In their book “Getting to yes”, Roger Fisher and William Ury write that the key to a long-lasting agreement is finding the true reasons for a quarrel between two sides.
Ury and Fisher give the example of two sisters quarreling about the last lemon in a household. “I want it”–“no, I want it”–“no, I want it”–“no, I want it”. This way, there is no solution. Then, they are asked: “What is behind your wish for the lemon?” One sister replies: “I need the juice for a drink” and the other sister says: “I deeply need the lemon peel for a cake” and suddenly the solution is obvious. This way, both sisters get what they really want, both wishes are fulfilled, both sisters are happy.
And this is also the key to successful coaching. The client must get what he really wants and therefore the “Reflection” step is essential.
This model is a loop of 6 steps through which you go every session as appropriate. It helps the client to gain a lot of awareness when going through the whole process. Often the client needs several sessions to be able to solve his issues.
The outcome of the client’s action(s) of the last session and the client’s experiences are the input for next time’s reflection.
The client’s main cause is influenced by the main reason he is currently aware of but this main reason can and mostly will also change, especially if the client digs deeper into his cause with the coach’s help. With every turn, the client comes closer to and works on the core problem.
What accompanies the client all along the way are awareness and reflection. At least after each action, the client should reflect, consider what went well and what he would like to improve or change. These reflections then flow into the first step “Reflection” of the next run of the loop. Awareness, reflection as well as the whole model bring the client forward and thus closer to his contentment and to solving the main causes.
The 6 Step Coaching Model:
This model is an inspect-and-adapt-model depending on and building on the past session(s). The client’s cause may change and thus the questions can change. The whole situation can change from one session to the next and therefore, there is a reflection step at the beginning of the loop (but only from the second run-on).
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.— John Dewey—
(This step is not taken the very first time but only for the result(s) and experiences of the past time’s actions, step f). This step is a retrospective of the period and learning since passed session(s). The coach can support the client to reflect with questions like:
- How are you feeling now regarding your <challenge>?
- What has changed for you when you think about your <challenge>?
- What awareness have you built while taking your <action steps>?
- What have you experienced with your <actions steps>?
- How have you adapted your <action steps>?
- How do your experiences impact moving you forward?
Words in pointed brackets<> are placeholders for whatever causes, action steps, etc. are appropriate for the client and his situation
2. Cause/Inducement (the main reason for the coaching)
All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.— Immanuel Kant—
This is the main reason that motivated the client to come to the coaching. He might have a situation, issue, or challenge in mind that evokes different feelings and emotions like e.g. bothering, making him sad, hopeless, powerless, disappointed, etc. The coach can help the client formulate which cause he wants to explore asking questions like:
- What would be helpful for you to bring to this session?
- What do you want to look at today?
3. Analysis and Exploration
When you confront a problem you begin to solve it. — Rudy Giuliani —
To go deeper and to find the “true” problem resp. the root cause, there are many wonderful tools to help the client like creating awareness, discovering underlying beliefs, feelings, and values, changing perspectives, keeping the client accountable, help him take actions to dig deeper, offering effective feedback, creating trust, help clarify his intent, keep him motivated using Appreciative Inquiry (AI), and more. These support your client in understanding and describing the problem better. It is especially helpful to clear the mind and to set different stimuli for our brains like visuals, feelings, values, and the like. Images, for example, are highly information-efficient constructs. “The brain works much more efficiently with visual processes than with circuitry related to language. It’s a matter of stimulating the brain to interact with information rather than just storing it.” 
In exploring the problem, it is also very important that we do not go deep into negative feelings and experiences in the past and dwell there. It can be very challenging to support the client to leave this negative space and to help him move forward which is crucial for the client’s success. The coach helps the client feel empowered and confident.
This point of “Analysis and Exploration” is very important. Here the client analyses the situation, what options and further paths exist. The answers to these questions may help the client to move forward towards finding his core issue and explore it. Here, questions similar to the following ones might help the client to dig deeper:
- What makes this challenge touch you right now?
- What makes you bring up this issue this week?
- What is behind this challenge?
- What’s important here right now?
- What options do you have?
- Which option would you like to explore first?
- What other perspectives might be helpful looking at your issue?
- What if this situation can you influence?
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. ― Stephen R. Covey —
After analyzing and exploring the client clearly defines, describes, and summarizes what exactly he wants to achieve and what options or paths he chooses. If the client does not believe that he can fully solve the problem, the coach must help the client through powerful questions, feedback, and others to find a better way to deal with the problem and focus on the solution. Feedback supports the client’s awareness of himself. The following questions might help in this step:
- What could this <option> give you?
- What makes this <option> most important and promising right now?
- What would change if you reached this <option>?
5. Commitment (+Responsibility)
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.— Stephen R. Covey, paraphrasing Viktor E. Frankl —
The client may find different approaches to deal with the problem, even in the short term. For the client to be able to achieve the focused goal, to design and to solve his root challenge sustainably, he has to commit himself to do whatever is needed to achieve the goal. There are different wonderful tools to support the client, e.g. to define “Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose”, to stay motivated and positive, and “The Responsibility Process” to take responsibility for the commitment. The following questions might help:
- How is this commitment connected to your purpose?
- What do you mean by committed?
- What might stop you from keeping to this commitment?
6. Solution-oriented Action
Every human has four endowments- self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. — Stephen R. Covey —
After that, the client is supported to think about how he wants to proceed with the option or path he committed to. The client develops his action plan. He has to define for himself actions that seem promising, motivating, and small enough so that he can frequently celebrate successes. This helps him to get these done, keep to the commitment, and move forward. The coach partners with the client to help him keep himself accountable. The following questions might help:
- What could be the first small step to move you forward?
- When can you do this <step>?
- What might come your way?
- What tells you that this is the right action?
- How is this action linked with your commitment?
- What structures do you need to keep yourself accountable?
- What do you do when <issue, negative thoughts, etc.> push back?
Avery, Christopher (2016), The Responsibility Process – Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power, Pflugerville, TX: Partnerwerks, Incorporated
Fisher, Roger; Ury, William; Patton, Bruce (2011) Getting To YES, New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
ICA, 2020, Effective Feedback, Available at https://docs.google.com/ (Accessed: January 2021)
Pink, Daniel H. (2009) Drive, Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. New York
Rock, David (2009) Brain at Work, HarperBusiness, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, LLC
Fisher, Ury, and Patton (2011)
David Rock (2009)
Dan Pink (2009)