A Coaching Model Created by Kathy (Qi) Zou
(Leadership Coach, CHINA)
When I started to think about my coaching model, the first word came into my mind is “SPACE”.I did not fully realize what does it mean to me at the beginning. With more and more practices, readings and reflections, “SPACE” become more and more a unique word for me and for my coaching practice. It reflects my beliefs of what coaching is for (coaching purpose), how we achieve the purpose as a coach (coaching approach).
This model largely took a reference of narrative coaching model created by David Draker, which I found resonated deeply since I read his book 《Narrative coaching》
Real human freedom is our willing to pause between the events in our lives and the response we choose –Rollo May
Did you ever have a feeling that you are running in a set track among a noisy crowd of people? You are pushing ahead by a kind of mysterious force. You are exhausted and frustrated with all kinds of noises. You doubt where you are running toward and whether the track you are running on really leads you to where you want to go. However, you feel that you can not stop or even slow down as you are afraid of losing your current position and being left behind.
Have you ever wished that you could be lifted up from the track for a while, into a private and safe space, which is only for you and you can gain clarity on who you are, where you want to go and for what? And you can be recharged and refreshed to go back to the tracks below.
This is the feeling that I have from time to time and this is a feeling that quite some of my coachees have.
Since our childhood, we were put in a track by our parents, teachers or some others who are significant to us. The track is formed by their values, beliefs and expectations to us. We have had very limited mind space for us to freely explore who we are, what are our passion and purpose and what we value for. As we grew, we became so tightly embed into the track that we thought we are part of it and this is the only track we can be on.
Coaching is about to create a sacred space purely for you, where you can be separated from the track, the crowd and the noise for a period of time, so you can search inside yourself safely and freely without the disturbances from all kinds of noises, expectations and judgments. From this safe, clean and quiet place, you can then look at the track from top, examine it from a new angle and ask yourself if this is the track that you would like to go on further, for what or if you would like to change to some other track, what changes you need to make to run on your track more lightly and happily. Coaching is to enable the change at real time when it is needed.
Help people “come home” to themselves and “go home” to others in new ways-David Draker
As a coach, our role is to create such a sacred space, sit side by side with the coachees and work with them to explore their inner and outer worlds. Find the answers at the exact the same place where the questions are asked and issues are revealed.
“Sacred space” here also refers to my coaching approach. “Sacred” stands for the feature of the space that we, the coach will create for our coachees. And “Space” stands for the flow that we, the coach will take to work with our coachees to explore their unique inner and outer worlds.
S.A.C.R.E.D-feature of the space that we, the coach will create and will be for coachees
For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them- Thich Nhat Hahn
S: Safe and secure.
This is the space created to allow coachees to explore their true and whole self freely. However, this true and whole self is composed of both bright and shining elements and shadows associated with these elements. The shadows are so vulnerable to the judgements that coachees tend to hide them deeply and avoid to expose and touch them. As a coach, we have to create such a space free of the judgements and expectations so coachees feel safe to nobody, and thus begin to find the self. By bringing their true and whole inner world into the room, coachees can then gain new perspectives on who they are and how they live so that they can connect their inner and outer worlds in ways that are often difficult for them to do on their own.
This is the space created solely for coachees, their inner and outer worlds and for the best of coachees’ interest. There is no room for any other agenda or interest. So that coachees can fully trust us and space and expose themselves in the space without any concerns and reservations.
C: Clean and clear.
Space is clean without any contaminants so that coachees can see their conscious and unconscious thoughts, emotions and their true self surfaced in the space clearly. As a coach, it’s our responsibility to keep watching out the contaminants that we may bring into space from time to time.
This is a receptive space. Holding this space, as a coach, we are “willing to walk alongside with coachee in whatever journey they are on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome”-Heather Plett. We are willing to meet any unexpected and we accept whatever coming into space. As a coach, this is about listening for the authentic voice wherever it is found and letting go of any preconceptions of the “right answer” or the “good outcome”-David Drake.
Space is empowering. By finding their true and whole self, recalibrating their “I” and “Me”, getting the tools and support to upgrade and test their new operating model in the space, coachees gain more clarity and confidence in who they are and how they want to live and are empowered to enact the changes that begin in the coaching space out in their lives and evolve.
The space created is also a durable “crucible for changes”. As David Draker described in his book “Narrative coach”, a crucible is a vessel used to contain high-temperature chemical reactions. The coaching relationship, “field” (defined space) and coach must be strong enough to process whatever emotional and developmental experiences emerge, such as difficult aspects and painful mental states the coachees are not yet able to tolerate or understand. Space must be strong and durable, in which “people can bear the opposites at the core of their issues long enough to find a third way, a path with heart, which enables them to get to the crux of the matter and resolve it for themselves”
S.P.A.C.E-coaching flow, steps that we coach will take to work with coachees to find their true and whole self, go out of the limits set by their old track and set off a new journey on a track which is congruent with their desires.
Man can find his answer precisely at the same place he found the question- Gautama Buddha
The first phase aims to fully situate coachees in the conversations and their stories. As David mentioned in his book, “being open and present to what is true is a prerequisite for bringing out change”, so the first phase of coaching is to help coachees be present to themselves and the stories they are telling. This phase represents the beginning of the journey as coachees acknowledge of the reality of, and the desire for departure from, the status quo. In most cases, coachees have lived within their patterns and assumptions for so long that they often become just how things “are”. In this phase, the coach role is to bring coachees out into open, separate them from what they “are” (the track they are running on, where it lead to), help them to see for what they are (the destination they would like to go), particularly when they no longer align with reality so to clarify and strengthen the desire for departure and make new choices.
This is the phase to build a solid foundation for the coaching relationship and the potential changes that the coachee may choose to take in the following phases. The focus of the phase is to build a deep connection with the coachee and the level of presence of both coach and coachee so both of us can fully engage in the coaching process. As a coach, we will be a clear witness and a loving mirror, see the world through coachees’ eyes, so that coachees can see their own stories and behaviours with more honesty and less judgement.
This second phase aims to clarify what coachees really want. It is focused on identifying one or two critical change opportunities that will make a real difference. This is done through unpacking openings, turning points in the coachee’s stories. As David Draker suggested, these openings, turning points often reside where there is
- A change in coachees’ voice, narration, energy or body language
- A gap between coachees’ expectation and experience, their intention and action
- Diversions from the story being shared; hints of new possibilities
- Marked out words, phrases, images, gestures, patterns etc.
- A change in how the story is told, e.g., laughter, exceptions, level of authorship
This phase is to help coachees to gain greater clarity about themselves and their situation to determine what is truly at stake, which will restore order and fulfil their desire. What matters most to them in terms of what they want to bring forward. In this phase, coachees take on new perspectives on their issues and start to strip away the false fronts to get at what they really want.
This phase aims to work together with coachees to create alternative options (new mindsets and behaviours) around the essential opportunities that emerged from the “Pivot” phase. The elements of the new configurations actually have been in coachees’ conscious and unconscious minds for long, however, scattered and, very often, are the very elements that coachees want to avoid at first. So, in this phase, coachees will be supported to sort what they have learnt so far and unite these scattered elements into new options. In addition, to validate the new options, coachees will be supported to clarify and confirm what matters to them most from the “Pivot” phase, discover what it would take to bring these new alternatives to the world and what they hope to gain in doing so. The coaching questions could be used here are: ”Does this choice diminishes me, or enlarge me” (Jungian psychoanalyst James Hollis), “Does this decision or action move you closer or further away from what you really want” (David Draker), “what else you need to address in order for this to work?” (David Draker).
This phase is focused on working together with coachees experiment new options to build their confidence in bringing them back to the world. While there is often an excitement as coachees image a new life with new options, there might also be a sense of doubt and disorientation as coachees’ identifies and relationships with new directions. In this phase, coachees will get a chance to try out the pivotal options created in “Alter” phase so they can get a sense of what the new choices would feel, look and sounds like. To support coachees’ success in their experiment with new options, a coach will help coachees to identify what may trigger the activation of old patterns so that they can strategize how to stay on track with and nurture a new way of working.
This last phase is to support coachees to apply what they have learnt and practised in the coaching sessions to real life so their new beings could be evolved. According to Sluzki and Vygotsky, etc., any new solutions that coachees would take forward have to make enough sense to them within their inner and outer worlds. And new information will be heard and processed better by coachees when it is sensitively attuned to their current state. So this phase is about supporting coachees to find or foster a supporting structure and consciously use cumulative nudges to develop new habits. In addition, this phase is also working together with coachees to reflect and celebrate the progress have been made. This is not only for the sake of reflection and celebration but also as the foundation for what is to come next.