A Coaching Model Created by Marissa Cutler
(Career Coach, UNITED STATES)
My coaching model is inspired by the CliftonStrengths assessment offered by Gallup. A few years ago, I had to opportunity to be trained as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. This opportunity opened my eyes to the concept of focusing on what a person is good at and maximizing those skills, not fixating on their weaknesses and how those can be improved. A quote I like to share when talking to others about positive psychology and strengths is:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
The CliftonStrengths assessment measures your talents or your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. These talents are categorized into the 34 CliftonStrengths themes.[i]Having a client take the CliftonStrengths assessment can allow them to gain an appreciation and awareness of their natural talents.
Since I have a passion for the CliftonStrengths assessment, I wanted to use the acronym S.T.R.E.N.G.T.H. as the base of my model. The word strength can also be applied to my own personal coaching mission. I hope that after a coaching session, my clients leave feeling empowered and with the right tools and resources to be successful. They leave feeling stronger. My coaching model has been used to help me navigate a coaching session. Since a coaching session is not linear, this model can be flexible in its application. By using these eight simple steps, a coach can partner with their client to establish an agreement, evoke a new awareness, and create a solid action plan to move forward. Below is the outline of the coaching model, S.T.R.E.N.G.T.H.
Step 1: Sharing
At the beginning of a coaching session, the coach invites the client to share whatever subject might be on their mind.
Questions a coach may ask:
- What’s on your mind?
- What would you like to explore today?
- How can this time be used to be most useful for you?
- What would you like to bring to our session?
- What can we focus on today that will make an impact?
Clients enter a coaching relationship for many different reasons and with varying goals. It is up to the coach to open the session with the client’s goals and desires in mind. The client will set the agenda. Allowing them to share what’s on their mind will let the client and coach establish a coaching agreement.
Step 2: Topic
For this model, the topic serves as a synonym for creating the coaching agreement or ICF competency number 2. This is a reminder to the coach to establish the agreement at the beginning of a session. A coaching agreement must be established during every coaching session. The client and the coach must both be clear on the topic of the coaching session and the desired outcome.
Below are the key points, outlined by the PCC markers, that must be clear when establishing the agreement:
- Desired outcome
- Measures of success
- Importance or meaning
- What must be addressed or resolved
It is the coach’s job to continue the conversation on the right path for the client’s chosen outcome.
After the topic is established, the coach must partner with the client to reflect on what needs to be addressed to get where they want to be. There is no one “right way” to do this. One of the best pieces of advice I was given during my ICA studies was to always respond and ask about the last thing the client shared. Pause and reflect on the response given to us from the client and continue to move the client forward by picking up what they gave you and asking a powerful question.
In most coaching conversations, there is usually one moment in the session that the coach/client can look back on and say, “That one question really shifted their/my perspective.” Evolve in its simplest form means to change. The client will walk away with a new viewpoint or way forward that they did not think of before the coaching session started. A coach will need to leverage their instincts as well as the information their client is presenting to reveal the client’s inner truth.
Step 5:Next Steps
After the client has experienced a shift in perspective or identified a way forward, the coach should loop back to the session goal and check on progress. When it is agreed that the desired goal has been met, the coach should support the client to develop steps to implement their actions and learnings.
Some questions the coach might ask are:
- What are you prepared to do with this new learning?
- What are you prepared to do with that awareness to move you forward?
- When are you prepared to start _______?
The question should be tailored to the coaching conversation and most importantly, the client should leave the conversation with a clear sense of what they will do after the call. They should leave with a plan to continue moving toward their desired state/goal.
Step 6:Go Deeper
Just when you think you have supported the client and they have all the next steps in place, it is up to you to go deeper. What does this mean from a coach’s perspective? Partner with the client to create a granular action plan.
Some questions the coach may want to consider are:
- What support might you need?
- How will you hold yourself accountable?
- When can you start?
- What else might need to be in place for this to be successful?
- What obstacles could get in your way?
Again, these are all examples of questions the coach can ask the client to go deeper in action planning. The important thing to remember is that without a solid action plan and path forward, the client may leave feeling unfulfilled or without the proper support to continue their momentum and progress. The proper time and attention should be given to action planning in every coaching session.
Knowing that this model isn’t linear, it is important to review with the client what they learned about the situation and themselves during the coaching conversation. This can be done at any point in the coaching session after the shift. It is up to the coach to reflect on key takeaways when appropriate.
Some questions the coach might ask to encourage reflection on takeaways:
- What are you learning about yourself?
- How might the awareness you had today apply to other aspects of your life?
- What would you like to acknowledge yourself for today?
- What are you taking away from this session?
Reflecting on the session and “ah-hah” moments allows the client to take a moment to pause and reflect on their progress. It may make their awareness even deeper.
It is always the goal of a coaching session for the client to leave feeling more whole than they did at the beginning of the session. By the end of the session, the coaching agreement should be met and the client should leave feeling that they accomplished their goal. They should have a sense of internal calm or agreement; both of which happen to be definitions of harmony. When this happens, the coach and the client should partner together to close the session.
The question to close the session include:
- Would this be a good place to close the session?
- Is there anything else that you need from this conversation, or is this a good place to stop?
The coach will know when the session is ending and the appropriate time to partner with the client to close the conversation. This occurs after all action planning has been complete and the client feels ready to move forward. If you are unsure, ask, “How do you feel about the progress you made today?” The client’s response will be a good indication if it is the right time to complete the session.
The purpose of sharing my process model S.T.R.E.N.G.T.H. is that hopefully, it impacts another coach. I hope this model can be used by all coaches, beginner to advanced, as a reminder of not only the elements of a coaching session but the reminder that all humans have their strengths. Let your client be a genius!