Chapter 7 Coaching Models

The What and Why of Coaching Models

There are a number of different coaching models that you can use to better work with your clients. A coaching model is a set of principles, actions, and steps that you can take with a client so that you structure a session for your client’s best benefit.

There are many coaching models from which to choose from. And there are also many psychological techniques that tranalate well into the world of coaching. An no one technique or model is better than the others. They all have their benefits. Different coaches use different models for different reasons. Some coaches find a model that they’re comfortable with and use that model exclusively. Other coaches remain flexible and use different coaching models with different clients depending on their needs and their current situation. It’s always better to remain flexible and to continue your learning about coaching models and how to best to coach your client. This is a piece of professional development and continual growth that will create a high level of success with your clients and make you excel at coaching and make clients seek you out.

Many coaching models share similarities with one another. The most common features that you’ll find across all coaching models is the importance of establishing a trusting relationship with your clients, maintaining confidentiality, staying client focused, listening and communicating effectively, keeping clients accountable, and helping clients set and focus on their goals.

You do not have to use these coaching models. And some coaches will be more attracted to one coaching model over the others. Additionally, there are a number of other coaching models in the field that can help you work with clients more effectively and it’s suggested that you keep honing your skills by continuing to learn about these models and methods. Sometimes a particular model will be seen as very attractive to potential clients and some clients will inquire about this during the discovery session. However, there is no specific rule about what coaching models you use.

Some Popular Coaching Models


The GROW coaching model is highly popular and was created in the book Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore.

GROW stands for:

G - Goal

R - Reality

O - Options

W – Will/Wrap-up


1. Goal:

The first step in this coaching models is to help your clients set goals, both within each session and an overarching goal to accomplish throughout their coaching with you. The coach asks the client to devine their goals, what they want to talk about, the significance of the topic, and what challenges they face in reaching their goals. They also reflect on their long-term goals to help keep each session’s goal focused on the overarching goal. This model is mostly used with coaching focused on relationships, health, career, money, health, and personal development. It’s advised you use the SMART goal setting technique with this model, which you can find in Chapter 6.

2. Reality:

The coach then helps the client understand where they are in relationship to their goals, or discover the “reality” of the situation. They help the client understand themselves, their strengths, their skills, and how this relates to the reality of where they are in regard to their goals.

3. Options:

Next, the coach helps the client discover the different ways that they can achieve their goals. The client and coach explore various “options” that the client can utilize to achive their goals and the most effective way to accomplish what they desire.

4. Will/Wrap-up:

As the client has identified options that will help them achieve their goal they now select which option will be best to use and commit to doing what it takes to complete that option. So the coach helps the client summon the “will” to achieve their goal and then “wrap’s-up” the session with the client, since this is the end of the coaching model.

This can be a very concise way to help clients. However, it can also be overly simplistic when the client has substantial barriers to achieving their goals.


The CLEAR model was developed by Peter Hawkins.

CLEAR stands for:

C - Contracting

L - Listening

E – Exploring

A - Action

R – Review

1. Contracting:

First, the coach works with the client to set the stage for coaching, to identify their goals and their desires, and to agree to ground rules and fill out any paperwork germane to the coaching process.

2. Listening:

Next, the coach uses listening skills to actively engage the client and react to them with empathy and caring so that they feel understood and trust is build in their relationship. The coach offers insight and understanding at this stage.

3. Exploring:

The exploring state is when the coach first helps the client understand the ramifications of the situations and all of the ways that it’s affecting their life. The coach then helps to challenge the client to think about different options that they can utilize to solve their problems and address their issues.

4. Action:

At this stage the coach helps the client select the best course of action that they can take to reach their goals or resolve the issue that they’re working on in coaching. The client then completes the actions that they’ve agreed up.

5. Review:

This is the accountability piece of coaching and the final stage of this coaching model. It’s where the coach and client take stock of what’s been learned, what actions have been taken, how successful they were, and what could be done differently in the future. If the client hasn’t achieved their goals this is the point when the coach and client return to the Exploring stage to explore other alternative actions that the client can take to work toward their goals.

This model may be a bit better than the GROW model because it isn’t quite as simple and will take into account the accountability piece of coaching. It also allows for a return to the beginning of the model if goals are not met and the client needs further guidance.


STEPPA was developed by Angus McLeod and is based on the idea that emotion drives behavior. Therefore, all client actions depend on their emotional commitment to achieve their goals. And without emotional commitment a client will not succeed.

STEPPA stands for:

S - Subject

T – Target Identification

E - Emotion

P – Perception and Choice

P – Plan and Pace

A – Adopt or Act

1. Subject:

This is the stage when the coach and client discuss goals and any issues that the client would like to resolve in coaching. It’s also important that both client and coach fully understand the “subject” of coaching so that they can delve into it appropriately and sufficiently.

2. Target Identification:

Target identification is when a client discovers what they’d like to work on in coaching. Not all clients know this before they enter coaching. They may just have a general feeling that something is “off” or not quite right and need the assistance of the coach to help establish goals, or a “target”. The coach then helps them assess how realistic their goals.

3. Emotion:

This is the key part of this coaching model. Many people try to motivate their clients without establishing the emotional connection with those goals. Emotions can be one of the biggest motivators there are and therefore emotions are essential in staying motivated toward reaching a goal. Many coaches are not comfortable with emotions or do not have the skill to approach emotions in coaching sessions. Furthermore, some clients are not willing to explore their emotions. So this model is really best for those clients and coaches who are somewhat comfortable with emotional expression and exploring emotional issues in coaching. Prior training in counseling may be an essential tool for a coach who wishes to pursue this method.

4. Perception and Choice:

The coach then empowers the client to expand their perception to have a greater understanding of their goals and the purpose of coaching. They help the client discover different options for achieving these goals. This stage can be helpful for clients, in conjunction with the emotion stage, to help clients identify what exactly is motivating them to work toward their goals. Client and coach work together to achieve a greater understanding of what’s doable in their sessions and in terms of the client’s goals, especially in regard to the client’s emotions and personality. This makes narrowing down ways of achieving the goals much simpler and streamlined.

5. Plan and Pace:

At this stage the coach helps the client come up with a plan of action to reach their goals and how fast they plan to achieve said goal. This will help the client get really clear on what their next steps to take are and

6. Adopt and Act:

This is the stage when the client commits to what actions will help them achieve their goals and begins to implement these actions into their life.


This model was created within the Solution Focused Approach (which we discuss next) and focuses on solutions to problems rather than on the problems themselves.

OSKAR stands for:

O - Outcome

S - Scaling

K – Know-how

A – Affirm and Action

R – Review

1. Outcome:

The first stage of this module involves helping the client understand what outcome they’d like to see from coaching. The coach helps the client clarify their goals and what they’d like their life to look like in the long run. But also helps them see what outcomes they desire within each individual session.

2. Scaling:

This stage involves asking the client to rate on a scale of 1-10 where they are in relation to the goal and their belief that they can achieve their goal with 1 being very far away and not confident, and 10 being very close and very confident. This model emphasizes using this scale to help a client understand where they are and to quantify it explicitly to aide in client understanding.

3. Know-how:

Next the coach helps the client appreciate and emphasize their strengths and “know-how” to accomplish their goal. This is a technique used to help motivate clients and to keep them focused on their ability to achieve a goal. This helps increase the client’s scaling from a lower number to a higher number. And it also helps increase the client’s awareness of their gifts and abilities so that they feel empowered to take action (the next step).

4. Affirm and Action:

In this stage the coach gives the client affirmation that achieving their goal is possible and helps to build their confidence in achieving their goals with statements such as: “I think you have an amazing store of knowledge to achieve this goal!”. Then the coach helps the client determine which actions would be most effective in reaching their goal.

5. Review:

This stage is about accountability as the coach and client review progress toward the goal, how the client has done in taking action, and discussing the next step to achieving the client’s desired goals.

Some Popular Approaches from Psychology

The following approaches are taken from the field of psychology and will provide coaches with additional tools to work with their clients successfully in helping clients achieve their goals. These approaches are popular with therapists and are generally backed by research as to their efficacy. Although there are many psychological approaches which can help you as a coach, we review three here to give you a better idea of three main approaches that will aid your coaching.

Solution Focused Approach

Solutions focuses approach is based on finding solutions to problems rather than focusing on the problems themselves. Very little time is spent actually discussing the problem. And instead time and energy is focused on finding possible solutions to the problem. The coach helps the client work through the following techniques to help keep them focused on the future attainment of their goals.

1. Exception Question

The exception question is a technique where the coach helps the client find an “exception” to solving the problem that the client is presenting the coach with. So instead of looking for alternative solutions to a problem a coach will help clients see that there are exceptions in their past where they have successfully dealt with a similar problem. So essentially they empower the client to take action based on what has previously been successful. Since the client has used it in the past they will know that they are capable of using it again in the future. An example would be when a client is having difficulty with their boss and says “I’m not good at dealing with difficult people” and the coach asks them to find an exception to this by finding a time in their past where they’ve dealt with a difficult person successfully. The coach and client then generalize this strategy to the current situation.

2. Miracle Question

The miracle question helps the client envision a possible ideal future when the current problem is under control.

The coach asks the client “if you were to wake up tomorrow and everything was resolved how would things be different? How would your views be different? How would you be different? How would your environment be different?”

This question may seem simple but it is highly effective as it mobilizes the client’s ability to solve their own problem. When a client is able to see how things would be different in the future when the problem isn’t present they’re able to see possible solutions to their problem by making those changes that they see now.

3. Scaling Questions

Scaling questions are when the coach asks the client to rate their issue on a scale of 1 to 10. This approach was used in the OSKAR method above.

Narrative Approach

The narrative approach involves the idea that everyone has a story that they tell themselves about their life. When we write this story in our thoughts this story becomes our reality. So the coach essentially helps the client write a new narrative about their life where things are different.

Their original narrative was shaped by their expectations, beliefs, experiences, and events from their past. But when the alternative story is created it helps the client embrace things which they had not thought about themselves or had not considered as part of their story. The coach helps the client deconstruct beliefs about themselves and reconstruct new beliefs through their story. The client may not even realize that they have an internal “story” that they’ve been saying about themselves their whole life. And so bringing this story into awareness can be powerful in and of itself. But when the story is reconstructed the client can feel radical shifts in how they perceive themselves and their life.

An example of this might be when a client says “I’ve always been a failure. I failed out of college, my marriage failed, and so I can’t do anything successfully”. A coach would help the client see that there are not necessarily truths about the client’s life. Perhaps “failing out of college” gave them an opportunity to pursue their passion and their “marriage failing” allowed them to get out of a dysfunctional relationship. The client can then reconstruct their story to say “Experiences that have seemed like failures have actually been opportunities in disguise.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is all about understanding the beliefs and thoughts that underlie behaviors. It’s a tool to help client’s change dysfunctional thought patterns (see the “cognitive distortions tool in the appendices for more information about dysfunctional thought patterns). The idea is that people create irrational thought patterns which do not serve them. They may have developed these in response to something in their past but they are no longer effective in their life. So with the help of the therapist the client can become aware of these patterns. Once the client has some awareness of their patterns they can begin to choose new thoughts and behaviors instead.

One common technique in CBT is the ABCs of Irrational Beliefs developed by Albert Ellis, one of the founders of CBT. This process helps clients to analyze their beliefs that have been irrational so that they can open up opportunities to choose new beliefs.

A = Activating Event

The activating event is the situation that the client experiences which results in the irrational beliefs or thinking.

B = Beliefs

Then the client and coach help to identify what beliefs are motivating the client’s irrational thinking in response to the event.

C = Consequences

The client and coach then determine what negative behaviors have resulted from this irrational belief.

Then the client and coach can reinterpret these events thought the lens of more rational beliefs which do not result in negative consequences.

Here’s an example:

A = Activating Event

A client comes in and states that she was not invited to a friend’s birthday party and felt terribly about being left out.

B = Beliefs

The client is able to identify that she believes that she’s been purposefully left out from her friend’s party (personalization and making assumptions), that not having an invite means that her friendship is over (catastrophizing), and that she believes that friends always betray her (generalization).

C = Consequences

Because of her irrational beliefs the client withdrew and stopped returning her friend’s phone calls for 2 weeks. And then her friends stopped calling her. 


If the would have checked in with her friend she could have easily found out that the friend did not mean to leave her out and that she attempted to call to apologize (which was one of the calls the client wouldn’t’ answer). The client would then see that her friendship is not over and that it was all a mistake, not malicious in any way. And the client could take responsibility for not responding to her friends and how this led her friends to stop calling her rather than the calls stopping because her friends will always betray her.

Chapter Review Questions

Descriptive Questions

  • Describe the CLEAR technique in detail
  • Describe the Narrative Therapy’s approach to coaching.

Multiple Choice Questions

1. What does O in the GROW model stand for?

  1. Outcome
  2. Opening up
  3. Options
  4. Other

2. In what technique is scaling used?

  2. GROW
  3. OSKAR
  4. CLEAR

3. What technique is the Miracle Question from?

  1. Neuro-Linguistic Programming
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  3. Narrative Approach
  4. Solution Focused Approach

Answer Key:

1-c, 2-c, 3-d

Further Reading

1. “Coaching For Performance: Growing People, Performance and Purpose” by Sir John Whitmore. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2002. 

2. “Coaching, Mentoring and Organizational Consultancy: Supervision and Development” by Peter Hawkins and Nick Smith. Open University Press, 2006. 

3. “Performance Coaching: The Handbook for Managers, HR Professionals and Coaches” by Angus I. McLeod. Crown House Pub., 2003.

4. “Solution Focused Coaching in Practice” by Bill O'Connell, Stephen Palmer and Helen Williams. Routledge, 2012.

5. “The Handbook of Knowledge-Based Coaching: From Theory to Practice” by Leni Wildflower (Editor) and Diane Brennan. John Wiley and Sons, 2011.

6. “Coaching with NLP: How to be a Master Coach” by Joseph O’Connor and Andrea Lages. Harper Collins, 2004.

7. “Life Coaching: A Cognitive-Behavioural Approach” by Michael Neenan and Windy Dryden. Brunner-Routledge, 2002.