The FUEL coaching model is an adaptable coaching model that pairs open ended questions from the coach, with the employee or coachee’s analysis and ownership of their own performance. It is an acronym that stands for Frame the Conversation, Understand the Current State, Explore the Desired State, and Lay Out a Success Plan.
Why use the Fuel Coaching Model?
As a coach, have you ever scratched your head and wondered why this employee is not working on their develop plan? Furthermore, maybe you believe you have gone to great lengths to lead the coachee down the path of understanding the issue and writing an action plan with them. Ownership in a development plan comes from coachee’s buy-in. This is the main benefit of using the FUEL coaching model over the other main coaching models.
With the FUEL model, you increase buy-in when the coachee feels like they had input and control in the process. They must have input in the situation, solution, and action steps. This is where the FUEL Coaching Model becomes the right leadership coaching model. Given this, we will define the FUEL Model, review the comparison to GROW Model, and help you understand when to use FUEL.
For more coaching model options check out the Ultimate Guide to Coaching Models.
What is the Fuel Coaching Model?
The FUEL model was developed by John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnet in the book, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow. It’s a framework created to drive conversations around behavioral coaching needs.
FUEL is is designed to achieve behavioral changes. If done right, it will challenge coach and coachee assumptions about an issue or goal.
One objective of the FUEL coaching model is to have the coachee feel in control of the process. Hence, the coachee will analyze their own situation, prepare a solution, and take ownership for completing an action plan.
There are four steps in the FUEL model: Frame the Conversation, Understand the Current State, Explore the Desired State, and Lay Out a Success Plan. Each step is crafted to gain maximum participation and ownership by the coachee.
Because of the breadth of the coaching model, it can be used by managers, executives, business coaches and life coaches.
So, how do we determine when to use the FUEL model over the other best coaching models?
When to Use the Fuel Coaching Model
As coaches and leaders, we focus a great deal of attention on performance based coaching. It’s all about results, driving productivity, and meeting goals. We have heard of and been taught to use coaching models such as IGROW, GROW, and SMART Goals. These coaching models can be used in competency development as well as productivity development.
What these coaching models lack is a focus on the coachee identifying the issue and brainstorming the solution and action plan. This is where the FUEL Coaching Model comes in.
The FUEL model is a roadmap for a coach to use to drive behavioral conversations. These conversations can be development planning sessions, discussions on competency development, or a framework for strategic conversations.
Because coaching does not happen in a vacuum, I am reminded a coach should be present, caring, inspiring, and rigorous. The FUEL Model dovetails with being caring and inspiring.
Coachees that are heard and cared for are more engaged. They are open to development and feedback and motivated to learn and grow.
A coach that spends time asking open ended questions and listening, is a good example of a caring coach. So how does FUEL differ from other coaching models?
FUEL Model Compared to the GROW Model
The GROW model is primarily trained and used by managers and coaches in action planning. I am partial to the IGROW variation of the GROW Model. So how do the GROW models and FUEL model compare, and can they be used interchangeably?
The FUEL Model and the GROW Model are common in that they focus on behaviors and goal setting. Both models end up in the creation of a development plan. A development action plan is a roadmap to behavioral change and successful goal completion.
However, the models diverge from the start. The FUEL model stage one is more conversational. The coach uses open-ended questions. This allows the coachee to find their way to understanding their motivations behind their behaviors.
What is the benefit of the FUEL coaching model over the GROW model?
|FUEL 4 Steps
|Frame the Conversation
|Conversation framework with no predetermined issues or goals
|Predetermined goal/issue and solution in mind
|Understand the Current State
|Through open-ended questions challenges both parties’ assumptions of the situation
|Lacks understanding the coachees reality by asking leading questions
|Explore the Desired State
|Creates a vision of success and a mutually agreed upon framework to achieve the goal
|Moves to Options instead of discovering what a vision of success looks like
|Lay Out a Success Plan
|Creation of a plan Allows for additional adaptability Flexible to address more nuanced goals
|Creation of a plan Clear path forward Not as flexible to address more nuanced goals
As you can see, FUEL, from the first step, engages the coachee with the purpose of the coachee driving their development process. Further, the coach, through open ended questioning, allows the coachee to identify opportunities and find their own solutions. This leads to many benefits.
The Benefits of Using the FUEL Coaching Model
The FUEL coaching model is focused on helping the coachee identify behavioral opportunities and solutions. with this in mind, let’s review some benefits of this coaching model.
Stronger Coach/Coachee Relationship
The coach goes into the coaching session asking questions, being open to changing their assumption of the issue or behavioral opportunity. The coachee feels heard and understood. It signals this is not an event, but a long-term commitment.
Increased Coachee Motivation and Engagement
Because the coachee is being heard, feels like they have some control of the process, and crafting their own plan, they will be more motivated to succeed. The coachee will buy-in to the work and the outcome.
Develops Enhanced Coaching Skills
The Coach must pre-plan open-ended questions and practice active listening skills. It can be a challenge to help a coachee identify an area of opportunity and take ownership. Collaborating on a development plan versus crafting it yourself is a skill as well.
Now that we have reviewed the benefits of the FUEL coaching models, let’s look into the four steps of the process.
What are the 4 Steps of the FUEL Coaching Model?
As with all leadership coaching models, the FUEL Model uses a framework to lead the coach and coachee through the development conversation. The FUEL model has four stages.
Because open-ended questioning is integral in helping the coach engage the coachee, we will provide examples of discussion generating questions for each stage.
Frame the Conversation
The coach and coachee discuss and agree on purpose, process, and expected outcomes of the conversation. This can be used for goal setting, delivering redirecting feedback, development plans, and performance appraisals. The coach guides the conversation but the coachee owns the conversation content.
Example statements and questions to use in framing the conversation:
During this conversation I would like to discuss…
Is there anything else you would like to add?
During this conversation I would like to accomplish…
Is there anything else you would like to accomplish?
Understand the Current State
Next, through questioning the coach helps the coachee recognize where they are today. Both challenge each other’s assumptions about the situation. Challenge assumptions and identify beliefs that may drive the coachee’s behavior.
Potential open-ended questions to use in understanding current situation:
How do you see the situation?
Is the situation optimal?
What do you see the challenges?
How do you see the situation manifesting itself?
How is the situation impacting you? Others?
Explore the Desired State
The coach leads the coachee to identify the desired state. What will a change look like? Spend time understanding what the coachee sees as the desired state. Be specific. After understanding and agreement, they will generate multiple paths to achieve the desired goal.
Example open-ended questions to use in understanding the desired state:
What do you see as the ideal situation?
Behaviorally, what does the desired state look like?
Can you suggest changes to be made to reach the desired state or situation?
What resources are needed to reach the ideal situation?
Identify the obstacles to be overcome to achieve the desired state?
Lay out a Success Plan
The coach will then help the coachee develop their own action plan. The plan will need to be specific, actionable, and time-bound (SMART GOAL). It needs to be realistic and feasible to accomplish in the time allotted. Importantly, the plan needs to be the coachee’s plan. They need to own it.
What to Consider in Developing the Action Plan?
Is there a well defined and agreed upon goal?
What steps are necessary?
What resources are needed?
Are there milestones that are time-bound?
What is the an end date?
Can the plan be considered specific?
Are the goals achievable?
Did the coachee agree to all steps and the take ownership?
FUEL is designed to create collaboration and open conversation. The coach will spend more time asking questions and listening. They will also be open to changing assumptions and be flexible in guiding the coachee to identify the desired situation or state. Furthermore, the coach must be cognizant to ask open-ended questions and not leading questions.
When to Use the FUEL Coaching Model
Now that we have discovered the stages and principles of FUEL, how do we know when to use FUEL versus another coaching model?
What are example scenarios were the FUEL Model is the ideal leadership coaching model to use? Let’s review example situations.
When a coach has a high potential coachee to prepare for the next level. Have the coachee Identify a competency or behavior to be enhanced or changed.
The coach needs to deliver appraisal feedback. Use the FUEL model if there is a behavior or competency they need the coachee to discover. In this way the coachee will control the process and own the plan.
Employed by business coaches with executives, through open conversation FUEL drives self-discovery of opportunities by the coachee. The coachee controls the process, discovery, and plan of action.
These are just a few examples of the use of the FUEL leadership coaching model.
Check out the Ultimate Coaching Model Guide to understand when these models may be more appropriate for your situation: - The Clear Coaching Model - IGROW Model - GROW Model
FUEL Up Coaching
Finally, the FUEL coaching model is most useful when the coach wants the coachee to assess and analyze their situation and own their action plan.
The most common situations to use the FUEL model include for high potential employee development, creation of development action plans, and executive coaching.
Additionally, the FUEL coaching model develops the coachee and the coach. The coach can practice the leadership skills of motivation, communication, and coaching. As a reminder, coaching is an art to be developed.