Coaching, whether individual, team, group, business or executive, can be difficult. Developing others is one of the most challenging roles any leader or manager takes on. Using leadership coaching models can help make the process easier for new and experienced managers alike.
As a coach, I struggled until I found the right tools to coach and develop. That’s a big reason I want to share which leadership coaching models best suit your coaching needs.
Foundations for Coaching
Before we explore what coaching models to use and when, let’s take a moment to highlight the key characteristics a coach should possess. No matter which coaching model you apply, these traits are essential for your success.
The COACH Framework is a structure for the manager/leader to use in building a solid foundation for coaching and development. The essentials it highlights is that a coach should be present, caring, inspiring, and rigorous.
Essential Skills for a COACH:
Present – Are focused and engaged in the here and now. Give their employees full attention. These leaders develop strong coaching skills to develop their team. They are skilled communicators.
Caring – Show interest and concern for your employees. They are emotionally intelligent. Recognize, understand, and influence their emotions and the emotions of others. They are trustworthy and build relationships.
Inspiring – Drive excitement, energy, and enthusiasm. The coach that inspires encourages others, values creativity, and diversity, sees things differently, and opens doors to learning. They are a motivator.
Rigorous – Holds themselves and others to the standards that are set. They are consistent. Their employees know what to expect.
Here is an article that explains these characteristics of a coach in greater detail:
What are the 5 Coaching Styles?
A coaching style is the approach a leader takes to create a culture of high performance. The shared characteristics of a high performing culture include collaboration, empowerment, and motivation. Successful coaches tailor their style to the individual, their team, and the situation. There a many coaching different styles, so we will review the top 5.
This coaching style is participative and gives the team freedom and accountability. It considers participant interest, concerns, and choices. This coaching style encourages:
- Commitment to objectives
The coach takes a firmer or even dictatorial leadership role. They make the decisions. There are situations where a more collaborative approach is not optimal, such as when a decision needs to be made immediately. This coaching style encourages:
- Trust in the coach
- Clear goal setting
- Reduced ambiguity
Considers the whole person. The thought is to encourage growth in the workplace, balance needs to be achieved in all aspects of their life. This coaching style encourages:
- Feeling understood
- Trust in the coach–coachee relationship
- Uncovering of deeply held feelings and drives
- Identification of solutions
In this coaching style the coach decides who, what, when, where, why, and how. This maybe the best approach with inexperienced teams. This style encourages:
- Trust in the coach
- Clear goal setting
- Reduced ambiguity
The coach empowers employees by giving them clear direction and strategies for achieving objectives. It emphasizes future/forward thinking. This style encourages:
- Decision-making ability
What are the Different Types of Coaching Models?
Leadership coaching models are a guide that will steer you through the coaching process. Coaching models outline a process of how you will get from one point to another.
The purpose of a coaching model is to create a framework for guiding a person or team from identification of a goal, issue, or desired change through to completion and measurement of progress achievement.
The Best Leadership Coaching Models include:
- SMART Goals
- Co-Active Coaching
Why are Leadership Coaching Models Valuable?
As a leader and coach, you have limited time. When you have a repeatable framework to follow you can it saves you time and will increase your confidence.
You may also be new to coaching and development and need more tools to help you and your team become more efficient and effective.
The benefits of using leadership coaching models:
The value of leadership coaching can be measured across individuals, teams, and the coach. Selecting the right leadership coaching models for the situation will drive the result.
How to Select the Right Leadership Coaching Model for Your Situation
No single coaching model can fit all coaching situations. Instead, every coaching situation requires the right model depending on the needs and issues.
Since there are so many leadership coaching models, let’s review how to determine the best choice for your situation.
Decide based on the Issue, Goal, Resources, and Agreement Needed
A process to assist in identifying what leadership coaching model fits your situation is IGRA: Issue, Goal, Resources, and Agreement.
First, what is the ISSUE or topic?
Is this for long-term skill development or to address a problem? Depending on the answer to these questions you may use models such as IGROW, CLEAR or STEPPA.
Second, what GOAL are you trying to achieve?
Is it long, medium, or short term? Some models best align with short time frame goals versus skill development that progresses over the long-term. In this situation that is loner term, you might use OSKAR model.
Third, what RESOURCES will you utilize in the coaching leadership plan?
Can these be time based (short term) or are they longer term and have a more fluid end date? Depending on resources you might use IGROW, SMART, or STEPPA.
Fourth, what type of AGREEMENT are you making to measurement of success?
SMART Goals will work best if you are agreeing to a measurable short-term goal. OSKAR model tends to be your best resource if you are collaborating and focusing on an outcome/skill development versus problem solution.
Putting IGRA all together
IGRA gives you a repeatable process to decide which coaching model best fits your situation. Each time you use it, you will identify the topic/issue, goal, options, and agreement format (IGRA) that are best suited to your leadership coaching session. Finally, when you’ve assessed each area you will have better clarity on which leadership coaching model is the best for you to use.
The Most Useful Leadership Coaching Models in Business
Once you have applied IGRA and selected the best leadership coaching model for your needs, it’s time to apply the chosen leadership coaching model.
GROW Model: Goal, Reality, Options, Will
The GROW coaching model is a common framework in goal setting and problem solving. It was developed by John Whitmore and Max Landsberg, and published in a 1992 first edition of his book Coaching for Performance. GROW is an acronym for Grow, Reality, Options, and Will. It is loved by coaches because of its flexibility, as it can be applied across disciplines and cultures.
Steps in the GROW Leadership Coaching Model:
Grow – Draft a goal or end result you would like to target.
Reality – Identify the reality of the coachee’s status and their challenges to achieving the the goal.
Options – What options are available to the coachee? Focus on identifying action steps and resources to develop a skill that will lead to improvement of the issue or problem.
Will – Create a development plan to meet the agreed upon goals. You can use SMART goals and a Development Action Plan in this phase.
Dig deeper into the GROW Coaching Model complete with example questions.
ACHIEVE Coaching Model for Ultimate Guide
The ACHIEVE model has seven defined steps compared to the four in GROW. The additional steps are designed to bridge the gap between coachee participation and collaboration in goal setting. Another objective was taking coaching to the next level. Hence the further steps in the process. The ACHIEVE coaching model was developed by Dembkowski, S., and Eldridge, F. in 2003. It was presented in the article Beyond GROW: A new coaching model.
Assess Current Situation – The coach will use open-ended questions and active listening skills to build rapport. The coach is working to increase the coachees self-awareness of their situation and reflect on how they got there.
Creative Brainstorming of Alternatives to the Current Situation – The coach will ask questions to help the coachee see the situation more broadly.
Hone Goals – Once the coach and coachee have thoroughly examined the situation (issue) and discovered what drove the coachee to this point, discuss potential goals. Once options have been drafted and aligned with the situation and feelings, begin crafting goals.
Initiate Options – Focus on helping the coachee brainstorm multiple options. More is better during this step.
Evaluate Options – The coach will assist the coachee by recommending they make a list of options. The coach will be able to help them synthesize and prioritize the list. After they create the list, have them sit back and review it. Give them time to deliberate.
Valid Action Program Design – Using the SMART goal approach, the coach and coachee will draft goal(s) that are measurable and have timebound milestones.
Encourage Momentum – The best practice is for the coach and coachee to use a calendar and task list to track the start, milestone, and end dates. It will be easier for each to know if the goal is on track. Encouragement and acknowledgment at each step are central to maintaining motivation.
Dig deeper into the ACHIEVE Coaching Model complete with example questions.
IGROW: Issue, Goal, Root Cause, Options, What’s Next
The IGROW leadership coaching model is one of the most frequently used coaching models. It guides the leader’s coaching structure and imbeds SMART goals as a portion of the framework. This model is best utilized for problem solving and short term goals. IGROW is a more detailed variation of the GROW coaching model.
Steps in the IGROW Coaching Model:
Issue – Help define the issue or problem with the coachee.
Goal – Craft a goal for solving the issue or problem.
Root Cause – Identify the main reason for the issue or problem. Can use the 5 Why’s to get to the main issue or reason.
Options – What options are available to the coachee. Focused on identifying action steps and resources to develop a skill that will lead to improvement of the issue or problem.
What’s Next – Create a development plan to meet the agreed upon goals. Can use SMART goals and a Development Action Plan in this phase.
There is a TGROW model as well. The T is topic. This differs from Issue; the topic does not need to be a deficiency. The TGROW coaching model was adapted by Myles Downey and described in his book Effective Coaching: Lessons from the Coach’s Coach. It is also a variation of the GROW model.
For greater depth check out:
SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Bound
Setting SMART Goals is a cornerstone of coaching. SMART Goals are measurable, they align resources and establish a target date. You can use this approach to develop basic skills, like typing, or for much more complex competencies. Ultimately, SMART goals will also be integrated in other leadership coaching models that require measurable outcomes.
This model was developed by George Doran in his 1981 article “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives“.
Steps to Setting SMART Goals:
Specific – Be as specific as possible with what you want to achieve. Narrow the focus of your goal. This will help in understanding the steps necessary to achieve it.
Measurable – Simply stated, these goals should be quantifiable. You should define “what a good job looks like” as it establishes expectations.
Attainable – Set goals that can be accomplished in the timeframe dictated. This will increase motivation and engagement.
Realistic – You want to define goals that are within reach and relevant to the goal and business purpose.
Time Bound – The goal should have a start and end date. This will create urgency.
FUEL: Frame, Understand, Desired State, Layout
FUEL is a conversational leadership coaching model designed to achieve behavioral outcomes, challenge assumptions, and strengthen the relationship between the coach and coachee. It utilizes open-ended questions by the coach.
The objective is to have the coachee analyze their own situation, prepare a result, and take ownership for completing the plan. This leadership coaching model was developed by John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in the book, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow.
Steps in the FUEL Coaching Model:
Frame the Conversation – Outline the purpose, process, and expected outcomes of the conversation.
Understand the Current State – Use open ended questions to help the coachee identify their current state and gain perspective.
Explore the Desired State – Help the coachee identify the desired state and path to achieving this state.
Layout a Successful Plan – Assist the coachee in creating a detailed plan to achieve the goal (such as a SMART Goal).
CLEAR: Contract, Listen, Explore, Action, Review
The CLEAR coaching model is designed to help individuals achieve transformational change. It focuses on fundamental change based on new values, behaviors, and beliefs. CLEAR differs from helping coachees achieve a goal (as through solution focused coaching). The CLEAR model was formulated in the early 1980s by Professor of Leadership, Peter Hawkins and outlined in Leadership Team Coaching In Practice.
Steps in the CLEAR Coaching Model:
Contract – Clarify how the coach and coachee will interact and what the coachee would like to get out of the sessions. Agree on frequency, duration, and location of meetings.
Listen – Coach asks open ended questions of the coachee in relation to their area of focus. The coach is trying to understand what the coachee thinks about their topic and how they feel about it.
Explore – The coach is looking to help the coachee understand their emotional connection with the current state. The coach helps the coachee identify what they want to change.
Action – The coach asks questions to help the coachee consider what they can do differently. The coach helps the coachee understand how they feel about the actions.
Review – The coach reviews key points from the meetings. The coach gets feedback from the coachee on the process and determines if the goals of the sessions were met.
Check out the detailed review of Clear Coaching Model to put it into practice.
OSKAR: Outcome, Scaling, Know-How, Affirm and Action, Review
OSKAR (sometimes known as OSCAR) is a solutions focused approach to focus on outcomes versus problems. This model requires you to ask questions to focus the coachee on the solution instead of discussing difficulties and their causes.
The OSKAR model was developed by Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow who describe the model in their book The Solutions Focus, Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE.
Steps in the OSKAR Leadership Coaching Model:
Outcome –The coachee identifies long-term outcomes, expectations for the coach, defines success, and a timeline for achievement of the outcomes.
Scaling – The coach uses a 1-10 scale to communicate their opinion of how close the coachee is to achieving success. This is a subjective scale.
Know-How – Th coach identifies the skills, qualifications, characteristics, or knowledge required to achieve the outcome. This step is often called “Choices” in the OSCAR variation of this coaching model.
Affirm and Action – The coach helps the coachee identify what’s going well in relation to the desired outcomes. The coach has the coachee rate where they are in relation to the goal (again using Scaling).
Review – This step should happen in each meeting by reflecting on the actions that are going well. The coach will hold the coachee accountable for their actions in the future.
STEPPA: Subject, Target, Emotion, Perception, Plan, Action
The STEPPA Leadership Coaching Model can be used for mentoring as well as coaching. Because emotions are big motivators and de-motivators, this model focuses the coaching conversation on their influence.
This model was developed by Angus McLeod in Performance Coaching: The Handbook for Managers, HR Professionals & Coaches and is most often used during executive level coaching sessions.
The STEPPA Leadership Coaching Model:
Subject – Coachees bring issues and goals but may also uncover more during the coaching itself. The coach identifies the emotional aspects attached to the goals.
Target – The coachee brings a goal that they are having difficulty in motivating themselves to achieve. The coach will help assess whether their target is SMART.
Emotion – The coach identifies the emotional aspect attached to the goals. How are these emotions impacting achievement of the goal?
Perception – The coach uses open ended questions designed to change the perception of the coachee. The coach helps the coachee to see the goal in a different way.
Plan – The coach will encourage the coachee to check that the goal is achievable and within their area of influence and control. They will also help the coachee identify if the plan is feasible.
Action – The coach monitors the coachee’s progress towards the goal. They also assess ongoing emotions and motivation.
Get a full breakdown of the STEPPA Coaching Model including questions, pros and cons.
Co-Active Coaching Model
The Co-Active Coaching Model is an effective tool for managers looking to increase their employees’ performance on the job. It is particularly useful for managers who want to empower their employees to take ownership of their own development and growth. By using this model, managers can help their employees develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed in their roles.
The Co-Active Coaching Model is also useful for managers who want to create a safe and trusting environment for their employees to explore and discover new solutions to their challenges. This model is designed to evoke transformational, lasting change across all areas of life, not just work. It is a highly collaborative form of coaching that uses experiential tools to help the coachee achieve their goals.
The Co-Active Coaching Model involves five key steps:
- Clarifying the coaching relationship structure
- Creating a safe and trusting environment
- Sharing power to develop autonomy
- Balancing support with challenges to create positive change
- Providing evaluation and feedback
The model is designed to empower the natural leader within the coachee and evoke transformational, lasting change across all areas of life. It is a highly effective method of coaching that uses experiential tools to help the coachee achieve their goals. The model is particularly useful for managers looking to increase their employees’ performance on the job. By using the Co-Active Coaching Model, managers can help their employees develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed in their roles.
You can find more depth and examples on how to apply the Co-Active Coaching Model here.
And in the End, What Leadership Coaching Model did You Use?
In conclusion, the answer to what leadership coaching model you use is going to depend on the situation, individual, and goal. The models vary from straight forward to more ambiguous, from very objective to subjective.
Using the IGRA acronym to remember how to identify the right model will help. Most importantly, using one of these leadership coaching models as a framework to have the coaching conversations will make it easier for you, the coach.
Finally, it will also provide a process and plan for the coachee. By setting expectations for those being coached it will take some of the tension out of the feedback and coaching process. This means you’ll have a more collaborative and ultimately more successful outcome.
What are the Different Coaching Models?