Coaching, in its many forms, offers powerful insights for thousands of people around the world.
Whether it’s a project team that aims to optimize performance, a professional struggling to regain balance in their busy life, or the leader of a Fortune 100 company delivering a new organizational vision, each wishes to develop in some way.
In this article, we introduce a selection of coaching models from the many available. By selecting the right one, you can help transform an individual or group from the state they find themselves in right now to where they want to be in the future.
Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This article contains:
The GROW Coaching Model
The GROW model was created by Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the late 1980s and has become one of the most popular coaching models for setting goals, improving performance, and coaching (Performance Consultants, 2020).
Whitmore (2017) likened the model to planning a journey (Bates, 2015):
- Goal – where do you want to be?
- Reality – where are you now?
- Options – what could you do to get there?
- Will – what will you do?
Work with the client to raise awareness and ownership at each stage:
Establish the goal
Define a goal that is motivating, inspiring, and drives success. Perhaps it is behavior that needs to change or an aspiration to be reached.
Examine the reality
Understand where the client is now and identify any barriers that are causing issues. Then recognize strengths, qualities, and resources that may help.
Explore the options
Consider the options for moving forward. Challenge the individual or group with imaginative coaching questions.
For example, if money were no object, what would you do? If time were not a factor, how would you proceed? What other options are there?
Establish the will
Now that we have a list of options, agree on the actions, timing, accountability, and reporting. The client must commit to what they will do next.
The coach is not there to solve the client’s problems or overcome their challenges, but to facilitate and help them select the best options.
While relatively straightforward, the GROW model is incredibly powerful, but only if the coach ensures:
- that the goal is genuinely inspiring,
- that the client considers the present before looking at the options, and
- that they fully commit.
For additional detail, read John Whitmore’s Coaching for Performance: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership (2017), available on Amazon.
Written by one of the pioneers of coaching, Whitmore uses practical examples from coaching and business to take the reader on a journey through the GROW model. His development program Coaching for Performance has been delivered in 23 languages in 40 countries and continues to transform the relationship between companies and their employees.
Instructional Coaching Models
Instructional coaching models arose out of the need to facilitate teacher professional development and promote accelerated learning in students – particularly those at risk of being ‘left behind’ (Desimone & Pak, 2016).
Instructional coaches have proved successful in assisting teachers in implementing response-to-intervention models to support students with additional needs.
The Instructional Coaching Model promotes good teaching practices and student achievement through the following five features:
- Content focus
Focus on how activities can help students learn the subject matter.
- Active learning
Implement approaches (presentations, etc.) that promote observation and feedback rather than passive listening.
Drive consistency and coherence around the school’s goals, content, and activities, in line with district and state guidance.
- Sustained duration
Make ongoing professional development available to teachers.
- Collective participation
Provide interactive learning communities that group teachers by grade, subject, or school.
There are several coaching books available that explore and promote the use of instructional models and encourage the partnership between coach and teacher:
1. Student-Centered Coaching – Diane Sweeney
This book focuses on the impact school-based coaching can have on student needs rather than taking the approach that teachers need to be ‘fixed.’
By improving assessment, instruction, and planning, Sweeney offers a timely and vital approach to student-centered coaching.
The text provides encouragement and clear direction for the development of both students and staff.
Find the book on Amazon.
2. The Art of Coaching – Elena Aguilar
The Art of Coaching provides the theory behind instructional coaching and a set of practical school coaching tools.
It’s a valuable resource for both new and experienced educators to implement professional development programs in any school.
Not only does Aguilar offer a model for transformational change, but the book also addresses the needs of learners from all backgrounds.
Find the book on Amazon.
3. Instructional Coaching – Jim Knight
This is an instructional guide that promotes school culture through research-led instructional coaching, with a mixture of resources and first-person stories.
Delving deep into instructional intervention, Knight addresses some of the challenges and obstacles associated with implementing school improvement programs.
Knight has consulted and presented across Canada and Japan, providing valuable professional learning guidance for instructional coaches.
Find the book on Amazon.
Group and Team Coaching Models
In Group and Team Coaching, Hall (2013) reminds us that coaching a group is not the same as coaching several individuals. A group isn’t merely an extension of one-to-one coaching.
A group is a collection of individuals often, but not always, from within a single organization or business. They may share similar interests or goals and be tightly structured or loosely organized.
And this needs to be taken into account when coaching; a group may rate high on cohesiveness or be totally lacking. The key then is their inter-dependence (Hall, 2013). The members are dependent on one another; how they communicate, relate, learn, act, and decide together matters.
The coach enables the group to develop as a team, creating more than the individuals’ sum.
A team results from individuals forming strong, successful relationships and a close connection between its members and the overarching goal. Teams are collaborative, and while it does not mean that there aren’t disagreements or clashes of personality, the team can mostly manage conflict.
While group and team coaching aims are similar and indeed overlap, it is perhaps a difference of maturity. The goal of group coaching is to provide the foundation, individual, and group mindsets, principles, and skills to progress to being aligned as a team.
And there are degrees within group coaching, including, for example:
- Learning group
While the subject under discussion unites the group, they arrive and leave as individuals. Each person relates more closely to the leader of that group than to one another.
- Training group
The coach moves from training the group in a particular topic to delivering an experience or practical demonstration. While the trainer still has a one-way relationship with each individual, exercises are shared.
- Development group
The goal is to form a functional and supportive group. Individual differences fade into insignificance, and membership of the group is established, along with a clear identity.
Team coaching also has levels of maturity, including:
- Division group
The aim is to coach an entire group – business unit, team, or department – to develop the skills needed to improve performance by being more efficient and effective. The ultimate goal is to implement self-management within the team.
- Corporate group
As part of a team, the individual is coached or trained as though they are the business itself.
- Team coaching
Take a productive team and turn it into a high-performing one. For this to happen, each member must feel aligned to the team and its goals, be part of the team spirit, and collaborate successfully.
The coach’s vision is to take a group of people and help them transcend their individual identities to become part of a collective identity, developing and freeing the potential of both the individual and the group (Hall, 2013).
There are several informative guides about group coaching; try out the following:
1. Group and Team Coaching (Meta-Coaching) – Michael Hall
This excellent and insightful guide to group and team coaching explains the need for cohesive, high-performing teams.
Recognizing that coaching a group is significantly different from coaching individuals, Hall addresses the many challenges of group dynamics.
By learning how to think and solve problems, groups become teams and become the driving force behind successful organizations.
Find the book on Amazon.
2. Group and Team Coaching: The Secret Life of Groups – Christine Thornton
This book provides useful insights for coaches working with groups, teams, managers, and leaders to overcome team coaching pitfalls and put in place coaching interventions.
Using her psychology background, Thornton explores the invisible processes behind group dynamics and how to overcome obstacles along the way.
The sections on how to design coaching interventions are particularly valuable.
Find the book on Amazon.
3 Models for Life Coaches
While there are many life coaching models available, the following list summarizes three of the most popular (we introduced the GROW model earlier).
These models are also popular in other forms of coaching:
The CLEAR model was developed by Peter Hawkins in the early 1980s and is considered a viable alternative to the GROW model (Bates, 2015):
Establish the desired outcomes, the session’s scope, and agree on the coaching process.
The coach is encouraged to listen and only engage to ‘nudge’ and steer the conversation toward the topics under review.
Examine in more detail how the individual is affected by the situation.
Get the individual to commit to changes and internalize their new outlook.
Perform follow-ups with the individual to assess how things are progressing and identify what worked well in the coaching sessions.
The STEPPA model was created by Dr. Angus McLeod to leverage a situation’s context and individuals’ emotions to define and work toward new goals (Bates, 2015):
Understand the context and the subject under discussion.
- Target identification
Arrive at a clear goal or outcome (define using SMART).
Understand if the emotions associated are going to boost or block progress toward the goal.
Explore the bigger picture. How does this goal sit within the broader context of the client’s life?
Define a series of steps to reach the goal and the timescales upon which this is based.
Review the decisions made, understand what has been learned, and whether the plan is sensible.
The OSCAR model was initially described by Gilbert and Whittleworth in 2002. Rather than focus on the problem, this model focuses on the solution (Gilbert & Whittleworth, 2009):
Understand the desired outcome and the individual’s long-term goals.
Help the client become aware of their skills, abilities, level of knowledge, and how they feel.
What are the options for reaching the desired outcome?
Identify the improvements and how best to make them.
Hold regular reviews to ensure the client is on track.
Each model’s steps are similar – understanding the goals, the context, the skillset, the next steps, and a review of the success so far – and may be chosen based on coach and client preference, and prior experience.
1. Performance Coaching Toolkit – Will Thomas and Angus McLeod
Try out this toolkit for useful strategies and tools for improving as a professional coach, manager, or parent. The guidance is clear, practical, and impactful.
Whether readers are new to the subject or seasoned practitioners, Thomas and McLeod offer essential insights into the developing field of performance coaching and the coaching journey.
Find the book on Amazon.
2. The OSCAR Coaching Model: Simplifying Workplace Coaching – Andrew Gilbert and Karen Whittleworth
While focused on managers, the OSCAR Coaching Model provides an in-depth guide to using the OSCAR model in any situation.
The text also provides useful clarification of the manager’s role during coaching and how to improve staff performance.
The OSCAR model offers a practical framework for ongoing performance evaluation and tools for continuous development.
Find the book on Amazon.
For Executive and Career Coaching
Executives can often benefit from coaching to improve existing skills, develop new ones, get ready for advancement, overcome blockers, and improve overall performance.
Career coaching specifically looks at how to achieve professional goals while maintaining a level of work–life balance.
While the GROW, OSCAR, and CLEAR models (introduced above) are all valuable in career and executive coaching, the following models are practical and powerful alternatives (modified from Bates, 2015):
Richard Boyatzis recognized the tricky balance between the executive’s individual needs – including their self-development and growth – and those of the organization (Bates, 2015):
And yet, leaders have control over who they are and how they act.
Boyatzis describes five points that the executive or manager should be encouraged to consider.
Each can lead to awareness and the need for change:
- Considering their ideal self
Challenge the business’s expectations and consider who they would like to be.
- Recognizing their present self
How do they and others see themselves? It may be quite different.
- Deciding what change is needed
Focus on what is required to reach the desired outcome.
- Experiment in doing things differently
Challenge existing ways of working and find opportunities to try alternatives.
- Developing relationships with those they value and trust
Find others who can provide support.
According to Meredith Belbin, for individuals and teams to be successful, there are key roles and functions to perform (Bates, 2015):
Work with executives, managers, and team members to understand if the following roles are in place. Without them, projects and transformation may falter:
Establishes priorities and agendas.
Maintains urgency and momentum to meet timelines.
Comes up with new and exciting ideas.
Turns the theory into practice.
- Team worker
Helps form the team and resolves issues.
As people become tired near the end of the project, this person pushes through to the finish line.
Provides essential expertise.
Models for Leadership Development
Leadership can be a difficult, even lonely position. Coaching can help provide a new perspective and support for difficult decisions.
Try the following two models with leaders to improve their ability to balance the demands of different aspects of the company while improving performance:
According to John Adair, leaders are continually juggling the needs of the task, individuals, and the team (Bates, 2015):
Setting goals, planning, assigning work, resourcing, monitoring, and controlling.
Encouraging cooperation, developing team spirit, and resolving conflict.
Counseling and mentoring staff while ensuring their training needs are met.
His belief was that good leadership, rather than being a trait, can be coached. The coach is encouraged to challenge the leader to think about:
- What task and goal-oriented activities have they performed? If they were effective, what factors blocked or helped?
- What team-related activities do they get involved in, and how have they been effective at promoting team spirit, resolving conflict, etc.?
- What individual development has been put in place?
When there are clashes between the three elements, prioritization must occur based on the organization’s needs.
Bernard Bass described transformational leadership as using enthusiasm for a shared vision to create an emotional bond between leader and follower.
Therefore, organizational performance would benefit from emphasizing and “recognizing the needs, aspirations, and potential contributions of their followers” (Bates, 2015).
The leader must, therefore, be coached to consider several critical values by getting them to understand:
- That they must act according to sound morals and ethics – charisma alone is not enough
- The need to be seen as a role model, maintaining integrity and high standards so that followers believe in them
- The importance of recognizing and prioritizing the needs of their followers
Directive Coaching Models
While all coaching models seek change at an individual, group, or organizational level, they all exist somewhere on a scale between directive and non-directive.
In directive coaching, the coach must have some knowledge or expertise in the context under discussion. For example, if working with an athlete, some knowledge of sports, training, and competition is essential. The coach will set goals at an individual and group level and monitor success, supplying feedback appropriately.
Non-directive coaching sessions are reflective and involve problem-solving. The individual or group is the expert, setting the agenda and ultimately the path to success.
The models discussed in this article have been biased toward non-directive coaching models. After all, they offer a highly successful approach, helping to develop confidence in the client’s ability to make the right decisions and overcome existing and future challenges.
A Look at the Peer Coaching Model
The psychologist Albert Bandura (1997) suggested that it is possible to successfully modify an individual’s behavior by observing others.
He suggested that witnessing our peers – friends, family, and colleagues – perform an act improves our self-efficacy, thereby increasing our belief in our ability to execute the behavior.
Using role models or peer coaching can be a potent way of promoting self-belief in our clients. In turn, as a coach, it is crucial to display the sort of behavior we are encouraging in our clients; for example, language, lack of bias, openness, friendliness, and warmth all have important parts to play.
When using role models, choose wisely. Avoid stereotypes, as they reinforce bias already present; instead, ask the person to consider people in their lives who have had a positive impact.
A Take-Home Message
Many of the models introduced in this article offer similar opportunities. For the coach, they provide a structure in which the client can capture where they are now, along with their destination. They can use it to plan and plot the next action and illuminate the path to where they want to get.
The model that works well for one person may not be suitable for another; after all, the client – whether an individual or a group – must be brought into the process. They need to be ‘fired up’ to engage in the task of transformation. It will take work, focus, and commitment.
And yet, with a coach to guide them and a model that supports the process, it is possible to move, even slowly, toward where they want to be.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 300 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.
- Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
- Bates, B. (2015). The little book of big coaching model. London: Pearson
- Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.
- Desimone, L. M., & Pak, K. (2016). Instructional coaching as high-quality professional development. Theory Into Practice, 56(1), 3–12.
- Hall, M. (2013) Group and team coaching (Meta-coaching) [Kindle version].
- Gilbert, A., & Whittleworth, K. (2009). The OSCAR coaching model – Simplifying workplace coaching. Monmouth: Worth Consulting.
- Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction. Thousands Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
- McLeod, A., & Thomas, W. (2010). Performance coaching toolkit. Maidenhead, Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Education.
- Performance Consultants (2020, August 17). GROW model: Sir John Whitmore’s GROW coaching model framework. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://www.performanceconsultants.com/grow-model.
- Sweeney, D. (2010). Student-centered coaching: A guide for K–8 coaches and principals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
- Thornton, C. (2016). Group and team coaching: The secret life of groups. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
- Whitmore, J. (2017). Coaching for performance: The principles and practice of coaching and leadership. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.