Coaching Competencies Training

Innovation: Working With Coaching Models

This article is adapted from Sunny Stout Rostron’s new book, Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching (2009) which is available from Knowledge Resources (

One of the least explored areas of innovation for coaches is in the development of your own coaching model. As it is not possible to work with every coaching model available in the marketplace, it is important for you to gain a sense of the flexibility models can offer you as a coach practitioner. You can choose either to work with an existing model, or to build your own model as you develop your experience and expertise as a coach.

FlexiibilityFlexibility is required to understand and work with a range of models, as well as understand how to lay one model over another. Simplicity is the key. Coaching models can help you as a coach practitioner to understand the coaching intervention from a systems perspective, and to understand the need for “structure” in your interaction with your client. More importantly, models help you to develop flexibility in your approach to the coaching conversation and the overall coaching journey – whether the intervention is for 20 hours, six months, or a year.

Although models create a system within which you as coach work with your client, it is critical that your coaching model is not experienced as either prescriptive or rigid. Remember that the coaching conversation is about the client, not about you. If the model is too prescriptive, it means the coach is attempting to fulfil their own agenda, rather than attempting to understand the client’s issues.

You have a wide range of models from which to choose:

  • four-quadrant models (e.g. David Kolb’s Experiential Learning model; Ken Wilber’s Integral model; John Whitmore’s GROW model; Daniel Goleman’s EQ model; Frederick Hudson’s Renewal Cycle model);
  • circular models (Lane and Corrie’s Purpose, Perspectives, Process model; Habermas’ Domains of Competence model; Cummings and Worley’s Input-Throughput-Output model; and the Strassers’ Existential Time-Limited Therapy model);
  • nested-levels models (e.g. the models of Pam Weiss and James Flaherty, and the Centre for Conscious Leadership);
  • u-shape models (e.g. Otto Scharmer’s U-Process); or
  • triangular models (e.g. Habermas’ Domains of Competence and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

There are varying degrees of thought in educating and developing coaches. Some schools train their coach practitioners to use only one coaching model. Other coach training schools teach a variety of models and advocate choosing one of them, or learning how to flexibly integrate a few models to develop your own. If you prefer one particular model, it is essential to go through the training or certification to ensure you have a depth of understanding in its use. Eventually, you may want to choose whether to work with one model, or with an integration of several models, or to develop your own. That is not for anyone else to prescribe for you. Whatever you do decide, I believe that knowledge is power, and the more understanding of available models you have, the more intelligent your choice will be.

Purpose, Perspectives, Process model

Figure 1       Purpose, Perspectives, Process

Lane & Corrie

Source:              Lane and Corrie (2006)

Purpose (Where are we going and why?)

This model, developed by Lane and Corrie (2006), first identifies the purpose in working with the client. In other words, where are you going with this client? What does the client want to achieve? Where do they want to go in their overall journey with you as their coach? Part of the client’s purpose will be aligned with the questions they bring to the coaching process. Their questions are often related to “why” they want to go where they want to go. Your job is to understand what is motivating them, what is driving them.

Perspectives (What will inform our journey?)

What perspectives inform the journey for both coach and client? What informs your journey, i.e. what informs the client and what informs the coach? Both coach and client come in with their individual backgrounds, experience, expertise, culture, values, motivations, and assumptions that drive behaviour.

Process (How will we get there?)

Using this model can help you to understand the client’s needs, to develop rapport, and to identify their overall outcomes and a way to begin working together. At this stage of the model you need to contract, set boundaries, agree confidentiality matters, and outline the fee-paying process and the development of (for example) a leadership development plan. You will also need to agree on timing, assessments, potential coaching assignments, and meetings with the client’s line management.

A model is simply a metaphor for the journey and embodies a structured process. This model can help you in three ways: to contract with the client, to structure the entire coaching journey, and to guide your coaching conversation. Out of the specific conversation about process emerges the client’s purpose, how your perspectives fit together to help them to achieve their purpose, and the process with which you will work to achieve their desired outcomes.

In conclusion

Whichever model you choose to develop, a model simply represents a system with an implied process. It is a metaphor or analogy used to help you and the client to visualise and describe their journey. Models systemically visualise or represent a process that is not directly observable. If you can develop a model that encompasses the coaching conversation and the entire coaching intervention, you will begin to work with considerably greater ease within your practice.


Lane, D.A., and Corrie, S. (2006). The Modern Scientist-Practitioner: A Guide to Practice in Psychology. Hove: Routledge.

Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching. Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources.

By Sunny Stout-Rostron Associates

Sunny coaches at senior executive and board level in corporate organizations and educational institutions. She has a wide range of experience in leadership and management development,  business strategy and executive coaching. With over 20 years’ international  experience as an executive coach, Sunny believes that there is a strong link between emotional intelligence and business results – she works with leaders and their  teams to help them achieve individual, team and organizational goals, gaining  wisdom and knowledge through their own experience.

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