By Dr. Sunny Stout-Rostron
Working with Coaching Models
The main purpose of this article is to introduce you to the Scientist Practitioner model. Although it is essential to adopt a structured approach to your coaching conversation, this does not mean that you cannot let the conversation grow and be explorative. I talk about structure in a big-picture way. The beauty of any model is to have the freedom to explore within each part of the model.
Purpose, Perspectives, Process
The Scientist Practitioner model (see Figure 1) was developed by David Lane of the Professional Development Foundation (PDF) and the Work-Based Learning Unit at London’s Middlesex University (Lane and Corrie, 2006).
Figure 1 Purpose, Perspectives, Process
Source: Lane and Corrie (2006)
What is your purpose in working with the client? 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?
For example, one client working in the telecoms industry said in our first session together, “I need your help because everybody in the organisation distrusts me and I’m in a pretty senior position. What can I do about it? I’m highly respected by those subordinate to me in position and disliked and mistrusted by those superior or equal to me in position.” As coach, your questions will relate to the client’s purpose, i.e. “Where are we going, and what’s the reason for going there?” “What” questions help to create a bigger picture of the journey and create perspective. This client’s purpose was to “build alliances and trust with peers, colleagues and superiors throughout the organisation”.
Perspectives (What Will Inform Our Journey?)
What are the perspectives that inform the journey for both coach and client? Each comes in with individual backgrounds, experience, expertise, culture, values, motivations and assumptions that drive behaviour.
I recently had a call from a potential client within the energy industry; he was a general manager. We chatted about his perspective on his background, career and current job. We discussed his perspective in terms of his position within the organisation, his style of leading and managing his team of people, the impact and influence of his age on his career prospects, and finally he said, “I have got as far as I can get with what I know now–and I need to know more, somehow”.
We then discussed the coach’s perspective, i.e. what informs the way I work with clients, what informs my experience and expertise and, based on our mutual perspectives, he asked, “Would we have some kind of synchronicity or a match in order to work together?” He wanted to understand what models, tools and techniques I used as he wanted to create his own leadership development toolbox to coach his senior managers. He also wanted to understand how to handle mistakes: did I make them and what would my education, training and work experience bring to our conversation? In this first contracting conversation, we worked through the model beginning with perspectives:
Perspectives: How we might bring our two worlds together?
Purpose: What did he ultimately want from the coaching experience?
Process: How we would work together to achieve his outcomes?
Process (How Will We Get There?)
Using this model helped me to begin to understand the above client’s needs, to develop rapport, and to identify not just his overall outcomes but to find a way to work together. At this stage of the model we contracted, set boundaries, agreed confidentiality matters, outlining the fee paying process and the development of a leadership development plan. We also agreed on timing (how often we would see each other and the individual client’s line manager). What assessments would be useful for the individual client to complete? How would we debrief those profiles? We discussed potential coaching assignments and timing for the overall contract (including termination and exit possibilities if either party was unhappy) and explored how to obtain line manager approval. Finally, we set up a separate meeting to agree the process with the line manager and the Group HR Director.
How Can This Model Help You?
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 this specific conversation emerged the client’s purpose, the way our perspectives fit together to help him to achieve his purpose, and the process within which we would work to achieve the outcomes desired.
This model can be used for the regular coaching conversations you have with your individual clients. The client brings to the conversation a possible “menu” of topics to be discussed, or even just one particular topic. One of my clients in the media came to me one day saying, “My purpose today is to understand why I am sabotaging my best efforts to delegate to my senior managers” (purpose). As the coach, I wanted to understand all of the perspectives underlying the client’s aim for this conversation (perspectives), as well as identifying the various tools or techniques that could be used in the process.
*(Adapted from Business Coaching Wisdom and Experience, Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching, published 2009/2012 by Knowledge Resources and Karnac.)