Different approaches to coaching

Following on from his previous blog on appreciative coaching, Bob Little looks at some alternative approaches to achieve results.

Coaching means supporting individuals to improve their performance. It’s both person and performance-centred. A coach draws from the client what they already have and know, focusing on the talents that are already there. The coach doesn’t need to possess any technical expertise themselves but draws such expertise to the fore in the person they’re coaching .

The key to success is how the individual defines the desired improvement in performance. This tends to relate to a short-term task. The coach drives the act of coaching, showing the client where they’re going wrong and how they can improve. A coach should ask pertinent questions that challenge, stretch and help their clients to learn, grow and develop skills to help them get where they want to be. There are several different approaches to achieve that.

In a corporate context, a coach can:  

  • Brief the client and give training support to their line manager, along the lines of: ‘This is what we’d expect them to know at the end of a month and this is what you could do to help them achieve this.’
  • Outline programmes they might find beneficial.
  • Set up work-shadowing. 

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Tim Gallwey – known as the ‘grandfather of coaching’ – wrote a bestselling Inner Game series of books outlining a methodology for coaching and the development of personal and professional excellence in a variety of fields. According to Gallwey: “There’s always an inner game being played in your mind, no matter what outer game you’re playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.”

Among other things, Gallwey suggests the key to successful coaching is to remove interference. This suggests that, while teaching something may involve imparting information, to be a successful coach you should be taking things away.

The GROW model
Among the many approaches to coaching is the GROW model. More of an agenda-setting process than a model, GROW can identify strategies that might be useful to a client. Its components are:

  • Goal – what does the client want?
  • Reality – what’s the current position?
  • Options – what are all the options that the client faces?
  • Who, what, where and so on – strategies and tactics for achieving the goal.

Often, clients try to adopt the WORG process instead! That is, they focus on the problem – principally to get sympathy – rather than the goal.

The sports coaching model
The sports coaching model is characterised by the high performance pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is Foundation (fun); then comes Participation (skill), followed by Performance and, finally, Podium. As clients move further up the pyramid – towards being a world champion – they need to re-discover the fun in what they do. All achievements have to rest on the foundation of fun. It provides the ‘buzz’ that everyone needs.

A variation on this high-performance pyramid is: 

  • Physical (at the base of the pyramid – since physical wellbeing is key when it comes to achieving top performance). 
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

Read my previous blog to find out about another method, appreciative coaching, and find a coach that works in a way that best suits you. 


About Bob Little

Bob Little is a communications professional (a writer, editor, commentator, speaker and broadcaster) specialising in the field of corporate L&D, who works internationally.


Part 1: Appreciative coaching to boost staff engagement

Bob Little explains how appreciative coaching, focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, can help increase staff engagement – the equivalent of gold dust for any organisation. He explains the steps you need to take to put this type of coaching into practice.

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