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Coaching Theory Models To Use With Coachees

Updated on October 21, 2018
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Coaching Models for Group Facilitation

Argyris’s Double Loop Learning

This is a ‘systems’ approach to learning, where the coachee needs to think about the organization as consisting of a series of relationships between parts of a wider system, judge the appropriateness of the overall system and become skilled with feedback, which is the primary judging mechanism and feeds new operational decisions.

A coachee needs to first identify what assumptions they are making. Good questions or openers include: "How did you come up with that?" or "How did you decide that was the situation?" It is important for coaches to keep language conversational and avoid "management-speak" such as "How did you interpret that?". "Come up with" is better.

Strategies and techniques to use with coachees apply once the coachee has worked out how they have already determined a result. At this stage, it is very important for the coach not to give advice. Phrases like "What are your options here?" or "How can you sort this one?" or "How would you sort this one?" make good inroads into how the coachee sees a solution as possible.

Double Loop Learning

Kolb's Learning Cycle

Kolb's Learning Styles

Kolb related the world to how we experience it, and placed the highest value on what can be said to be "meeting people where they're at". Removing theoretical psychometry such as ego and ID Freudian suggestions, Kolb replaces this with an objective stance in his theory. He says we are not always operating with agenda, and when we go to "auto pilot" we exhibit a particular learning style or behaviour.

To get to know your coachees better you could draw from Kolb’s Learning Styles, from which the Learning Styles Questionnaire (Honey and Mumford) was drawn. By undertaking this questionnaire learners identify if they are:

· Activists – concrete/feeling/seeking experiences.

· Reflectors – observers/assimilators.

· Theorists – abstract and detached

· Pragmatists – responders and doers.

It is worth noting as in the diagram above, that no-one stays fixed in the cycle and we all move through it.

Extra reading recommended

A variety of learning styles questionairres.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner proposed that intelligence is different in people and individuals differ in the particular profiles of strengths and weaknesses they exhibit. This can encourage buy-in from the coachees as they identify their unique form of intelligence, and understand how they operate in the team. It is a great exercise to do with a group.

Multiple Intelligence Questionnaire

Multiple Intelligence Questionnaires

– take this online version, it auto-scores you and gives you your top three intelligences, an explanation, and is free to use.

Myers Briggs

This is the favoured test used by Fortune 500 companies. A coach could find this a useful way to open team’s approach to problem solving, once they realise what kind of ‘personalities’ they work with. It can help them devise effective questioning techniques and also understand why sometimes, with some individuals, instructions “fall flat”. Organizations find it useful to determine if someone ‘fits the culture’ they have or wish to have, and fill a gap. Organizations also find it useful if they need a certain type of person in an operational role.

·Extra reading recommended

This free test is based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typological approach to personality.

Hemispherical Dominance

In order to maximize the effectiveness of coaching, it is important to engage long-term memory so that change is realized.

Short term memory – is what learners use in coaching sessions.

Long term memory – is engaged by sharpening the information received, through techniques like using repetition, asking the learner to recall, inviting discussion, telling creative stories or jokes relevant to the teaching points, or instructing an unusual/interesting aspect of otherwise ‘dry’ information.

The two hemispheres of the brain have very different ways of processing information.

Coaching Portfolio Ideas for Documentation

Portfolio Idea

What can be very useful in coaching group sessions, and make them more enjoyable, is to include activities or discussions that engage the hemisphere skill set in the brain that is not used so much ‘on the job’. For example, how often does the team use artistic skills if they are not in the creative/graphic design part of the organization?

Transformational Learning

Engaging the different hemispheres led to the theory of Accelerated Learning (Rose, 1991), which proposed that society values left-brain analytical and logical reasoning over right hemisphere functions. We therefore starve right-brain usage and are therefore under-using our brains. Experiments show that emotional content in learning stimulates arousal, thereby improving the retention of learning, and long-term retention. Rose recommends that all teacher/training sessions, and for us, coaching sessions, will be more effective if the hemispheres are fully engaged each session.

· Extra reading recommended

Accelerated learning

Johari’s Window

The Johari Window model is also referred to as a 'disclosure/feedback model of self awareness'. The Johari Window actually represents information - feelings, experience, views, attitudes, skills, intentions, motivation, etc - within or about a person - in relation to their group, from four perspectives, which are described below.

  1. What is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others - open area, open self, free area, free self, or 'the arena'.
  2. What is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know - blind area, blind self, or 'blind-spot'.
  3. What the person knows about him/herself that others do not know - hidden area, hidden self, avoided area, avoided self or 'facade'.
  4. What is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others - unknown area or unknown self.

The Johari Window model can also be used to represent the same information for a group in relation to other groups. This could be useful in the coaching relationship if one of the group wishes to change roles within the organization.

· Extra reading recommended

Johari’s Window

Neuro Linguistic Programming

NLP consists of a set of powerful techniques for rapid and effective behavioural modification, and an operational philosophy to guide their use. NLP training allows an individual to become aware of the conscious method of behaviour strategies they use, and then, once diagnosed, provides ways to adjust and control what would previously be considered ‘automatic’ responses and behaviour.

It is based on four operational principles, which below these headings are explained in more detail.

1. Know what outcome you want to achieve.

2. Have sufficient sensory acuity (acuity means clear understanding) to know if you are moving towards or away from your outcome.

3. Have sufficient flexibility of behaviour so that you can vary your behaviour until you get your outcome.

4. Take action now.

It is important to have specific outcomes. Many people do not have conscious outcomes and wander randomly through life. NLP stresses the importance of living with conscious purpose. In order to achieve outcomes it is necessary to act and speak in certain ways. NLP teaches a series of linguistic and behavioural patterns that have proved highly effective in enabling people to change the beliefs and behaviours of other people.

In using any of these patterns NLP stresses the importance of continuous calibration of the person or people you are interacting with in order to see if what you are doing is working. If it is not working it is important to do something different. The idea is to vary your behaviour until you get the results you want.

This variation in behaviour is not random. It involves the systematic application of NLP patterns. It is also important to take action, since nothing ever happens until someone takes the initiative. In short, NLP is about thinking, observing and doing to get what you want out of life.

· Exercise: Portfolio documentation

Discuss/Write/Reflect – note you can apply this to all the models mentioned also.

1. Why would a coachee benefit from NLP training?

2. In what situations or for what kind of personal development needs would you recommend NLP training for a coaching group?

Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence

Depending on the kind of group you coach, you might find these approaches constructive:

Daniel Goleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence (1999) proposes that individuals and organizations can measure an individual’s emotional intelligence through four different emotional and social competencies:

· Self-awareness

· Self-regulation

· Motivation

· Empathy

Measuring Emotional Intelligence

"In regard to measuring emotional intelligence – I am a great believer that the criterion-report (that is, ability testing), is the only adequate method to employ. Intelligence is an ability, and is directly measured only by having people answer questions and evaluating the correctness of those answers." --John D. Mayer

Reuven Bar-On's EQ-i

A self-report test designed to measure competencies including awareness, stress tolerance, problem solving, and happiness. According to Bar-On, “Emotional intelligence is an array of non-cognitive capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”

Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS)

An ability-based test in which test-takers perform tasks designed to assess their ability to perceive, identify, understand, and utilize emotions.

Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire (SASQ)

Originally designed as a screening test for the life insurance company Metropolitan Life, the SASQ measures optimism and pessimism.

Emotional Competence Inventory (ECI)

Based on an older instrument known as the Self-Assessment Questionnaire, the ECI involves having people who know the individual, offer ratings of that person’s abilities on a number of different emotional competencies.

Measuring Spiritual Intelligence

A recent addition to the behavioral psychology testing approach is Spiritual Intelligence which measures four competencies:

· Critical and existential thinking

· Personal meaning production

· Transcendental awareness

· Conscious state expansion

Spiritual Intelligence could prove a useful tool for coaches where the organization requires ethical judgments and visionary approaches.

· Extra reading recommended

Spiritual Intelligence Quiz

Learning and Counseling Therapies

You might identify a special requirement in your coaching group for a specific type of learning therapy or counseling therapy. Some types of therapies available include:


While using different approaches to learning outlined previously will satisfy most training needs, specific technologies for the workplace and communication strategies may be needed for those learning needs that approach the disability spectrum.

Communication Strategies and teaching strategies for learning


Coaching may be a step too far for staff with more serious personal issues and you may be able to assist them by recommending a course of counseling. This is useful in times of bereavement or illness, for example.

Having a variety of coaching models ready to address the needs of the group you coach is the key to being a successful organizational coach. All models can be used to track the success and improvement in your coachees individually, by encouraging them to write reflections on how they feel workplace satisfaction has improved.


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