The Five Go-To Coaching Models To Use with Your Clients

five coaching models

What is a coaching model, and why is it useful for your practice?

The use of a coaching model allows the coach to explore a specific issue or topic with the client logically and clearly

There are many popular coaching models out there which work under different circumstances or for different outcomes. But what are the most used and most effective coaching models

Even though these models for coaching are similar, we’ve found comparing coaching models is helpful in understanding the different methodologies and what differentiates them. That way, you can go deep and get practiced in one model that really resonates with you. 

Choose a Coaching Model That Suits You and Your Client

When you understand the details of different life coaching methodologies, you will be able to better serve your clients. In the initial stages of working with a new client, you can ask them some coaching questions to establish which type of coaching may work best for them.

Here are some ideas for questions to ask about a client’s life in the initial stages of your coaching relationship:

  • What are the specific outcomes you would like from coaching?
  • How would you prefer we structure your sessions?
  • How do you like to receive feedback?
  • How do you like to receive support and guidance – collaborative or directive?
  • What area of your life or personal development would you like to focus on?
  • Do you prefer more structured or open-ended approaches to coaching?
  • How would you like to be kept accountable during your coaching program?
  • What motivates and inspires you?
  • How do you learn and process information?
  • Do you have any previous experience with any specific coaching methods?
  • Are there any models of coaching that have helped you in the past?

Establishing the answers to these questions with your client can give you valuable insights into how they learn, work, and respond to guidance and feedback. When you have this information, you can make a well-informed decision about the coaching method they will respond to best and get the most positive outcome.

It’s easy to find a coaching method that fits your client’s needs but keep in mind that the coaching framework you choose fits your strengths and coaching skills too.

If you want the best outcome for your coachee, you need to choose a coaching model that suits you both.

5 Coaching Models You Need to Know

If you want to brush up on your coaching skills, check out the most popular coaching models. Are you using any of them currently? Are some of them new to you? How do you bring the techniques into your coaching practice?

1. GROW Coaching Model

The GROW coaching model, which was first suggested by Sir John Whitmore, is perhaps the most well-recognized and used coaching framework.

If you don’t know the GROW model yet, it’s time to learn it! Let’s start with the basics: what do these four letters mean? They represent the stages of the coaching journey. 

  • Goal
  • Reality
  • Options
  • Will

Step 1 of the Journey: Goal

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Image Credits: Pixabay/KristopherK

If you are on a journey, you need a destination, right? So the first step in the GROW coaching model is to know what you want to achieve. That includes the main objective of your trajectory but also your short-term desired goal.

It might seem easy enough to set these goals, but sometimes it’s not. So, for this process to become easier, you should use the SMART goal framework. That means those that are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

When you use this framework to set goals, you break each goal down into achievable chunks, which makes it much more realistic that you will achieve them. The framework gives you clarity, which in turn is motivating, keeps you accountable, and gives you a clear way to track your progress.

Here there are a few questions that often help to identify the right goal for you: 

  • What will achieving the goal give you?
  • How will you be sure that you have achieved what you want?
  • What’s the bigger picture for you?

Step 2 of the Journey: Reality

Now that you know what your client’s goal is, it’s time to go to the next step: reality. It can be summed up in one simple question: what’s the actual situation of your client? Remember, this is a journey, and for you to reach your goals, you not only need to know where to go but where you are now.

The role of the coach in this part of the journey is to help the client to start a process of self-evaluation, aiming to identify the obstacles that are holding them back. But don’t let them lose themselves in this phase! The problems discovered here must be worked on and solved.

But how do you help your client start this self-awareness journey? Begin with these simple questions:

  • What is happening to you now?
  • Is this a persistent problem? Why?
  • What have you done so far to reach your goal?

Step 3 of the Journey: Options

This stage of the GROW model is about helping the client discover the opportunities that are available to them. It’s time to generate options for your client to achieve their goal. You can start with a brainstorming process. 

Check out these useful questions for your brainstorming process:

  • What would you do if [the problem] didn’t stop you?
  • How do others do it?
  • What would you do if anything was possible?
  • What else do you need to achieve your goal? How can you get it?
  • What are the pros and cons of this option?
  • What has worked in the past? 

Step 4 of the Journey: Will

Once your client has defined their goal, became aware of where they are in the journey, and explored different options, they are ready to choose one and commit. Your role as a coach in this step is to help them convert it into a concrete plan of action. What WILL your coachee do to make their goals a reality?

Here are some questions to help your client wrap up their plan of action: 

  • Which of these alternatives will you choose?
  • What real step can you take now?
  • What steps will come after this one?
  • Are you taking possible roadblocks into account?
  • How do you expect to overcome your obstacles?
  • How motivated are you, on a scale from 1 to 10, to follow this plan?
  • Do you think this plan will get you to your goal?

In summary, the GROW life coaching model is all about asking powerful questions and working collaboratively with your client. You can customize the coaching model to suit your client’s needs, but the most important aspect of the method is providing support and guidance to help your client gain clarity and make decisions that influence their actions.

For the best results with the GROW coaching method, you want to make sure the client’s goal is realistic but still inspiring enough so that they want to fully commit to it.

2. TGROW Coaching Model

The TGROW coaching model, which was adapted by Myles Downey and described in his book “Effective Coaching”, is a variation of the GROW model.

The only big difference to the GROW model that you already know is, as you might have already figured, the letter T. But what is its meaning?

The T stands for Topic, which means the general area that your client wants to focus on. In this stage, before even defining the goal, you will help your client see the bigger picture and better understand the specific topic in question. That may help them uncover different issues and even reposition their journey.

Try to use these questions in this stage: 

  • What would you like to talk about?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • Why do you need to address this topic?
  • What areas do you want to discuss?

Asking these questions before the Goal stage will help your client to separate the bigger picture from their specific goals. But why is that important? This will create a solid foundation that will prevent your client from setting unrealistic or irrelevant goals.

3. OSCAR Coaching Model

The OSCAR coaching model is one of the most common coaching frameworks used by organizations in their performance coaching toolkit. That is because it focuses on solutions rather than on the problem itself.  It was created by two famous coaches, Mark McKergow and Paul Z. Jackson, and published in their book, “The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE”.

OSCAR is an acronym that stands for:

  • Outcome
  • Situation
  • Choices
  • Affirm & Action
  • Review

Step 1: Outcome

The outcome can also be called objective. Like in the GROW model, in this step, you will help your client to determine what they want to achieve with their coaching sessions specifically. And remember: it is important to set short, medium, and long-term goals!

In this phase, you ask questions such as:

  • What do you want to achieve after this session?
  • How will you know it has been useful to you?
  • What is the perfect future for you?

Step 2: Scaling

Now that your client has a clear picture of what their goal is, it’s time to evaluate how close they are to reaching the desired outcome using a scale, which is often 1 to 10. One represents the furthest possible from their goal, and ten means that they have already achieved it or are about to do it.

Here are some questions that will help you guide the client in the scaling process:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten meaning that your goal has been reached, and one representing the furthest you were from reaching it, where are you on that scale today?
  • What did you already accomplish to get this far on your scale?
  • How would you know you passed to the next stage of the scale?

Step 3: Choices

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Image Credits: Pixabay/Free-Photos

Now that you have an idea of where your client needs to be, the next phase consists of figuring out what they need to get there. The “know-how” is the abilities, knowledge, skills, and qualities that will enable them to reach their goal.

Check out these helpful questions for you to ask your client at this stage:

  • What skills do you currently have that will help you reach your goal?
  • Have you ever done this or something similar before?
  • What skill or knowledge has been useful in the past?
  • What qualities do you think would be useful to learn?
  • What skills come to mind when you think of your goal?

Step 4: Affirm & Action

The affirmation part of the process focuses on what is already functioning well or is already positive about the actions, abilities, behaviors, and attributes of your client. Then it’s time to proceed to the “action” part: what steps should be taken to reach their goal?

These questions might make this step easier for your client:

  • What is particularly unique about your strengths?
  • What is the next small step?
  • What do you need to do to get a point on the scale closer to your goal?
  • What do you want to do now to achieve your goal?

Step 5: Review

This is the review part of the process, as the name already suggests, and normally occurs at the end of each coaching session. That is when you assess what your client has achieved, determine what’s changed, and analyze what they need to do next to get even closer to their goal.

Some important questions in the review step are:

  • What have you accomplished so far?
  • What is better now?
  • What important thing did you do to make your process successful?
  • What do you think will change next?
  • What effects did the changes have?

In summary, the OSCAR model is a simple framework that helps people get insights, explore options, create an action plan, and gain accountability. This method encourages coachees to take ownership of their goals and make concrete actions to achieve them. The coach’s job is to ask probing questions to help their client take control of their own destiny.

4. CLEAR Coaching Model

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Image Credits: Pixabay/KristopherK

Another great coaching framework that has a different and fresh perspective on what to work on in a coaching session is the CLEAR coaching model. Peter Hawkins developed the CLEAR coaching model in the early 1980s, and thus it is older than the GROW model.

The acronym CLEAR stands for:

  • Contracting
  • Listening
  • Exploring
  • Action
  • Review

As you can see, it approaches similar topics to the ones present in the other models, but some aspects are completely different. 

Step 1: Contracting

This coaching step can include a lot of things, but the first is an agreement with your client on logistical matters such as the frequency and duration of sessions, venue, and general grounds of the coaching process.  After this, you should begin to explore what your client wants or needs from the sessions.

Step 2: Listening

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Image Credits: Pixabay/jamesoladujoye

This stage allows the client to share their reality, thoughts, and emotions. This phase is important, as it enables the individual to question their beliefs and motives. During this stage, the coach should focus on listening and must not intervene excessively. They only have to encourage the client to share and guide the coaching conversation.

For that, the coach should use the fours stages of listening:

  • Attentive: Give the client your full and undivided attention. 
  • Accurate: Analyze and understand what the person has said so that the conversation can be paraphrased. 
  • Empathetic: Demonstrate that you fully understand the feelings of the client.
  • Pure: Achieve a complete understanding of the client and articulate what they said back to them.

Step 3: Exploring

Having offered the client room to give you as many details as they think they should during the listening step, it’s time to explore what you think it’s most important. Asking open questions about one subject helps you to fill out the narrative and get more information that might be interesting or significant. 

This can be done in two steps:

  • Step 1: Help the client fully understand the real impact of the scenario on themselves.
  • Step 2: Challenge the client to think about possible future actions to solve the problem.

Step 4: Action

This stage’s focus is on getting the client to agree to the changes needed concentrating on internalizing their new mindset. The person should start to take action by genuinely considering each potential decision and how it would help them to get closer to their goal.

Step 5: Review

This stage of the coaching model is about tracking the success of the client as much as it is getting feedback about the coach. It is crucial to ensure sure the client remains focused on their goal by looking for ways to help them. After your work is done, it’s time to ask for feedback. Here are a few examples of questions you should ask to get honest feedback from your client: 

  • What you found beneficial?
  • What were your biggest struggles in the process?
  • What would you change in future coaching sessions?

5. CIGAR Coaching Model

Slightly different from the other coaching models mentioned here, the CIGAR coaching approach is more about focussing on the client’s present reality. The acronym CIGAR stands for:

  • Current Reality
  • Ideal
  • Gaps
  • Action
  • Review

This method has a new perspective when it comes to the goal-setting step. In this coaching model, the client focuses on the real scenarios vs. desired results. That means this model aims to understand the gaps between the client and their perfect future.

The main feature of this coaching model is that it outlines clear objectives from the offset, along with structure and focus for each coaching session. This coaching style also includes regular reviews and feedback sessions so the coach can monitor progress toward the goal.

When using this method, the coach will typically look at the current situation of the coachee and clarify what their goals and expectations are. The coaching conversations will then lead to identifying the obstacles for the coachee to achieve their goals.

Once these obstacles are identified, it’s easier for the coach to help generate ideas for solutions for approaching the problem. They will then establish the action the coachee needs to take to move from the current state to the desired state.

This method is very collaborative rather than directive coaching and coaches will constantly check in to ensure their client is working towards their goal.

Can You Use These Frameworks For Group Coaching?

The coaching strategies in this list can be used for any type of coaching program. Whether you’re coaching individuals in a life coaching scenario or providing career coaching in a business environment. The great thing about these popular coaching models is that they’re not rigid in their structure and you can adapt the coaching techniques to make them your own.

There’s No Right or Wrong Coaching Methodology

No coaching model is right or wrong, but it’s helpful to be able to flip through your mental Rolodex (or bring up this blog post!) and determine which coaching model would be most helpful for your client.

You can always mix and match elements from different models of coaching, those on this list or other methods, to create your own unique coaching style. You will always encounter clients in different phases of their lives, with different needs, and will need to adapt your coaching models accordingly.

Happy coaching!


By Charlene Boutin
Charlene is an email marketing and content strategy coach for small business owners and freelancers. Over the past 5 years, she has helped and coached 50+ small business owners to increase their traffic with blog content and grow their email subscribers.
May 22, 2023

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