Coaching models

People often ask me which coaching models I use, and which ones I teach. The answer I give is always the same. Ones that encourage deep thinking and sustainable change, driven by the coachee. 

I wonder why people do ask this question. Sometimes it is to have the reassurance that a recognised model is being taught. Sometimes it is to make sure that they aren’t wasting their time by attending a course that teaches them something that they already know. And sometimes it’s to demonstrate that they know what a coaching model is. 

There are a number of exploratory questions we can ask in addition to finding out which ones that coaches use. So let’s ask them! 


What is a coaching model? 


Many books about coaching say that almost any structure that comes with an acronym, a 4 quadrant grid or a Venn diagram is a coaching model! Or you’ll read that the standard coaching model is the GROW model, and that is the point of reference. 


A definition is needed. Mine is: 

 “Based on the coachee’s agenda, allowing them to explore, raise their awareness and make decisions that lead to sustainable change” 

Quite ambitious, perhaps, and not every coaching session will do that. But that is the aspiration, and models need to give the coachee the opportunity to create change. 


Do we need a model? 


Yes, but not just a model! One of the reasons that I don’t run short (half day) courses on coaching skills is that generally all that gets taught in that time is the model. A good model works well, best in fact, if it is used by someone who has good coaching skills too. 

I once was trained to use a model known as the iceberg, or logical levels of change. 6 levels in the mythical iceberg, representing different aspects of the human condition. The instruction was to ask each of the six questions, through the process, in order, regardless of what the coachee said. It’s possible that the coachee could get an outcome, but that would be by chance! No listening skills needed, no tailoring questions to the needs of the coachee, no emotional connection. 

So yes, a model, but in conjunction with some good coaching skills. 


What doesn’t work in coaching models? 


Go onto Google images and type in “coaching models”, and see what comes up. There will be GROW, OSKAR, STRIDE, CLEAR, FUEL and any number of other acronym based models. Some work, and some don’t. 

The common theme for models that don’t work is that they don’t give the coachee the opportunity to reflect on feelings, obstacles, blockages.  

OSCAR – outcomes, situation, choices, actions, review. Classic problem solving, but between situation and choices there needs to be the exploration of feelings, obstacles and stuckness. 

Also, the acronym obsession, when used badly, can backfire. Take BRIDGE. Actually the words in the process don’t start with the BRIDGE letters. It stands for (Build) trust, Reflect, (Identify) actions, (Deploy) resources (Generate) possibilities, Evaluate. The acronym should be TRARE! 


What does work in coaching models? 


Any model needs to have a few requisites: 

  • The coachee agenda sets the tone and the scene 
  • Some exploration of the situation in question 
  • Deepening the coachee awareness of what is the challenge for them 
  • Providing the opportunity for identifying the changes that are needed 
  • Identifying, embedding and committing to actions 
  • And, no advice from the coach! 

A skilled coach will be able to use the Reflect stage in GROW/BRIDGE to do much of this. But it is the skill of the coach that is allowing them to do this, and not the model itself. 

A good example of a generic one that works well, most of the  time is known as 5 x S 

  1. Situation 
  2. Symptoms 
  3. Source of the issue 
  4. Shift 
  5. Steps to take.  

It works because the source and shift stages allow for deeper exploration. It doesn’t work all the time because it is best suited to coaching on problem issues, rather than positive topics. 


Do we need to go and find a model? 


Absolutely not! The International Coach Federation surveyed its members recently on this question. They found that about half of coaches used an existing, known model, and half of them designed their own. So we can all do the same. In our coach training we teach several different models that we have designed ourselves. And we also encourage coaches to review, amend and improve our models. That gives them ownership, and also helps to improve something that is already good. 


Some next steps


Are you at the stage in your coaching development that a model is needed? Then either design one of your own, or pick one using the criteria above. But don’t be a slave to it. Keep reviewing it, seeing what works well and any amendments that may need to be made. Trust your instinct to ignore generic lists of “great questions for the CIGAR model” . There will be as many bad questions as good ones! And enjoy using a model that definitely focusses on the needs of the coachee! 

And if you would like to use our standard outcome coaching process, then email me at or fill in our contact form and I’ll happily send it to you. 


Happy coaching!


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Charlie Warshawski is a leadership coach and coach trainer. He runs an accredited coach training organisation, Love Your Coaching, offering coaching qualifications. In his coaching, he works 1:1 with leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs, supporting them on topics that are both professional and personal – according to their needs 


If you were stimulated by this article and want to know more about how to use coaching for your career, your organisation or your life generally, then get in contact. Email us at or book in a time for a 30-minute phone or Zoom call For more blogs like this one click here.  

We look forward to hearing from you! 



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