Coaching Model: Understand – Decide – Act

Coaching Models

A Coaching Model Created by Dijana Kokai
(Career Coach, SWITZERLAND)

While researching for my coaching model my focus went outwards, reading a number of coaching models that my peers at ICA have previously created. Also checking online what a good coaching model must-have. And yet, there was something in me that was standing in my way, to get started and to put something on paper.

I chose to write the research paper and power tool first since it had – at least to be – a more academic approach and was ‘easier’ to accomplish. After postponing the writing of the coaching model for weeks, I still felt the internal blockage. I got to a point where I needed to decide; do I continue ignoring the feeling that I have or am I ready to face it. After another 2 weeks, I was ready to get coached on this topic. With a peer coach of mine, with whom I shared the ICA journey, I felt the trust and connection needed to discuss this topic.

It needed more than one session to explore the topic fully and get to the bottom of the issue. The coaching sessions brought the clarity needed. Clarity on the fact, that being a beginner coach, I do not need to have a coaching model figured out by now. I can put time and effort into a well crafting sophisticated model, but if this model is going to work, with my future clients, no one knows.

Thanks to my academic background, I can with ease create assignments, reference existing research papers, and quote suitable sources. I can create a theoretical model based on the knowledge of others and my personal opinion. But it would only be my opinion, my best guess, not more and not less.

Based on my perception of how such a paper should look like, I wanted nothing less than an academic proofed model for which I could pat myself on the shoulder. But what is the true benefit of this? That brings me to the question, what is my goal as a beginner coach anyway? 

For me it felt like, I’m going to create a recipe for a delicious meal, that should serve a wide range of nutritional needs and taste delicious. But everything happens in my head, I have never cooked it myself before. How is this experiment supposed to work out?

After having this realization that for me, it would not be realistic at this stage of my coaching business to have a market-proven model in place, the pressure felt off. I had the chance to tap into my intuition and ask myself; what framework I want to offer my clients. Another coaching session was needed to explore what do I want and can offer at this point in time. In the coaching session, I had the chance to structure all the words and ideas that were in my head.

First, I needed to explore with whom I wanted to work. What is my target group, or ideal client? Making such a decision also meant to cut off people that do not represent my ideal client. The concept of focusing on one particular group of people that share similar trails and pain points makes sense from a business perspective. Personally, I struggled to consciously exclude people. If felt like I am offering my service only for an exclusive circle and at the same time, I was afraid of not getting enough clients if a pick a small niche. Discussing this topic with my peer coaches showed I wasn’t the only one with this struggle. Since most of the aspiring coaches I am surrounding myself with, have been employees before, like me. As an employee, you have a different mindset and do not think in terms of ‘selling your service’. I was rather thinking, I am doing the job that I was hired to do and that is good enough. Changing this thinking into a more business owner mindset also needs effort, time, and active commitment.

I have to sell myself as a brand and my service to others on a daily basis. It is for sure a rather uncomfortable part of being a self-employed coach, at least for me. A few coaching sessions were needed to release the uncomfortable feeling of being a business owner and what does this mean for me personally and for my coaching business.

After going through some exercises on what my niche could be and with whom I truly want to work with. I have chosen the niche of Career Coaching and my program is called career Reassessment Coaching. I want to support my future female clients to get a better understanding of where they are, in terms of their career and what they want to do differently in order to feel more aligned with their true values and believes.

A woman that has worked very hard to get where they are in the workplace, but now wondering, is that all in life. They have spent a valuable lifetime on achieving something they dreamt of and now that they are on the right path, they are missing this sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. There is not much in their lives next to their career, since they have put everything aside to reach it. And what now?

I have been there myself two years ago. A successful consultant living and working in Zurich, Switzerland. Earning good money and having a high standard of living. But at the same time working up to 60+ hours a week, chasing deadlines and promotions. All my focus went into my career and this was thriving, but not much else in my life. The months and years passed by and the dissatisfaction of my whole life continuously increase. I had it all but felt sad and empty. Those are the woman I want to support on their journey. To find their own way of living their life, put aside the ego and external pressure that lead to the decisions in the past.

How do I know how to create a framework for those women? What do they need to start the change process for themselves?

When choosing the name of my program I was contemplating between calling it ‘Career Transition’ or ‘Career Reassessment’ Coaching. The reason I chose ‘Reassessment’ was, it takes away the pressure of having to reach something. Transition implies a movement from one point to another, a change process is already started and needs to be accomplished. My female clients are continuously in motion and are striving for the next achievement. This coaching should not be another item on their to-do list, that needs to be ticked off. It needs to be something that gives them the chance to sit down, breath, reflect, and for once just listen to what feels right.

And with this intention in mind, I started thinking about my model. I also reflected on what I did at that time and what would have helped me on my journey. After quite some journaling and mind maps, I realized, I needed to come back to the basics. I know I wanted to have something that is simple but yet still powerful. A model that gives me a high-level structure and gives my client a sense of orientation on where they are in the process.

Step 1 – Understand

Understand, why we do, what we do. We all tell ourselves stories every day. Those stories (limiting believes) can be empowering or disempowering. Understanding, that what we live by consists mostly of what we believe is true. And that the stories we tell ourselves are shaping our reality. So, what we experience is only a reflection of what we believe. And if we start changing our stories, our perception of reality will change as well. Questions that my clients would have to reflect on:

  • What about being successful in your job is important to you?
  • What does being successful reflects about yourself?
  • Who would you be, if you were not successful?
  • What is missing right now?
  • What is important to you?
  • If everything where possible, where would you be and what would you do?

Giving my clients the chance to become aware of what they need for themselves. After they have understood the concept for the stories, they tell themselves and have identified their own personal stories that are disempowering and limiting. It is time to move to the next phase.

Step 2 – Decide

The next step is to decide what needs to happen next. What needs to change in order to get closer to what they have defined for themselves. How do empowering stories to look like in an area of their lives that goes well e.g. their career? How can the words and meaning of these sentences be applied to an area that does not go well? What new story do they need to tell themselves to get where they want to be? This step gets them into ‘action thinking’.

The process from Step 1 to Step 2

The process should not be underestimated from feeling stuck and not seeing where this all is heading to, to get to the awareness of what needs to happen to feel more fulfilled in their day to day life. What else is out there than working this corporate job? To then get into action thinking mode, what they actively need to do to get to the desired state.

For most of them, their sole purpose was getting into a specific company, getting the job title, having the well-deserved recognition, and performing at their best every single workday. It is their default state. I can relate so well to this. I wouldn’t sign up for a hobby because I could not guarantee to be available every Wednesday evening to execute my private activities. I didn’t feel too stressed about deadlines, because I knew I can and will stay in the office until those tasks were accomplished. Since there was no one waiting for me, I had no reason to leave the office ‘in time’. My friends were either in the same corporate loop or they had families and we wouldn’t see each other under the week anyway. My life was planned and organized around work. Getting out of this cage that I have built myself was not easy.

Moving from this ‘I am giving my all’ state to ‘what else would I like to do in my life’ is a big step. It needs time and space to cope with, reflect internally, and dig deep enough to find out what else is out there’ (Step 1).

After this continuing the reassessment journey with step 2 to actively decide what needs to happen to get to the desired state, is a whole different story. The thoughts in step 1 were only ideas, wishes, dreams. Become in step 2 ‘action points’. Even though at this point everything still happens internally, it is quite a mind shift change. If feels like giving up on something that was once one of the most important activities in our lives. Going through this, needs effort, time, willingness to continue down this line.

Step 3 – Act

After steps 1 and 2 have been established, internalized, and settled the client can move on to the last step ‘act’. This step is getting everything that has been established internally into action and into the outer world. The client is moving from action thinking into action taking. Again, quite a significant change. In steps 1 – 2 it was all in their mind, the next step is about making it happen. The goal here is to make small continuous steps. It is more about consistent change rather than burning the bridges. Supporting my clients on this change journey to stay focused on the goal they set themselves, is key. How is the client’s environment reacting to the change? What are the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to continue to move towards the desired goal?

I had my own personal struggles and coping mechanisms in every one of those phases. This experience together with my coaching skills that I enquired during my time at ICA will give the necessary basis to guide my first clients through this process. Having this high-level structure helps me to distinguish in which phase of the transition the client is currently at. It also helps my female clients to be aware that they are moving into one particular direction. What else is going to be part of every and each phase, I cannot and do not need to decide right now. My future clients will show me the way and I will learn with them and through their process what is needed to empower them most on their personal journey.

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