Is There A “Better” Coaching Model?

I was sharing breakfast with someone recently who is far more deeply involved in the corporate coaching world than I have been.

She asked me to describe what I do with coaching. While blabbing about the evolution of my clarity therapy approach, I called it, in essence, an “Epiphany Model” of coaching – I reach a deep level of insight with clients based on an intensive upfront session. Then we chart a new course based on the professional themes, strengths and aspirations that emerge.

Graphically, I’ll represent the epiphany model like this:

Epiphany Coaching 1

  1. Initial discovery is a 30-60 minute phone/Skype conversation to see if there is compatibility, openness, motivation to change, and perceived ability to provide guidance (2 individuals are not always a “match”).
  2. Clarity Therapy is a 3-4 hour intensive one-on-one session to surface personal/professional DNA and brainstorm fresh direction (in my case, with individuals, I’m focusing on career direction).
  3. Ongoing Coaching takes shape flexibly according to the need for further input and direction.

This method works for me – my goal is to get to the essence (the inner core, or wiring) of the person right away, and then suggest (re-)direction from that base of insight.

But apparently, this approach is unusual (??). I guess something like what I’ve depicted below is the more standard way of engaging in a coaching relationship (true??):

Epiphany Coaching 2

The above approach starts with a smaller base of in-depth knowledge, and then uncovers more over time through a systematic set of short meetings (60-90 minute appointments).

Now, I can see how that incremental approach might fit more naturally in a more corporate setting, and also in a coaching relationship that is primarily “goal & accountability” focused. How effective is it? Would some sort of epiphany front-end improve it? What do you think?

The conversation really piqued my curiosity – what different coaching approaches/models ARE out there? What have you found success with? Is there any one “better” approach; or, like ice cream, just a bunch of different flavors? I’m trying to figure this coaching stuff out as I go along, so maybe we can have some creative and thoughtful discussion about methods we’ve seen (or put) in operation.

Your thoughts?


Related blog post: Clarity Leads to Confidence

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  1. My first question is: what is your typical client demographic? I’m imagining entrepreneurs, and would love to know.
    My thoughts are: I love this approach. Having worked with you I know how effective it is one-on-one. I can see how you surface issues quickly and get to your client’s “DNA” more quickly. That said, I can see the pitfalls in a larger corporation.
    You’ve touched on accountability and goals, and I think that is the first barrier. Any executive paying for coaching for himself and his staff is going to set strict metrics against it to measure ROI, and is also going to guard his time – these guys move in a world of one-hour meetings, so that’s a cultural moire to deal with.
    More deeply, I think its about change. If you’re talking career-coaching, most people seek a coach to help them change – or eventually embrace – their path. In a large organization, change is terrifying, and incremental. I think the slower approach is potentially more prevalent as it allows for an incremental approach to change. In a large organization you need to create a groundswell, at least that’s how it works now. Everyone talks about being nimble and responsive, but most corporations aren’t. Using your approach, you would uncover quickly, get your clients further faster, and then – perhaps – they would feel paralyzed by creating the necessary changes within the organization that would empower them to make *their* changes. I’m not saying it’s right, or wrong, but from an anthropologic perspective I think this is how we got here.
    I *do* think your approach would work inside of entrepreneurial companies, big or small. Firms adept to change hire employees comfortable with change. And if there’s one thing I know, with Clarity there is Change – and that’ a good thing.

    • Gigi – thanks for your insightful reply. Yes, the clarity therapy approach is ideal for entrepreneurs, small biz owners, consultants, and individuals in career transition – any sweet spot where change is more unfettered (and is desired more quickly). You bring up some excellent points about the pace of change in a larger organization. I don’t think that excludes a front-end epiphany approach, but certainly the ramifications of change will be on the more slow-drip level (and therefore, the more steady pace of calendar’ed meetings would fit the motif). Also, we have to weigh whether the issue is slow personal development, vs. decisive change of direction (which I would think is more effectively accomplished with the up-front epiphany method). Lots to consider…!

  2. Steve,

    The old model is broke. After going through Clarity Therapy, I truly believe your up-front, deep dive into me as a professional and ROCK Creative Network as a company helped me to think “differently” than before. Your process not only gave me clarity on the ROCK Creative Network business model, it also opened my eyes to see things that I could/should be doing to better serve the client/prospect that I serve through my company. The time you took up front is the difference, the on-going coaching that you provide is also very important for guidance, accountability and additional clarity. I truly believe that after going through Clarity Therapy with you, my third year at ROCK Creative Network will be my best year ever due to the additional clarity (focus) and opportunities.
    Thank You!

    • Thanks, George. Because I’m going after “identity” issues, I feel that I really need that in-depth time to analyze a lot of different angles and bits of information. It’s a kind of disassemble-reassemble process. I think for a different outcome some other method may be effective. Exploring…

  3. Great to see the dialogue on this! In thinking about this further and seeing Gigi’s great insights, I too think that it’s a matter of purpose. In organizations, most time we’re called in to help someone develop skills —change behavior. Epiphany Coaching sounds like a clear model for ‘exploration’. Which is only one part of many of the coaching models in use (ACE, GROW, SCARF, etc.) But your Epiphany Coaching IS focused mostly on exploration of who the person is and what they offer. So in standing back, whether it’s executive coaching in small, med or large firms or personal or business coaching – if the issue is more exploratory, Epiphany Coaching may be more of an answer. Eg. explore how to get balance in my life, explore new careers,/change of jobs. Most times, organizations pay an executive coach to help the leader move to new behaviors and skills, so it’s more goal focused – therefore a more traditional model may work better. I, however, do LOVE the fact that it’s challenged our thinking about HOW to get results no matter what you are coaching.

    • Thanks, Joanne. Your provocative comments over breakfast got my wheels turning. I could see a “deep dive” session being appropriate for a number of different coaching situations and outcomes, but certainly maybe not all. I guess it partly depends on how far below specific behaviors we need to go – what is required to get to the transformative insight level..

  4. Hi Steve, A lot of coaches do use the epiphany model, usually under the name of VIP Days or Deep Dive Days or the like. It’s a big hit among clients and coaches, and it’s not just used at the beginning. It’s something they use at any time someone wants to go deeper and faster on something, such as mapping out new services, pricing and packaging, marketing plan, etc.
    I do something similar to you: 30-min free intro call, 2-hour paid discovery session (slightly parallel to your clarity therapy session), then ongoing coaching which starts off increasing that clarity. It seems to work for my people. And I’m considering other options such as adding those deep dive days. I used to skip that longer starting session and I agree with you that an initial burst of clarity is very important to the whole process.

  5. Seems to me you have designed a structure that reliably delivers a specific result. Whatever structure we create has to be designed based on the intended outcome. I think we have to be mindful of the pull to follow convention and do what works best for us and for our clients.

  6. Solid comments – all of them. Interestingly enough, we recently discussed coaching models. To build on the comments here, I feel the initial discussion should focus on being effective, rather than efficient. Any beginning (flight, relationships, sporting events, etc) is an opportunity to create momentum, energy and alignment. Time is a matter of perception anyway. A sub-par start can certainly be overcome through ongoing coaching and building trust and credibility.

    From a corporate perspective, coaching models are abundant but an organization should consider developing one custom designed model to encompass competencies and frameworks important to all, meaning – fit the competencies (using competency frameworks) to the model, not the model to specific competencies.

    Companies employing more than one coaching model/program will face many difficulties such as confusion to where each should be used, when and why it should be employed, not to mention the inefficiencies training leaders. Should I use GROW, ACE, SCARF or another here? It doesn’t work well. Individuals on the receiving end will be confused too as they should be fully aware of the coaching approach.

    Lastly, the design of the model IS important, but can never replace the mastery of skills and behaviors needed to ensure coaching actually makes a significant difference. Developing a coaching “model” is one thing, developing and employing an effective coaching “learning program” is quite another.

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