The S.O.A.R. Model Of Coaching

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In an earlier article about the coaching mistakes made by executives, the author wrote about the lack of a coaching process as among the most common. Many executives coach in a haphazard way, bouncing about randomly from point to point, never succeeding in pinning down a coaching issue, nor finding a way towards its resolution. Oftentimes a conversation aimed at clarifying and crystallizing matters only tend to confuse and further muddle them. This follow-up article provides a simple easy-to-remember model that will help guide every executive through the coaching process.

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The S.O.A.R. Model Of Coaching

  1. 1. THE COACH’S NOTEBOOK: THE “S.O.A.R.©” MODEL OF COACHING In an earlier article about the coaching mistakes made by executives, the author wrote about the lack of a coaching process as among the most common. Many executives coach in a haphazard way, bouncing about randomly from point to point, never succeeding in pinning down a coaching issue, nor finding a way towards its resolution. Oftentimes a conversation aimed at clarifying and crystallizing matters only tend to confuse and further muddle them. This follow-up article provides a simple easy-to-remember model that will help guide every executive through the coaching process. TRISTAN B DE LA ROSA Founder & Principal Coach www.thebanyanway.com © 2009 Banyan Way Page 1
  2. 2. In an executive brief about the coaching mistakes made by well-intentioned executives, I wrote about the lack of a coaching process as among the most common. Many executives coach in a haphazard way, bouncing about randomly from point to point, never succeeding in pinning down a coaching issue, nor finding a way towards its resolution. Oftentimes a conversation aimed at clarifying and crystallizing matters only tend to further confuse and muddle. I recall one situation early in my corporate career when my boss – apparently well meaning – called me in to talk, I think, about a minor blunder I made. I got some figures wrong and while these were quickly spotted in later iterations, they were enough to cause my boss and our department some embarrassment. Maybe in an attempt to make me feel comfortable before he sticks in the knife, he asked me about my wife (“she’s fine”), the baby (“growing her first tooth”), and just about everything else about my personal life including, yes, the family dog (“have to bring her to the vet for rabies shots”). A full 30 minutes had passed before we even talked about business. And when we did, he talked in such a rambling way that I wasn’t sure whether he was telling me what I did wrong, or castigating himself for not being more diligent in checking my work. And then, just like that he was patting my back vigorously and walking me out of the room. I was not sure whether I just received a reprimand, a booster shot for my ego, or heard his confession. The coaching process need not be an esoteric nor complicated process reserved only for the practice and understanding of wizened wizards. In fact, here is a process model I developed that anyone can follow (see figure). With the acronym “S.O.A.R.©”, this model provides a simple step-by-step guide for the executive who would like to see real actionable results from coaching subordinates. Other than its simplicity, I like the model for the inspiring metaphor it lends to the practice of coaching. © 2009 Banyan Way Page 2
  3. 3. S is for Situation, understanding the coachee’s current reality. The objective here is to establish the starting point – today’s benchmark against which to measure tomorrow’s success (or lack of it). What is the cause for concern and why is it so? How painful is it? Who else is affected by this and in what way? Where, when, and how does it occur? How much control does the coachee have over the situation? Who else has some control over it? In attempting to get a handle on the current situation, the coach needs to be careful that he does not get “caught up in the story”. It is sometimes tempting to get carried away by the juicy tidbits of another person’s problem that one can forget that coaching is about helping the person and not being entertained by his story. O is for Outcome, the coaching goal as defined by the coachee. This is a description of life without the pain; and ideally should be described in as clear and tangible a manner as possible. What does the desired outcome look, taste, feel, smell, and behave like? By defining the outcome with such specificity, it becomes real and thereby more compelling even if it still resides in the future. A helpful guide in defining the Outcome is to be SMART about it.  Specific: What issue or challenge needs to be addressed? Is this a “one-off” or is this related to a bigger and longer-term goal?  Measurable: What is the desired outcome? How do we know when we’re there? Can we provide numeric measures to determine success?  Achievable: Is the desired outcome achievable, a “stretch” but not a “snap”? What will it take – in terms of resources, people – to reach it?  Relevant: How is this particular issue related to the bigger, longer-term goal? How does resolving it contribute to achieving the bigger goal?  Time Bound: When does this challenge need to be resolved at the absolute latest? What happens if you are unable to fix it by then? What is the time frame in resolving the bigger long-term goal? A is for Alternatives, the search for options that could deliver the desired Outcome. In doing this, no alternative should be considered off-bounds at least initially. Generate as many ideas as possible without judging or pre-determining their feasibility or chance of success. In how many ways can one approach and resolve this issue? Describe each. What else? What would you do if things were different? If you had a magic lamp that gave you three wishes to do something that is otherwise beyond your © 2009 Banyan Way Page 3
  4. 4. power, what will you wish for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option? What resources do you need to accomplish each option? Whose support do you need to make it happen? Who is standing in the way of taking action on each option? R is for Resolution, deciding the best option from among the list of alternatives that would resolve the situation and deliver the desired outcome; and then defining the specific next steps. Among the alternatives which one do you think will work most effectively and efficiently? Which one do you feel happiest with? Which do you choose? Does it meet all your objectives and criteria for success? What specific next steps to you need to take and when? What resources are required for each step? Whose support do you need? Who or what can derail you at each step, and what actions can you take to neutralize this? In a scale of 10, what commitment do you personally have to accomplish these steps? What prevents you from being a 10? In closing, let me mention that regretfully I have not had the opportunity to again work with the boss I mentioned at the start of this article. But if I did, I would most likely mention that awkward moment that I spent at his office being “coached”. I would probably talk to him about my own coaching ideas and about the “S.O.A.R.©” model. The good well-intentioned executive that he is, I’m certain we’ll get a great laugh out of remembering what once was; and he’ll give me a big pat on the back as he walks me out of his room with the request to go out and spread the “S.O.A.R.©” message of coaching to the corporate world. © 2009 Banyan Way Page 4
  5. 5. About the Author: Driven by a personal mission to “take executives to the edge and push them to fly – as leaders”, Tristan B de la Rosa is the Founder & Principal Coach of Banyan Way, an executive coaching and leadership development company. Credentialed by the International Coach Federation, he is in the Faculty of Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies teaching courses on Leadership, Strategy, Coaching & Innovation; as well as an MBA Coach at Capella University. Tristan brings an uncommon blend of masterful real-world experience and rich multi-national & multi-cultural insight to the Executive Coaching field. He has decades of leadership experience working at the world’s most respected CPG companies, among them P&G, J&J, General Foods, and the Wrigley Co. As country head or senior marketing executive, he has been posted in some of the world’s most important and fastest growing markets – including China, India, the tiger economies of South East Asia – and in the United States. Tristan is based in Chicago where he shares a home with his wife, Marilyn. Tristan can be contacted at tristan.delarosa@thebanyanway.com. Read his blog at http://bwintrospections.blogspot.com. © 2009 Banyan Way Page 5

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