In this paper, I would like to fill in a gap that has so far been missing in the coaching profession. By now, a number of coaching process models have become known, yet it is not a systematic, comparative analysis of these – at least the most popular ones. The replacement of the ‘shortage’ is, in my opinion, very timely. I think that a well-structured organization can help the coaching workforce to get acquainted with newcomers in the initial orientation, or just getting started with practical applications to find the appropriate coaching model for their personality and style. In order to achieve these goals, I have first developed the basis of a system of criteria that can be used to accomplish the goal. During my work, I took into consideration the relevant theoretical background and my practical coaching experience. All the while, I kept in mind that each of the 15 popular, relatively widely used coaching models should be suitable for comparison, all of the criteria I have to make sense and valued to all 15 models. Such an analysis, together with the underlying evaluation system, naturally includes subjective elements. All in all, I believe that comparative analysis can expand the underlying content and be capable to support our goals. In fact, coaches who are already familiar with the coaching profession can be excited about realization of their potential ambitions to develop their own coaching process model, as I did later …
Keywords: coaching models, comparative analysis, criteria, evaluation
1. Coaching models
During the formation phase of coaching methodology, it has become apparent that there is a need for a ‘guide’ that logically describes the main stages of a real coaching process. This guide should be relatively universally defined, regardless of the concrete type of coaching. Based ont the ICA (International Coach Academy) definition, the coaching model is a method or process that helps client realize his intention to get from his current state to the state he wants. Source: http://coachcampus.com/podcasts/the-coaching-panel/coaching-models/
By now – mainly in international terms – a large number of coaching models have been created. The number of popular models, used by many coaches that have already been proved, is about 15 to 20. Despite their number, there are common features in them. In almost all of them the organizing power is perceivable, which basically affects them. Here I am thinking most of the fundamental values that are the basis of the core philosophy and mission of coaching. As an example, I can mention the atmosphere of trust and openness, or the importance of honest, open communication between the client and the coach at the beginning of the coaching process. The priority of the client’s objectives and their implementation, as well as the professional compliance of the methodological and ethical rules that fully support the entire support process. Last but not least, I would like to emphasize the learning process, which, in a fortunate case, goes well beyond the achievement of the current ongoing objective. Optionally, as an active participant in a coaching process, our client can become capable of making the process self-referential, meaning that the experienced, learned, trained, persistently integrated mindset and action patterns he or she will be able to apply later on in other areas of life, whether it is a unity of leadership, approach and practice, or leisure activities with family and friends.
2. Creating an evaluation criteria system for comparative analysis of coaching models
As I mentioned before, studying the coaching models, I have surprisingly noticed that until now there is not a suitable system of comparisons for them, and so we can not read their deeper comparison. To elaborate an evaluation criteria system that allows comparison of 15 various coaching models, I started collecting the factors I considered important. In defining these, I considered the main goal as an important criterion, as a benchmark for theoretical and practical considerations, that is, whether the given model achieves its ultimate goal, the customer satisfaction and his long-term development, even beyond the given coaching process. To this end I worked out a 10-point evaluation criteria system, some of which I discuss in the following, including their content, the ‘why’ and the cause-and-effect relationships. First, let’s take a closer look at the 10 factors that can be the basis of comparison.
One of the most important evaluation factors for me regarding a coaching model is completeness. I mean, how much a given model takes over the entire coaching process. For example, does the model describe each phase of coaching process from the first contact to the last meeting (or even after), or just roughly, with missing important intermediate steps or the end of the process. I believe that the completeness or need for completeness is a basic factor that is one of the most important evaluation criteria that gives the framework and everything that is in it.
2. Number of Phases
The most objective evaluation criteria is the number of steps or phases, that can be separated from each other in the coaching process. The authors usually make this clear, numbered, often by way of illustration, as separate units. The number of phases, at first glance, also suggests the detail of the model and the depth of its elaboration. However, the completeness of the model is not necessarily described by only number of phases, because a particular model can be composed of many phases, but it may not be complete.
It is a less objective category than the previous one. Approach, I mean the way and logic the author approaches the coaching process. In Approach, there is, of course, a big amount of subjectivity that I try to soothe by many years of experience I have gained during my coaching experience. Of course, this includes the coach’s personality – in this case my personality -, but I think there are models that are more tolerant regarding coach’s personality than others, so they can be applied more successfully in this meaning.
The message of the given model, professional content, and everything that it represents as an added value. The spit and polish may sometimes have a shallow interior, while in other cases it may be inversely intact.
External appearance, often with great differences. A meaningful model can be distracted by an inappropriate representation, and of course we can also find an example of a more modest version of a model valued superb at first glance.
Understanding, I mean accessibility, if you like the model’s information-transfer capability, which is almost immediately felt even by a less experienced observer in the field of coaching. Some models are clear, comprehensible at first glance, and their content with their appearance is immediately ’rounded’.
The depth of explanation, the degree of expression, which helps to dispel any doubts of interpretation, giving a precise description of the model’s content and its mechanism of operation. With years of coaching experience, it’s easier to figure it out, but I think a model is more valuable, because we have to think about the ambitions of even less experienced coaches.
There are many ‘beautiful’ coaching models. At first glance, they may appear to be more sympathetic in many ways, but at first use it may turn out that everyday use of them can be problematic. They seem to be groundbreaking, ’round’, but testing them in sharp relationships sometimes does not succeed as we imagined.
There are models that can only be used in a narrow circle for a certain type of coaching. However, fortunately, there are also many universal coaching models as well, that can be deployed in almost any situation. Of course, I do not want to say that special models are less valuable, but I just want to point out that their application requires a lot of caution.
10. Other comparative advantages
This aspect evaluates the existence of novel, unique and distinctive elements of a given model that are unique to other models, and of course useful regarding the main purpose (see Abstract).
3. Results of comparative analysis regarding coaching models
The comparison of the 15 coaching process models by 10 evaluation criteria was done both numerically and textually. First, I present the aggregated, quantitative results, and then the textual explanation in descending order, based on total scores. In the numerical evaluation, each evaluation criterion was given at least 1 point (the worst case) and maximum 5 points (the best case). I did not differentiate between scoring points (I did not weight them), because in my opinion this would only increase the subjectivity of the nature of things anyway. Based on these, a given model could have received a minimum of 10, up to 50 points. Simply, a more valuable model has a higher total score.
Table 1.: Numerical results of comparative analysis of coaching models in descending order of total score
Coaching model Completeness Number of Phases Approach
Content Form Comprehensibility Elaboration Usability Flexibility Other comparat. advantages Total score
VOGELAUER 5 4 5 4 4 5 5 5 5 4 46
CASCADE 3 5 4 4 5 5 4 5 5 5 45
DIADAL 4 4 5 5 3 5 4 5 5 4 44
IDEAS 4 3 4 5 5 5 5 4 5 4 44
POWER 4 3 4 4 4 5 5 4 5 5 43
RAAGAA 5 4 5 5 4 4 3 4 3 5 42
ACHIEVE 4 5 4 4 4 5 5 4 3 4 42
CLEAR 4 3 4 4 4 4 4 5 4 5 41
7C 3 5 5 4 3 4 3 4 4 5 40
GROW 2 2 4 4 3 5 4 5 5 5 39
WAVE 3 1 3 4 4 5 4 4 5 4 37
PARTNER 4 5 4 4 3 3 3 4 3 4 37
LASER 3 3 3 3 4 3 4 4 5 4 36
STAR 3 2 3 3 3 4 2 4 3 4 31
CANOE 3 3 3 2 2 4 3 4 3 4 31
I would like to emphasize again, that this ranking is based on my own self-evaluation criterions, which reflects my personal preferences. Other coaches may prefer different point of views, evaluation criterias or other aspects. What I can say for sure is, that based on my practical experience, style and personality, this table reflects my preferences have already been proved in several coaching processes.
In the following textual analysis, I consider this table as the basis for the presentation, so I start with highest score and finish with lowest score model.
Place 1.: VOGELAUER model (46 points)
Based on the scores, Werner Vogelauer’s model finished in the first place, with 46 points out of the maximum available 50. The loss of just four points clearly indicates the role and popularity of the model and the author’s class in the coaching profession.
Vogelauer’s work is a classical coaching process model that reflects professional experiences learned from the many years of practical experience of the Austrian Development Psychologist. The number of phases is strictly 5, but the middle section is divided into 6, which is only one out of the 7 of the maximum evaluation criteria. Its approach is based on extensive feedback based on practical experience. In my view, its content lacks a single element, the implementation phase, where the client exits from his comfort zone and tries new behaviors. The coach also has to do it, so it would be ideal for me if the model were to deal with it. I think it might be a little bit better in form. Comprehension, readability is easy, even for a reader who is less familiar with the topic. Practical applicability of the model is exemplary, as described above. Vogelauer’s model is flexible and can be used in almost all areas of coaching. The model is comparative and distinctive, I consider good.
Place 2.: CASCADE model (45 points)
Compared to the ‘winner’, this model is just 3 points behind. CASCADE model is a precious model, but the completeness is missing. It is a little bit strange for me that the ‘Evaluation of results’ is immediately after the ‘Action Plan’. I think that a phase of implementation should be included between the two phases. The approach, the content and the elaboration have less scores compared to Vogelauer model, but I appreciate the importance of the factors highlighted in Stage 3 (‘Personality Inventory’), (‘Commitment to Change’), and 5 (‘Mutually Acceptable Goals’).
Places 3-4.: DIADAL and IDEAS models (44-44 points)
There is a great contest between the first Hungarian coaching model (DIADAL) and the 5-step Spanish model (IDEAS). Maybe I’m a little bit partial to the Hungarian model. Not only because I mostly used this model until I created my own one, but because it’s really a logically-built, universal model. It may well be that its completeness and elaboration is not perfect, but it is a practical model that has already proven in practice as well.
The formal appearance and elaboration of the IDEAS model – compared to the DIADAL model – is better, but it performs a little bit less in number of phases, approaches and usability.
Place 5.: POWER model (43 points)
The relatively low-profile model is somewhat better than the average, with a few attributes such as comprehensibility, elaboration, or flexibility. Among other comparative advantages, I find it important to highlight the explanatory ‘deposits’ and questions that the coach can effectively help his client to identify actions that are best suited to his or her personality. One of the distinguishing feature, virtue of the model is the alignment of the client’s intent and the desired effect.
Places 6-7.: RAAGAA and ACHIEVE models (42-42 points)
There are two models, RAAGAA and ACHIEVE in dead heat, only 1 point left the 5th place. The strength of the RAAGAA model – created by Harish Devarajan – is the completeness, the sympathetic and unique approach, the content and the specialty, that was inspired by classical Indian music. At the same time, elaboration and limitations of flexible application can be mentioned as a weak point, which arises from the nature of the model, namely it was developed specifically for executive coaching.
Fragmentation of ACHIEVE model is very interesting, because despite the large number of its phases, is not a complete model. The model lacks phases of contact, alignment (coach and client) and stages of execution. The virtue of the model is comprehensibility and detailed elaboration.
Place 8.: CLEAR model (41 points)
The weakness of this average scored model is the relatively small number of phases. Peter Hawkins’s model can be called excellent from usability point of view. The distinctive virtue of CLEAR model is the set of questions given by the author for each phase, which can provide effective assistance to coaches who are just getting acquainted with the practical application of the model.
Place 9.: Model 7C (40 points)
The 7C model rises in the number of phases and the logic of the approach, but I note that – similarly to the 2nd CASCADE model – there is a lack of completeness. I really miss a section between the ‘Confirm’ and ‘Continue’ phases, namely the implementation, if you like execution. Form of the model could be more elaborated, more demanding, and it would not have hurt to explain the contents of each phase in more detail.
Place 10.: GROW model (39 points)
Despite its popularity and its ‘past’, it is easy to ‘catch’ the basic model. The virtue of GROW model is its essence, which has some inimitable elegance. Its comprehensibility, usability, and flexibility are exemplary. However, based on some categories of comparative criteria, it does not perform so well. The completeness of the model (it is unfinished) and the small number of phases is striking, compared to most of the coaching models. In the GROW model there are simple questions in each phase to help coaches. That can be mentioned in a positive sense, as a comparative advantage.
Places 11-12.: WAVE and PARTNER models (37-37 points)
The WAVE model tries to grasp the essence of coaching process even more concisely than the GROW model does. Therefore, its completeness is a week point. It is composed of only three phases. The author does not insist on acronyms. In Ndeye Seck’s Sanchez model, however, there is something beautiful. The ‘brave’ puritanical approach, with a visual, imaginative wave-representation, places the values in spotlight. Pairing a comprehensible description with simplicity has resulted a flexible model.
We can be satisfied with the structure and number of phases of the average PARTNER model. Our concerns may be more in form, comprehensibility, elaboration, and flexibility of use. Interestingly, I would like to say that before the last stage ‘Empowering Energy’, can be the distinguishing feature of the PARTNER model. Unfortunately, the elaboration of this phase may not be sufficient for most coaches. Universal use of the model is limited by its uniqueness.
Place 13.: LASER model (36 points)
The completeness of LASER model slides under average coaching models, while the number of phases, approach, content, and comprehensibility are moderate. Almost one of its virtue is due to its formation. The universality of the model is derived from the leadership sciences, because of its broad-minded approach. It is a pity that we may feel that there is a phase missing from the end, almost unfinished.
Place 14-15.: STAR and CANOE models (31-31 points)
Finally, there are two tail-ender models. In spite of their weaknesses, they can be used, but I would not recommend them to anybody. While the STAR model suffers from only few number of phases and rough elaboration, the form at CANOE model is below average. Overall, they can not be considered an example to be followed. Just mentioning the two biggest problems, the STAR model with a short explanation combined with the small number of phases causes serious loss of value, while the CANOE model misses important content elements. Once the client becomes more open, the next phase is immediately the celebration. That is a big professional mistake, because it lacks the phases of implementation (supported by the coach), possible fine-tuning, and the retrieval of results, so how could we decide whether time has come for celebration.
Based on the conclusions drawn from the evaluation of the 15 coaching process models in 10 aspects, we can conclude that most of them are useful models, which have quality differences. Well thought, refined models based on practical experience and feedback, are the most valuable. However, I would not highlight a specific model that I would say it is the best and this one should be used by everyone and forget about the other models, because in my opinion a coach should find the model that suits most his way of thinking, style and last but not least his personality. Finding the right model in practice is much easier than we think. The beginner coach – in the best case – learns about approximately 10-15 coaching models. During this learning process he will almost automatically recognize/feel which is the most sympathetic model, which is closer to him, which is that he can learn more naturally and which one can be used easier after first session. In my opinion, it is best to start with universal models, and then, after obtaining some experience, you can try using one or two special models. Of course, this is where life enters, since an enthusiastic beginner coach tries to seize every opportunity, while himself is changing as well. The beginning is difficult here too, as there is a lot to do with everything that makes first steps more problematic without prior experience. Even so, it can be a useful advice for beginners – after a while – to continuously monitor and develop themselves, even with use of coaching tools.