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From Barrister to Barrister Coach – The challenge of models

When I switched from barrister to coach, one of my challenges was to get my head round a number of coaching models.

The cynic (lawyer) in me suspected some of the so-called models were simply re-stating the obvious in an effort to sell books.

I maintain that view about a number of them, particularly the ones that are a variation on:

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How can you get there?
  • How likely is this to happen?

Don’t get me wrong, that approach has its place and you can look forward to my new book, “The WWHH answer to everything”, coming soon to all good bookshops. (Not really).

But, however it is stated, and whatever acronym is used, a coaching model can only really provide a framework. For me, the key skills a coach needs to have are

  1. asking great questions,
  2. listening very carefully to the answers,
  3. providing feedback as patterns emerge,
  4. providing accountability for agreed actions.

(If you’re interested in a great guide which focuses on these core skills then I would recommend starting with The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr)

However, there are a couple of models that, at least in part, depart from the “WWHH” answer to everything models and you might find parts of them useful for yourself. I will focus on one of my favourites below.

And do feel free to play with what is useful for you, rather than slavishly working through from beginning to end. Even for models I love they are, in my view, a starting point rather than an end point. The fun is in where they take you and, on a given day, it might only be part of a model that speaks to you.

Appreciative Inquiry or “What is going well combined with dreaming big”

Appreciative Inquiry is a brilliant tool it is for taking stock of what is going well – useful when you feel a bit bombarded by posts pushing change for self-improvement.

  • The steps of Appreciative Inquiry are usually described as being:
  • Discovery
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Destiny

And countless books will give you more detail on the model. I did my coaching qualification with the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring so as an overview of models, I would recommend a book from that stable: Coaching and Mentoring: Practical Techniques for Developing Learning and Performing.

But, in the spirit, of cherry-picking what works, both for me and my clients. Here are some questions which reflect the spirit of parts of the Appreciative Inquiry Model which might prompt some interesting reflections for you:

  • What is going really well for you at the minute?
  • What did you do or what resources did you call upon to bring about those aspects of your life that are going really well?
  • What is about what you are currently dedicating your time to that really lights you up? (Can you do more of whatever that is?)
  • Thinking back to a successful time for you – what did you do that made it a success?
  • What is brilliant about you? (Or if that’s too much of a stretch, what do others value about you? Is there a common theme in the positive feedback you receive?)

Unless you stop every so often and capture the good stuff, there is a risk that it will pass you by.

And, unless you recognise your strengths and what lights you up, you’re unlikely to make great decisions about what you want to do more of.

Coaching for Professionals

Of course, coaching isn’t just about capturing what it is that is going well, so that that magic can be deployed for different goals.

I frequently say it isn’t a “fluffy” process.  It’s a process that gets results when the coach and the coaching client work well together.  And there will be work.  It isn’t a magic spell either.

(One of my other favourite coaching “models”, or part of model is ZOUD – the Zone of Uncomfortable Debate because that provides express recognition that, well, nothing changes if nothing changes.  Or, put another way, you won’t get the best results in your comfort zone.  That one is from Challenging Coaching, and I do aim for supportive challenge, your own personal Non-Executive Director).

So, if you want to find out more about whether coaching could work for you, you can find out more about my approach here.

Or see my answers to your FAQs.

If you’d rather have a free, no-obligation chat, you can contact me at

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