The CLEAR model is a transformational coaching process often used with leaders and executives. It is designed in such a way that the same process is used in each session of a coaching program. The stages of the CLEAR model are: Contract, Listen, Explore, Action, Review.Summary by The World of Work Project
Coaching is a hugely helpful skill for leaders and managers in the world of work. It’s a great way to help team members develop or for behavior change. It’s particularly when combined with feedback and reinforcement. You can learn more about how to coach and the benefits of coaching in this podcast.
The CLEAR Coaching Model
The CLEAR coaching model is a simple, five stage model that is intended to be used in each session of a multi-session coaching program.
It is designed to help individuals achieve transformational change (lasting and fundamental change based on new values, behaviors and beliefs) as opposed to simply helping them achieve a goal (as through solution focused coaching).
The model is question driven, delivered in a highly conversational way and often used in executive and leadership coaching. CLEAR coaching sessions typically last 45-60 minutes.
The five stages of the CLEAR coaching model are: contract, listen, explore, actions and review. We look at each stage in order below.
Each session begins with a conversation about how the coach and coachee will work together in that session, what the coachee would like to get out of the session, how the coachee will know when they are making progress and and a reminder of basic rules around coaching. The contract may be revisited during the session.
Examples of questions that may be used in this stage include:
- What would you like to focus on today?
- What would you like the outcome of our conversation to be?
- How will you know if you’ve had a good session today?
- What would you like me, as your coach, to do today to help you?
After contracting, the coach asks questions of the coachee in relation to their chosen area of focus. The coach looks for clarity and details, connections and starts to understand both what the coachee thinks about their topic and, perhaps more importantly, how they feel about it.
It’s important in this stage of the CLEAR coaching model to actively listen and to “hold the space” well for the client, but not to be overly familiar or close with them.
As facts and feelings become clearer the coach starts to ask more probing and targeted questions of the coachee, in line with the approach to the coaching session as agreed in the contracting phase.
In this stage of coaching, the coach is looking to help the coachee understand their emotional connection with the current state, what they want to change and how they might emotionally connect with a different future state.
There is an almost infinite list questions that the coach could use at this stage. To help identify helpful questions, the coach should be mindful and present in the coaching session. They should also ensure that the questions the are asking are brief where possible, open, not leading and that they are devised with the intention of helping the coachee learn. Often, the best questions are those which neither the coach nor the coachee know the answer to.
While the purpose of CLEAR coaching is to achieve transformational change, actions are often needed along the way. In this stage of the CLEAR model, the coach asks questions to help the coachee consider actions they could take, explore how they feel about the actions and ultimately commit to actions that are right for them. Again, these questions should be helpful, but the coach should not guide the client in any specific direction, nor should they rescue the client if they are unable to think of suitable actions.
The types of questions a coach will ask at this stage are varied and depend on the specifics of the conversation, but some examples may include:
- What do you think you need to do next in relation to this?
- How will you start this process?
- What’s the first thing you will do to help make this happen?
- Who might you speak to about this?
- When will you start working on this?
- How will you feel once you’ve started your actions?
Towards the end of the session the coach plays back some of the key points from the session, reflecting on the contract objectives and what progress was made. The coach may ask the coachee to review the session and ask if there is anything else the coachee would like to cover.
The review section of the coaching model helps both the coach and the coachee reflect on what has been discussed, and helps ensure that the contract has been adhered to and that, hopefully, benefit has been achieved.
Learning More About Coaching
In other posts we have written briefly about the ABCDE, ACHIEVE, CLEAR, GROW, OSKAR and POSITIVE coaching models. In addition, we’ve written about coaching wheels that can be helpful in personal and executive coaching.
If you’d like to learn what it’s like being or becoming a coach, you might enjoy this podcast:
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The CLEAR model, and transformational coaching in general, are very powerful.
With a skilled coach, a coachee can explore and potentially change some of their underlying values, beliefs and behaviors, which are often the root causes of unhelpful personal behaviors, discord or some level of unhappiness.
This process can be emotionally difficult. It usually involves the often painful process of a coachee challenging who they are and how they see themselves. For these sessions to work, the coachee needs to be ready to change and there need to be high levels of trust between the coachee and the coach. The coach also needs to believe in the coachee, be aligned to helping them achieve their goals and not lead them to conclusions or answers, but rather ask questions that neither the coach nor the coachee know the answer to.
While we highly recommend transformational coaching, it’s not for everyone and those that enter into it need to know what they’re getting into. It’s also very important to ensure that you have identified a good coach, and a coach who is a good fit for you as a person.
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This post is based on the original work of Peter Hawkins, who created the CLEAR model in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, we don’t have a specific reference for his work. There are many places on the internet though where you can learn more about this model. If you are aware of a specific reference for this topic, please let us know.
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Carrier, J. (2019). The CLEAR Coaching Model: A Simple Summary. Retrieved [insert date] from The World of Work Project: https://worldofwork.io/2019/06/the-clear-coaching-model/