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The Coaching Principles focus on a coach’s heart. The Situational Coaching Model focuses on the coach’s mind. It contains six paradigms, described by the acronym GEARDA, to be used in coaching conversations.

The Goals Paradigm focuses on what clients want, either from a specific session or from the entire coaching process. This paradigm is usually the focus of the first coaching conversation, but is also important to every session. From providing progress updates to dealing with unanticipated obstacles, clients are constantly working on goals. When clients achieve their goals or make progress toward doing so, this paradigm also surfaces: coaches need to ask how clients celebrated their accomplishments and how they feel about their success.

The Exploration Paradigm is about helping clients determine how they will reach their goals. Its focus is generating options and ideas and thinking creatively before engaging in analysis.

The Analysis Paradigm concentrates on determining the best and most important options that the Exploration Paradigm generated. In this paradigm, clients explore the pros and cons and implications of their potential choices and evaluate the best ways to achieve their goals.

The Releasing Paradigm deals with identifying and letting go of negative feelings and replacing them with positive feelings. Many people live in a constant state of negative emotion or are dealing with heavy emotional burdens. Either situation creates substantial obstacles to achieving goals even with the best coaching. When both coach and client are aware of these emotions, the client can express them and, if necessary release them.

Through the Decision Paradigm, clients choose a path. Coaches help clients simplify their options and develop criteria to make decisions. Sometimes, clients need help before they feel ready to decide.

Through the Action Paradigm, coaches ask clients what action steps are necessary and when they need to be completed. Coaches encourage clients to draw up action plans, which include priorities and a timeline as well as accountability systems. Another aspect of the Action Paradigm is creating support structures. Most coaching sessions should end with at least a few minutes in the Action Paradigm, during which the client commits to next steps.

Some conversations may necessitate just two or three of these paradigms; some may necessitate all six. The best coaches seamlessly move from one paradigm to another according to client needs. For example, if clients have begun taking action but are constantly running into obstacles created by negative emotions, the coach and the client will need to return to the Releasing Paradigm in order for the client to continue to make progress. Sometimes, a lack of good options does not become clear until the client is in the Analysis Paradigm. In that case, it is best to return to the Exploration Paradigm before proceeding to the Decision Paradigm.

Coaching is not a step-by-step process, so coaches need to practice using all six paradigms but also remember not all six will be necessary in every session. With sufficient practice, coaches will be able to intuitively apply the right paradigm as well as shift seamlessly among the six paradigms.

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