How to Use the CLEAR Model in Business Coaching
The CLEAR model is very useful in business coaching. Peter Hawkins at Bath Consultancy Group developed the CLEAR model in the early 1980s. Like many coaching models, this model is defined using acronyms. It has five stages or elements:
- Contracting: Opening the discussion, setting the scope, establishing the desired outcomes and agreeing to ground rules.
- Listening: Using active listening and interventions, and helping clients develop their understanding of the situation and generate personal insight.
- Exploring: Helping clients understand the personal impact the situation is having on them and challenging them to think through possibilities for future action in resolving the situation.
- Action: Supporting the clients in choosing a way ahead and deciding the next step.
- Review: Closing the intervention, and reinforcing ground covered, decisions made, and value added. Wherever possible, the client summarizes her actions, insights, and self-reflections at this stage. The coach also encourages feedback from the client on what was helpful about the coaching process, what was difficult, and what she would like more or less of in future coaching conversations.
This model is effective for supporting a person who needs to resolve an operational situation. It can easily be used to identify a way forward to an emergent issue or problem that is current and immediate. The model is useful for generating ideas, helping a client see a situation differently, or identifying and assessing possible alternatives.
The important thing about the CLEAR model is to keep it conversational. The conversation has a structure and a direction with the overall aim of giving the client what she wants from the session and leaving her in a better place than when she sat down to talk to you.
Here are some example questions to illustrate the different stages of the CLEAR model.
- Contracting: The conversation might look something like the following:
Coach: We have around an hour, so let’s check what would be useful to you today. Last time we met, you suggested you may like to focus on your lead responsibility for improving diversity in the workplace. Is that still the case?
Client: Yes, I’d like to look at the board presentation I have next week.
Coach: Great. Where would you like to get to by the end of the hour?
Client: The paper has gone in, and I am fairly confident but would like to walk through it and think about the emphasis and the questions I may be asked. I’d like to feel confident that I have covered all the issues.
Coach: What would you like from me in the session?
Client: I’d like you to act as sounding board and help me identify the difficult questions.
Coach: Okay. I’ll keep track of time and maybe make a few notes and give you a time check ten minutes before the hour is up so we can summarize and see if we need to discuss anything else. Okay?
- Listening: The coach acts as a sounding board to test the paper, asking appropriate questions such as those following:
- “Can you explain what you mean by… .”
- “Where did that figure come from on page 34?”
- “How do you know that you compare badly against your competitors in relation to women returners?”
- Exploring: The coach helps the client look around the issue using open questions, reflections, challenge, and summary:
- “So, what I’m hearing you say is that when you get to this midpoint in the presentation, you’re worried that John will become challenging around the figures because he always picks up in the stats. Yes?”
- “I wonder if you notice how well you present information and how you’re really good at presenting it using both the paper and the PowerPoint? You come across as being really confident about your data.”
- “So, what is the worst thing that John could ask you? Where are you least confident about the paper?”
- “What happens when you get anxious about what John may say?”
- “What happens when you aren’t concerned about what John may ask? How can you do more of that on the day?”
- “You said John likes an injection of humor. You have some of that, but how can you use that more if John challenges you?”
- “So, let me summarize what you’ve said about what you’re confident about and what you might do differently… .”
- Action: The coach asks questions like the following:
- “So, given what we’ve discussed, what can you do between now and next week?”
- “Who needs to action that? You or someone on your team?”
- “How are you feeling about delivering this presentation right now?”
- “How can you get to that positive state before you go into the board meeting?”
- “What other actions have you highlighted today?”
- Review: The coach asks questions like the following:
- “In summary, what will you do as a result of this session?”
- “What has been helpful? What has been less helpful to you today?”
- “Is there anything else you want to mention before we close?”