The OSCAR Coaching Model is very easy to follow, which means that all of us can learn to use it to improve our personal effectiveness, problem-solving and decision-making ability. The model works whether you are a newly-appointed team leader needing to improve your problem-solving skills, or whether you are a senior executive needing to develop the vision and strategy for your business.
The ultimate purpose of coaching is to help raise awareness and responsibility, and this is true when coaching ourselves as well as when coaching others. A good coach asks effective questions and actively listens to the answers, i.e. they listen without judgement, reflect back and clarify understanding – whether it is listening to their own self talk (answers to their own questions) or to the answers given by others.
Ultimately the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of the questions we ask ourselves. Imagine the different lives that would be created by a person asking themselves everyday ‘why is my life so rubbish?’ compared to someone who asks themselves everyday ‘what can I do today to make a difference and bring joy to myself and others?’
The ability to ask effective questions of ourselves is the key to personal effectiveness and OSCAR provides us with the perfect framework not just to coach others, but to self-coach as well.
To become truly effective the first question we need to ask ourselves is:
What is my outcome?
By focusing on the outcome we desire, it is much more likely that we will find ways to overcome difficulties or problems. If we focus on the problem then it is often too easy to forget about the desired outcome and put all our energy into the problem, which will stop us generating innovative and creative solutions to the problem.
If you have more than one outcome, you need to prioritise them. You must be clear about your outcome(s) and their order of importance to you. People with well-formed outcomes achieve much more than those without clear outcomes.
People who have achieved success in many different walks of life have well-formed outcomes or precisely written goals. Of course, having such goals does not guarantee a successful result. However, it does lead to significantly better results by clear goal setters than similar people with vague goals, and a significant number of people actually achieving ambitious outcomes. It’s also important to define what achieving that outcome looks like, as outcomes need to be measurable so that you know what success looks like. Ask yourself:
How will I know when I’ve achieved my outcome?
Next, we need to take a look at our current situation. Questions to ask yourself are:
‘Where am I right now?’
‘What is there about this situation that I can control?’
‘What and who can I influence?’
A lot of the time the only thing you can influence in the current situation will be yourself. But acknowledging this is a massive step in right direction. By asking much more empowering questions of yourself you will be able to put yourself back in the driving seat and stop yourself from blaming external factors, and from feeling like the ‘victim’.
Choices and Consequences
Once you are clear about your outcome and the current circumstances, you can decide to make some better choices for yourself. You can start taking control, and the first step here is to start to define what options you have to help you achieve your outcome.
What choices do I have?
What options can I choose from?
What are the consequences of each choice?
Which choices have the best consequences?
Self-coaching using these questions ensures that your self-talk directs you towards what you can control and influence, and ensures you minimise the time spent thinking about the things that you cannot control or influence.
It is also worth remembering that one option is always available to you no matter what. The option to do nothing, i.e. to continue as is. Although this sounds strange, it is worth noting that this is by far the most regular choice that people make! However, people don’t consciously decide to do nothing. What happens is they decide to do something, and then fail to actually do it – which is the same as the choice to do nothing!
By starting to generate lots of options, you will suddenly feel much more in control and really energised. The process of brainstorming is most often associated with group work. However, to be truly effective we need to give ourselves time and space to be able to generate a whole range of options for ourselves – using our self-talk.
Once you have all of these choices, the next step is to begin to evaluate the choices. This is where the consequences part of OSCAR comes into play. Go away and think about them in greater detail and look at the pluses and minuses (consequences) of each option. A pros and cons list is a really simple and effective way to evaluate and compare the choices that you have available.
Sometimes one choice is clearly the best to deliver your outcome. However, as with this case, very often it is a combination of choices that will best deliver the outcome.
The next step is to develop a detailed action plan for each of the choices that you are going to take. It’s hugely important to come up with measurable actions and timeframes – actions without a timeframe are simply a wish list.
A good method to use when planning your actions is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). If you’re not familiar then look it up with a quick Google search.
One of the key aspects of taking action is that it is best to take that action within 24 hours. After 24 hours it starts to slip further down the to-do list until it becomes one of those items that just never gets done.
After coming up with an action plan, the next, and sometimes most difficult step is to actually take those actions. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are full of good intentions but other things frequently get in the way.
This is where the Review part of OSCAR comes into its own. One of the key benefits of coaching is that it is an ongoing process. Therefore, actions are continually reviewed. In other words you continually notice whether the actions are being taken and whether the actions are moving you towards your outcome – or not.
It is of vital importance that you know what actions you are taking and why you are taking them. This is the only way that you will ultimately take responsibility for the actions you have agreed with yourself.
You could even get someone else to hold you accountable for your actions. When you know for sure that lack of action will get noticed during a review meeting you will likely just get on and do it! Whilst there are no immediate consequences to not taking those actions it’s very easy to just ignore them. During the review stage it is important to notice if the actions have been taken and if they have ask yourself:
Have the actions delivered the results I wanted – and if not, why not?
If the agreed actions haven’t been taken ask yourself:
Why haven’t they?
What stopped me from taking the action?
Was it lack of time, fear or other priorities?
What choices are there to ensure the actions get taken between now and the next review?
It will often be the case that you go through the self-coaching process several times whilst making any significant decision. Don’t be afraid to review your initial outcome, explore the choices and consequences of changing circumstances and then tweak your action plan accordingly. Self-coaching is meant to be a flexible and adaptive technique that you can call on as often as you need it.
Mastering the self-coaching process is a significant step in leading a less stressful life, as well as becoming more efficient and performing at your best.
If you’re interested in learning more about coaching and the OSCAR Coaching Model we run regular courses both in person and via distance learning. You can find out more by following the link below: