Coaching for Well-formed Outcomes – PACER Beats GROW

goal settingMany coaches use the GROW model and start a coaching conversation with questions to ascertain the client’s ‘goal’, such as:

  • What would you like to talk about?
  • What would you like to achieve?

The PACER technique used by Judith Lowe at PPDL helps provide a much more rigorous process which can generate greater clarity on the desired outcome as well as a heightened degree of motivation. Here’s how it works…

P – Positively stated

The coach should ensure the goal or outcome is stated in a positive way and using ‘going towards’ language rather than ‘away from’ language. Losing something or stopping something is more likely to lead to avoidance strategies. So the goal of ‘stopping smoking’ or losing weight’ is less likely to work as you wish to avoid something to achieve the goal. Evidence shows that positive action is more likely to work.

Ask the question ‘What do you want?’ and follow up with questions to help them create a goal or outcome that they can work towards.

A – Achievement Focused

Then we need to get even greater clarity by asking these kind of questions:

‘How will you know you’ve succeeded?’

‘What are your measures of success or achievement?’

‘What would a camera hear and see when you’ve achieved it?’

‘What would you feel?’

The benefits of asking these questions are that it helps the person you are coaching better define what they are looking for. These questions help make the goal more tangible and real.

You might also notice a change of state as they imagine a positive final state. Try to reinforce this and encourage the client to notice it – they’re already on the journey!

C – Contextual

The coach then encourages even more clarity by helping to define with whom, when and where they want (and don’t want) this outcome. By spending some time on context questions, the coach can also help the person start to make better choices on how to get there.

It might help if the coach encourages a restatement of the goal at this stage.

E – Ecological

The coach can assist by helping the client carry out a congruence check. How well does this goal fit with your values and with you as a person? Who else will be affected (family, friends, colleagues etc) and how will they feel?

There may also be underlying unconscious considerations, so the coach needs to look out for any clues from the client’s body language.

If these issues aren’t flushed out now, they’re likely to get in the way later!

The motivation to achieve the goal can be enhanced at this stage as the client realizes they are being true to themselves.

R – Resources

Ask ‘do you have the resources available to you and in your control?’ This stage of the discussion can further add to the person’s motivation to take a positive step forward – particularly after they get a heightened sense of awareness of the pool of resources they have control over.

Remind them that a journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step.

By being more rigorous up front to develop well-formed outcomes, I find that my coaching conversations make more progress more quickly.

If you’d like to see PACER being used in practice, there’s a 50 minute teaching video from Judith Lowe of PPDL at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiglkuUtCAc

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