Maximize Project Success with the STEPPA Coaching Model
As project professionals, one thing we know how to do is plan. Why then do I find myself writing an article about a planning model that comes from outside of the Project Management sphere? No matter how much we think we know about planning, there is always room to learn more. And what I like about the STEPPA model developed by Dr. Angus McLeod is that it puts Emotion right at the heart of the planning process. Because whatever tools we use to plan with, everything comes back to people.
We will begin with a brief introduction to Dr. Angus McLeod and his background before discussing each step of the STEPPA model in detail. Additionally, we will outline its benefits in the context of project management, and the value the model can bring specifically for project managers and PMO people.
Furthermore, our discussion will extend to goal setting and scaling techniques employed during coaching sessions, including insights from other popular coaching models like CLEAR and GROW, as well as more traditional project management techniques such as product based planning and the Critical Chain model.
Understanding the STEPPA Coaching Model
The STEPPA Coaching Model, developed by Angus McLeod, is a six-step process that focuses on emotions to achieve new objectives and improve performance. The steps are Subject, Target Identification, Emotion, Perception and Choice, Plan and Pace, and Adapt or Action. This model was designed to help coaches guide conversations while broadening perception; identifying realistic motivating objectives; managing emotions; creating step-by-step plans that are achievable. But as we will see, it is also a powerful tool to use for project planning and goal setting.
Steps of the STEPPA Model
The acronym for the STEPPA model represents its steps, which are designed to help coaches guide their clients through a structured process that leads to improved performance and goal achievement. Let’s explore each step in detail:
1. Identifying Context (Subject)
In the first step of the STEPPA coaching model, it’s crucial for both coach and coachee to understand the context of their discussion. The subject can be anything from a specific work project to personal development goals. By clearly defining this context at the beginning of a session, coaches can tailor their approach accordingly.
In this initial stage, the coach helps the coachee identify the context or subject matter they want to address during their coaching sessions. This could be anything from personal development goals to specific work-related challenges. By clearly defining what needs improvement or change, both parties can focus on finding solutions and creating actionable plans.
2. Setting Clear Objectives (Target Identification)
This step involves setting clear objectives for what the coachee wants to achieve by using tools like SMART Goals. The coach asks questions that encourage deep thinking about desired outcomes and supports clients in breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks.
3. Emotional Motivators/Demotivators (Emotion)
A unique aspect of Angus McLeod’s STEPPA coaching model is its emphasis on emotions as powerful motivators or demotivators. Coaches need to understand how emotions influence decision-making processes so they can help clients manage them effectively throughout problem-solving stages. By recognizing emotional triggers and addressing them proactively, coaches enable individuals to maintain motivation while pursuing their targets.
- Motivating factors: Coaches must identify emotional motivators that drive individuals towards achieving their goals – such as ambition or desire for recognition – which help keep them focused throughout sessions.
- Demotivating factors: Similarly understanding demotivating elements like fear failure anxiety allows coach address these issues head-on ensure they don’t hinder progress toward desired outcomes.
Use these two simple questions as a way of ‘checking in’ with your team to understand their emotional connection to the plan:
4. Widening Coachee’s Perspective (Perception & Choice)
The fourth step in the STEPPA model is to help coachees widen their perspective on possible solutions or approaches. This can be achieved by asking open-ended questions, encouraging them to consider different viewpoints, and exploring alternative options. By doing so, coaches empower individuals with a broader range of choices for problem-solving.
Example Coaching Questions:
- What alternate methods could you employ to tackle this issue?
- How might someone else handle this issue differently?
- If you were in your manager’s shoes, what would you do?
5. Structuring an Action Plan (Plan & Pace)
In this stage of the STEPPA coaching process, coaches work with clients to create a detailed action plan that outlines specific steps needed to achieve desired outcomes. The coach helps set realistic deadlines while ensuring coachees maintain momentum throughout their journey towards success. By breaking down goals into smaller tasks with clear timeframes, individuals can stay focused and accountable as they make progress.
6. Taking Actions Based on Changing Circumstances (Adapt/Act)
The final step in the STEPPA model involves adapting plans based on changing circumstances or new information gathered during coaching sessions. Coaches support clients in adjusting their strategies when necessary so they can continue moving forward despite obstacles or setbacks encountered along the way. This flexibility allows individuals to remain resilient while pursuing personal growth opportunities even when faced with unexpected challenges.
By following the steps of the STEPPA Model, coaches can ensure that they have a clear understanding of their coachee’s context and objectives. This will then enable them to use essential skills such as being present, caring inspiringly and taking a rigorous approach when using this model in order to help their clients achieve success.
In What order should the steps be tackled?
Given that we have just listed six steps, and provided a simple acronym to help you remember them, you would logically conclude that the steps should be followed in order, right? Not necessarily. The reality is that STEPPA requires frequent checking back to previous steps, and looping around multiple times. In one-to-one coaching, just like project management, it is important to get everyone on the same page. Crucially, whilst Emotion is labeled as step 3, it is important to check in on emotion throughout the process. If there is no emotional connection to the plan, then it is unlikely that it will be delivered successfully, or indeed at all.
The example below shows possible journey’s through the STEPPA model. Whilst it may look complicated, this is actually a simple view. In real life you may find yourself looping back and forth multiple times until you are happy with the target, plan and actions.
Benefits of Using the STEPPA Model for Project Managers and PMO People
For project managers, the STEPPA model proves especially beneficial because it helps motivate teams toward success through a well-planned guided process. By using this method, coaches and clients stay motivated, focused, and accountable while tracking progress and ensuring alignment commitment among team members. Additionally, it allows adaptation according to changes allowing flexibility responsiveness within projects.
Take a look at this video from March 2023’s PMO HotHouse show where our CEO John McIntyre explains how the STEPPA model can be used by project people to help teams through the planning process. John notes that without an emotional connection, it doesn’t really matter how good your project plan is: if the team have no emotional connection to the plan, the team will fail.
Motivating Teams Through Emotion-Based Coaching
The unique focus on emotions in the STEPPA coaching model enables project managers to better understand their team’s emotional motivators and demotivators. This understanding leads to more effective communication strategies that can inspire higher levels of performance from team members. As mentioned earlier by Angus McLeod himself in his book “Performance Coaching: The Handbook for Managers”, incorporating emotions into planning sessions is essential for achieving desired outcomes.
Promoting Accountability with Clear Objectives
In addition to its emphasis on emotions, the STEPPA model also encourages setting clear objectives at each stage of a project or task. Regular assessments between PMO people and Project Managers ensure that all involved understand their roles and expectations, promoting accountability throughout the project. Furthermore, regular check-ins between project managers (acting as coaches) and team members (coachees in this context) help maintain accountability as everyone works towards achieving these goals together.
Fostering Flexibility & Adaptability Within Projects
- CLEAR Model: A popular alternative to STEPPA is the CLEAR coaching model which focuses on Contracting, Listening, Exploration, Action and Review. However,it lacks explicit consideration emotion-based motivation factors limiting effectiveness certain situations.
- OSKAR Model: Another coaching model, the OSKAR model, offers a solution-focused perspective that can be useful for project managers. However, it does not place as much emphasis on emotions and their impact on motivation as STEPPA does.
The adaptability aspect of the STEPPA model allows project managers to respond effectively to changing circumstances within projects. By being open to adjusting plans and actions based on new information or feedback from team members, project managers can maintain momentum towards achieving success while ensuring that everyone remains engaged in the process.
Incorporating Other Mangement Models & Techniques
While the STEPPA coaching model is highly effective for many project management scenarios, it’s important to recognize that other models like CLEAR and OSKAR may also have value depending on specific needs or challenges faced by a particular team or individual. Project managers should remain open-minded about incorporating various coaching techniques into their approach in order to optimize performance across different contexts.
Coaching models can be very effective at emphasising the importance of the human element of project management and software delivery. And while they work well on their own, they can be combined with decision making and prioritization tools such as MoSCoW ranking, and project management approaches such as the Critical Chain method.
Frequently Asked Questions STEPPA Coaching Model
What is the Stepppa coaching model?
The STEPPPA coaching model is a comprehensive framework developed by Dr. Angus McLeod that helps coaches guide their clients through a structured process of self-discovery, goal setting, and problem-solving. It consists of eight steps: Subject, Target, Emotion, Perception, Plan & Pace, Adapt & Act.
What are the steps in the coaching model?
The steps in the STEPPPA coaching model include:
- Subject – Identifying context
- Target – Setting clear objectives
- Emotion – Emotional motivators/demotivators
- Perception – Widening coachee’s perspective
- Plan – Creating an action plan & Pace – Managing progress and speed
- Adapt / Act
What are the four steps of coaching?
The four basic steps of most coaching models include: 1. Establishing goals or outcomes for each session. 2. Exploring current reality to identify challenges or obstacles. 3. Generating options for overcoming those challenges. 4. Developing an action plan to achieve desired results. STEPPA is a six-step model that goes into more depth with a strong emphasis on emotional connection.
Why should project managers learn the STEPPA coaching model?
The STEPPA coaching model is useful for project managers as it emphasises the importance of emotion in the planning process. Project managers who create product breakdown charts and Gantt charts without understanding the importance of emptional connection are unlikely to be able to bring their paper-based plans to life.