The CLEAR Model: Peter Hawkins

Two people meeting in a relaxed business setting

Whether you are working with project stakeholders or setting goals for members of your team, Peter Hawkins’ CLEAR model is a simple coaching model that sets out to achieve clarity of purpose, as well as developing a systemic process that can be used to regularly review progress.

Background to the model

The CLEAR model was developed by Dr. Peter Hawkins, professor of Leadership at Henley Business School in the early 1980’s. But its origins go all the way back to Aristotle. When talking about clarity of purpose, Aristotle had this to say:

First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.

Aristotle

The model is first and foremost a coaching model. It is widely used in executive coaching and transformational coaching as a way of defining coaching relationship in a way that is transparent and easily understood by all parties. Following Aristotle, the model focuses on developing a clear goal understanding how it will be achieved, and reviewing progress to ensure you are on track to succeed.

What is the CLEAR Model

The model is based on the acronym CLEAR. It is usually depicted as a series of steps: Contracting, Listening, Exploration, Action, and Review.

The CLEAR Model
ContractingClarify the outcomes the stakeholder group or individual want to gain from the engagement, and establish the ground rules for working together.
ListeningEmploy powerful tools such as active listening and empathy in order to gain an understanding of the current situation. In this listening step, you are looking to get beyond what may be written in a document. You are looking to gain personal insight into the problem or challenge they are facing.
ExplorationThere are two parts to exploration. The first is to work with the individual or stakeholder group to understand the impact of the situation as it is today. The second step is to challenge them to think about the possibilities that may be achieved.
ActionFollowing on from exploration, we come to Action. It is here that we work with the individual or stakeholder to agree on the best way forward. Note that this is an active, collaborative process. Too often we see stakeholders and individuals being told what action will be taken, or what goals will be set. By agreeing on actions together, you will both be more invested in the journey, and the outcomes.
ReviewReview is a two-step process. We review progress towards the desired outcome, and we look at the process itself. Is communication working well? Are we meeting frequently enough? etc.
The CLEAR acronym.

How to use the CLEAR Model

With strong roots in the coaching world, the CLEAR Model is great for defining engagements with clarity of purpose. It helps define agreements that are based on transparency (because of the collaborative exploration phase), and feedback loops (because of the review phase). On projects, the model can be used for Stakeholder Management as a way of developing insight into a stakeholder group’s needs and their current reality. If you are a PMO Manager, you can use the process to help with agreeing on goals with members of your team. Follow the CLEAR steps to understand some of the problems and challenges from the individual’s perspective, before empowering them to come up with the actions that they will take to resolve issues and move forwards.

But the use of the CLEAR model does not need to stop there. It can be deployed in a number of different situations, and it is a really useful tool to have in your arsenal of leadership skills. Consider using it to frame any kind of coaching or mentoring engagement you have, either as the coach, or the person being coached.

CLEAR Model vs GROW Model

The CLEAR Model is often compared with the GROW business coaching model. Both are valid, and both can be used to shape engagements and shape outcomes. The main differences come from the emphasis that CLEAR places on the review cycle. GROW is very much an ‘up front’ model which focuses on defining a goal and agreeing how it will be achieved. By comparisson, CLEAR puts emphasis on the ongoing Review process, making the model one that explicitly encourages the use of feedback loops and retrospective meetings as a way of ensuring the enagement continues to be positive, and all parties, whether stakeholders, managers of individual contributors, get the outcomes they are looking for.