The coaching model library: FUEL

Tim Hakes gives us an update to the FUEL model.

Here’s a model that I would say is best suited to the more experienced coach; someone who is comfortable with their ability to avoid leading their coachee or asking closed and ‘shopping list’* questions.

The form of this tool is much the same as you will encounter in the majority of coaching models, but while there’s nothing particularly new here, it does put the emphasis on the coach, who, I feel, should then share their outlook on the conversation by means of feeding back their thinking to the client.

The model was developed by Zenger & Stinnett, and is explored more fully in their book ‘The Extraordinary Coach – and How The Best Leaders Help Others Grow’. As the name of the book suggests, this is a great model for senior people within an organisation to use (as opposed to say an outsider contracted as coach).

Let’s look at what’s on offer:

F – Frame the conversation: Set out the ground rules; agree on things like time-frame, duration, frequency of meeting, define the purpose of the conversation (goals, specific objectives etc). Subsequent meetings will still utilise the ‘F’, but will focus on what’s been achieved and what remains to be done rather than the housekeeping that is a necessary part of the first conversation.

U – Understand the current state: Ask questions that elicit information about where the client feels they are now in respect of the issues defined in stage one. In this phase it may be particularly helpful if the coach can encourage an objective viewpoint from the client as well as a personal one, as by so doing the coachee will gain greater perspective on their situation.

This plays to their emotional intelligence and even if they have no knowledge or awareness of emotional intelligence, this may prove to be a great way to introduce the idea to them.

E – Explore the desired state: The critical word here is ‘explore’, as by definition this means that several possible outcomes can be looked at and discussed. By doing this the best way forward can be more clearly defined and plans made for future actions.

L – Lay out a success plan: Work with the coachee to create a detailed action plan with clearly defined steps, and a practical timeline to which they can be held accountable. Perhaps revisit the desired goal at this point and make sure that it is still accurate and appropriate.

This practical and flexible model is one that I really like, as much for its simplicity as for its emphasis on visiting and revisiting the various stages of an intervention.

*Shopping List questions, are what I term those questions in a coaching conversation that pose as being ‘open’; in that they will start in the way an open question does, but which then close the door by offering the other party a ‘shopping list’ of alternative answers to pick from.

In my experience this lets a coachee off the hook, as they will pick the option that they think will sound best, or that they believe will please you most rather than actually thinking about what the answer should be.


About the author

Tim Hawkes is managing director of Unlimited Potential.


TJ and Unlimited Potential are looking to create the most comprehensive list of acronym-based coaching models out there – with your help, we can do this. 

If there’s a coaching model you use, have heard of or simply don’t agree with, list it in the comments below and we’ll take it from there. Thanks for your help.


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