The coaching model library: STEPPPA

Steve Thomson explains the STEPPA coaching model.

A coaching conversation can be an emotional and highly charged thing, and a less experienced coach can perhaps be taken by surprise by just how emotional it can become. If coaching is to be effective then emotions need to be taken into account, and dealt with when it threatens to overflow.

While many of the coaching models we will be looking at leave room for the experienced coach to take emotion into account, very few incorporate that emotion into their framework. One model that does is the STEPPPA model, which appears in the work of Angus McLeod Associates.

Let’s take a closer look:

S – Subject: This refers to the specific topic or topics that will be discussed within the coaching environment. It’s important to incorporate this step, as it not only sets up a working ‘contract’ between the coach and coachee, it also acts as an agenda allowing the coach to bring the conversation back to the core topic should the coachee try to deflect or wander away from the key issue.

T – Target identification: The target might, in other models, be referred to as the goal. Once the subject has been defined it’s important to also focus on the desired outcome for the coachee in relation to that subject.

E – Emotion: Come what may, emotion is always going to be close to the surface when coaching. After all, it is one of the principal drivers for us all and as such should be harnessed and directed in order to add impetus to the coaching intervention. 

P – Perception and choice: Here we have an opportunity to widen the coachee’s understanding – or conscious perception, as the model’s originators termed it – of the issue defined as the target. The coach asks questions of the client to allow him or her to take a wider and more comprehensive look at their goal, and to find as many ways as possible to set about reaching it.

Once the choices have been made it’s time to…

P & P – Plan and pace: In this model, planning is defined as laying out the steps required to reach the stated target. On a cautionary note; if the target has been clearly defined the coachee may be in a hurry to start the process of reaching out for it, and may find themselves having to retrace their steps due to a lack of advance planning.

The coach should be aware of this possibility and act accordingly. The ‘pace’ aspect relates to the timeframe required to reach the target, or to hit the milestones that will allow the target to be reached. A timeline can be used to conflate these two aspects into one process.

A – Adapt or act: In most cases it’s to be hoped that after going through the various stages of this model the coachee will be ready to take action. However, in some cases it might be wise to review and reflect before committing to a timeline, and if possible to revisit the emotional commitment of the coachee to ensure that there is the right level and degree of purpose to the proposed actions.

So, here is a model that takes a familiar route to a definable end point, but does so with a full awareness of the coachee’s emotional commitment to their chosen goal or target. It may seem at first glance to be a slightly contrived…or maybe misspelled… acronym, but each phase has its place and function, and the end result should be robust.

I feel that this is one for the experienced and confident coach, due to its emphasis on engaging the coachee in effective reflection and review.


About the author

Steve Thomson is a senior coach with 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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