9 MIN READ
The OSKAR Coaching Framework
Getting Results by Focusing on Solutions
Carl has a problem with one of his team members, Eloise. Eloise works hard, but can communicate in an offhand way. Carl's concerned about the impact this could be having on clients.
Carl calls Eloise in for a meeting, where he outlines the communication approaches that he prefers to see from team members. He asks her to rate how she feels she's meeting these objectives, and why this might be. It becomes clear that Eloise is shy and often feels nervous about speaking to people. The result is that, without realizing it, she's coming across as curt and abrupt.
Together, they work to identify practical actions that they can both take to improve Eloise's communication skills. In doing this, Carl has taken a solutions-focused coaching approach known as the OSKAR coaching framework.
In this article, we'll examine what the OSKAR coaching framework is, how it works, and how you can use it to improve how you manage your team. We'll explain its pros and cons, and explore how you can use it to address problems your team members may be facing effectively.
For a richer understanding of the many ways you can use coaching to improve how you manage, check out our other articles and resources in this area. These include everything from explaining what coaching is through to other coaching frameworks, such as POSITIVE, PRACTICE and GROW.
How to Use the OSKAR Coaching Framework
The OSKAR coaching framework is one of the most popular solutions-focused coaching models used by organizations. It was developed by coaches Mark McKergow and Paul Z. Jackson and published in their 2002 book, "The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE."
It's a coaching framework you can use within your team or organization, to help you focus on a problem's solution, rather than on the problem itself. You can use it to address specific performance or behavioral problems within your team, such as the one highlighted at the start of this article.
OSKAR stands for Outcome, Scale, Know-how, Affirm + Action, and Review. Here are some practical suggestions for making each of those stages work for you.
This can also be Objective. This is what you and your team member want to achieve from the meeting or coaching session – resolving the specific problem or issue.
Take a look at the desired Outcome in our example. Carl wants Eloise to speak to clients more appropriately. Eloise wants to feel confident enough to do so. So they both have a shared Outcome.
This is where you measure or quantify how close your team member is to achieving the desired Outcome, using a scale (often of one to 10.) Bear in mind that he or she might rate himself at 10 immediately, so be prepared to be honest about how you rate him too.
Carl asks Eloise to rate herself against the organization's expected level of communication. Eloise gives herself a two. She explains that she's afraid of saying the wrong thing, and so tries to keep conversations as brief as possible.
Once you have an idea of where your team member is in relation to where she needs to be, the next step is to look at what she needs to get there. The "know-how" is the skills, knowledge, qualifications, and attributes that enable her to move forward. Use your scale to decide how far a particular solution will get her closer to your outcome, and what know-how she'll then need to progress even further.
Carl and Eloise agree that the skills she needs, to bring her performance in line with the company's expectations, are communication, conversation, listening, and self-confidence.
Affirm + Action
This is where the pair of you focus on what's already working well, or is already positive about his actions, skills, behaviors, and attributes. You then need to focus on the actions he needs to take to progress, and to solve the problem you've identified.
Say your team member is already achieving five on your 0-10 scale. That's great. One question you can ask here is, "What actions are you already taking to achieve this score?" If he's already achieving well, what actions could he be taking to do even better? Will it simply be a case of him doing more of the same, or perhaps doing something differently? Your focus throughout the session should be on what next steps, however small, are going to work best, and what help you or your organization can offer him.
Eloise is achieving a low score on the scale. She and Carl focus on the steps that she needs to take to develop the skills they've identified. This includes Carl organizing relevant training sessions for her.
As the name suggests, this is the review process, and it normally happens at the start of each coaching session. This is where you both review the action your team member has taken, decide what's improved, and look at what needs to happen next to improve even further.
This process should emphasize the positives or successful outcomes, even if there's still a way to go to achieving the final goal. Ask your team member what changes she felt were successful, and offer suggestions about what to change next.
Carl and Eloise are pleased with her progress as a result of the training sessions. He suggests ongoing mentoring support to develop her communication skills even further.
Benefits and Weaknesses of OSKAR
A key benefit of using the OSKAR model is its collaborative approach. This involves discovering what your team member wants, or feels is achievable, as well as ensuring that you get the outcome you want.
Another plus point is OSKAR's emphasis on progress and positive achievement. This can be much more motivating than simply highlighting a problem that needs resolving. Focusing on success and moving forward can empower the people you're coaching – higher morale can encourage better working relationships, and greater confidence can inspire creativity.
OSKAR focuses on small achievements and steps. This means that it can be helpful in tough team or organizational situations, where you need to encourage someone to achieve larger goals, one step at a time, while not "taking his eye off the ball."
Another benefit is that OSKAR can be used as a set of tools rather than a single process – you don't need to use all the elements every time. You might, for example, want to focus on Outcome, Know-how and Affirm and, in the short term at least, leave it at that. This means that OSKAR can be especially useful for busy managers looking to engage in short yet effective coaching conversations.
But there is the potential to focus too much on the Affirm element, instead of the solutions that need to be achieved. If you use this element alone, you run the risk of focusing on positive aspects of your team member's performance and behavior, and not addressing the negative ones.
Another potential difficulty with the OSKAR model is maintaining a balance of dialogue between you and your team member. Although the model encourages a collaborative approach, it's important to be clear throughout the process of the Outcome that you wish to achieve. If your Outcome is not clear, your team member could lose focus and forget the original purpose of the exercise.
The OSKAR Coaching Framework is a popular coaching model that allows you to focus on solutions to problems rather than on the problems themselves. It stands for Outcome, Scale, Know-how, Affirm + Action, and Review.
Its emphasis on positive achievement and progress helps you to have a much more motivational, consensual and collaborative coaching conversation with your team member than you would if you were focused on "fixing" problems.
However, there's a risk that, by focusing too much on the Affirm element, you could avoid having difficult but necessary conversations about poor performance or behavior.
Apply This to Your Life
Use the model to step back and look at your career or life progress. What's your outcome? If you measured this on a scale, where would you be? What know-how are you missing?
Use the model to encourage yourself to strive for your goals. The Affirm element allows you to revisit and reaffirm your achievements and successes, and to recognize where you have done things well. From there, you can look at the steps you need to take to build on them and pave the way for your future success.
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