The PRACTICE Model of Coaching
Finding the Best Solution to a Problem
The only solutions that are ever worth anything are the solutions that people find themselves. – Satyajit Ray, film maker.
If someone asked you for the best way to drive from point A to point B, you wouldn't advise him just to get in his car and start driving. He'd probably end up lost!
The same is true when you're coaching team members. You need to work with them to find the best route from problem to solution, dividing what they need to do along the way into easy, manageable steps. The PRACTICE model of coaching helps you do this.
About the Model
Psychologist Stephen Palmer first published his PRACTICE model in 2008. It's based on an earlier, seven-step coaching approach developed by Barbara Wasik in 1984.
PRACTICE is a simple framework that you can use to help people identify their problems and decide on the best solutions. The acronym stands for the seven steps in the process:
- Identify the Problem.
- Develop Realistic and relevant goals.
- Generate Alternative solutions.
- Consider the consequences.
- Target the most feasible solution.
- Implement your Chosen solution.
The main advantage of this model over similar ones is that it focuses on finding a solution, rather than dwelling on the problem. Indeed, Professor Palmer has suggested changing the "P" in PRACTICE to "presenting issues," to take the emphasis away from problems even further. This is because understanding a problem doesn't necessarily help you reach to a solution, and can delay you in resolving the issue.
PRACTICE is very similar to the GROW coaching model. However, it is best applied to finding solutions to specific problems, whereas GROW is better used for team members' overall personal development.
The GROW model also places more emphasis on people's problems (which it calls your "current reality") and doesn't include a step-by-step plan for monitoring coachees' progress, or for making necessary adjustments along the way.
How to Use the Tool
Here's a step-by-step guide to using the PRACTICE model when you're coaching team members.
1. Identify the Problem
First, help your coachee accurately define her problem. Does she have trouble meeting deadlines? Does she freeze in interviews?
To clarify the issue for her, ask questions such as:
- What needs to change?
- Are there examples of when the problem is not an issue? For example, if it's to do with time management, does it manifest itself in all areas of her life, or only at work?
- How will she know if the situation has improved?
- On a scale of one to 10, how far has she come toward solving the problem already?
Palmer says it's important not to get too bogged down in "problem talk," but to reframe issues so that team members focus on finding solutions instead.
For example, if your coachee says she is too nervous to ask her boss if she can take the lead on a new project, it may be better if she rephrases the issue as, "I haven't yet found the most comfortable way to discuss my enthusiasm to head up the new project with senior management."
2. Develop Realistic and Relevant Goals
Next, you need to develop your team member's goals. You must make sure that he is being honest with himself and that he can visualize what he thinks he can achieve. For example, we all want a big raise, but this is probably unrealistic if the economy is declining and your organization is laying people off!
Palmer highlights the benefits of using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound) model when drawing up your coachee's list of objectives. If we go back to the previous example, suggest that a more realistic goal might be to book 10 minutes with his boss for an informal discussion.
3. Generate Alternative Solutions
Now, get your team member to think about all the possible ways she can solve her problem. Ask her to come up with as many ideas as possible, and write them down.
Put simply: what are her options? Encourage her to ask colleagues, friends, family, and confidantes for help in generating ideas. There are also many brainstorming tools, such as Reverse Brainstorming, which can make this process easier. (Remember, at this point it is important that she focuses on generating ideas, not on evaluating them.)
4. Consider the Consequences
Now is the time for your coachee to evaluate his ideas and consider their likely outcomes. All of his suggestions will have their advantages and disadvantages. By thinking about the consequences of each, he will be in a better position to choose one.
Palmer advises that you go through each potential solution with your team member, and use a usefulness scale, where 0 is "not useful at all" and 10 is "extremely useful," to rate each one. If you need a framework for evaluating and assessing possible consequences, try the Futures Wheel tool, which helps you explore the consequences of different courses of action.
5. Target the Most Feasible Solution
Use the 0 to 10 rating scale to help your team member select her best ideas, and to pick the best courses of action. Then, choose back-up plans in case the first one doesn't work out.
For example, does she have a promotion interview coming up that she is worried about because she falters in these situations? She might have decided that the best solution is to role play the interview with friends, but she's having trouble rounding them up at the last minute. You could advise her to research interview questions and draft model answers instead – solution two.
Ask questions such as:
- What could happen if each possible solution is implemented?
- How appropriate are the solutions you've chosen?
Again, apply the usefulness rating scale to each solution, where 0 is "not useful at all" and 10 is "extremely useful."
6. Implement Your Chosen Solution
The next step is for your coachee to create an appropriate action plan. Encourage him to write down how he is going to implement his ideas in a structured, logical way.
Palmer advises breaking down each solution into manageable steps, and perhaps putting a realistic timeframe in place for each section. This is because tasks can seem less daunting when you are clear about how long each one will take.
It is important to remind your coachee to be confident in his chosen solutions. All of the hard work of brainstorming and evaluating is done, so encourage him to banish any doubts! If it's feasible, he could do a trial run, to iron out any teething problems and build his confidence.
Finally, get your team member to analyze how her solution worked. This is an important part of the learning process. If she didn't do as well as she'd hoped, she needs to know why. If she succeeded, she could do the same again if the problem ever resurfaced.
Palmer again advises using a scale of 0 to 10 to rate the success of her solutions.
The PRACTICE model of coaching is collaborative in nature. It is particularly useful within a business setting where leaders work with team members to identify their unique strengths, so that they can use them to overcome challenges.
It is less effective when problems are outside the team member's control. For example, if one person is draining the rest of your team's energy and focus, a disciplinary intervention and a coaching session with the relevant individual might be the solution.
PRACTICE is a seven-point solution-focused framework for helping your team members find solutions to issues, without dwelling too much on the issues themselves.
The stages of PRACTICE are:
- Identify the problem.
- Develop realistic, relevant goals.
- Generate alternative solutions.
- Consider the consequences.
- Target the most feasible solution.
- Implement your chosen solution.