Dr. Jacinta Jimenez

BetterUp's Head of Coaching

Posted in: Evidence-based HR


Why The Secret To Great Coaching Lies in Motivation

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Why The Secret To Great Coaching Lies in Motivation

An effective coaching program relies on motivation. But great coaches don’t motivate people; they foster the motivation that already exists in the individuals they coach. This is the focus of the keynote presentation I am giving at The International Coach Federation this week. Today, I’d like to share a bit about the unique model for motivation that I developed, and why it’s key to a successful relationship between a coach and coachee.

A brief introduction to motivation science

Science and research tied to motivation began with a focus on fixing problem behaviors, but thanks to the Positive Psychology movement, has evolved into an approach of enhancing intrinsic motivation in others with the goal of helping an individual not just return to baseline, but to flourish.

This groundbreaking movement has helped people change their relationships, further their careers, lead more fulfilling lives, and more. This movement also led me to develop a coaching framework for motivation that I call the 3D model of motivation. This framework is founded in research-backed techniques from Motivational Interviewing. I believe that understanding what drives each individual to change in the first place is critical to actually creating sustained behavior change on an individual level first, and on an organizational level second.

The 3D Model of Motivation

One of the most important things I have learned as a coach and a psychologist is that the most critical question a coach could ask is, “For what IS this person motivated?”

The 3D Model of Motivation is based off of 3 phases:

  1. Discover and Decide: What is the individual’s motivational makeup? How can a coach use this information to inform a plan?
  2. Develop Discrepancy: How does a coach spark the motivation in the coachee?
  3. Deepen the Drive: How does a coach work to help an individual maintain their motivation when things get tough?

Step 1: Discovering and deciding

Often, there’s an assumption that an individual is already motivated to change.

The first step of the 3D Model of Motivation is critical to successful coaching outcomes. Before a coach can dive in, they must develop a deep understanding of the coachee’s motivational makeup. Often, there’s an assumption that an individual is already motivated to change. Unfortunately, many coaching approaches devote little time to understanding motivation by simply assuming its presence. But in order to change, individuals must be willing, able, and ready to transform themselves.

Willing and Able are the ingredients that make up Readiness. If the change feels important enough to the individual, and they have the confidence to achieve it, they’ll feel more ready to give it a go. Only by truly examining where someone lands on these important factors will a coach be able to provide the most effective behavior change coaching.

Step 2: Developing discrepancy

Building out a vision for the future is the key to creating the spark a person needs to pursue change. But how does a coach motivate an individual to take this action? Research has shown that our minds are highly motivated to relieve cognitive dissonance. Therefore, we need to establish a perceived discrepancy between a coachee’s present state and their important goals for the future. This discrepancy underlies the motivation for individuals to change.

Step 3: Deepening the drive

We don’t have to have an epiphany to make a change in our lives.Click To Tweet

Once a coach has a clear understanding of an individual’s motivation and has created a perceived discrepancy between their present state and vision of the future, it’s time to get them to dig into that vision of the future. And while a-ha moments are important, we don’t have to have an epiphany to make a change in our lives. In fact, small progression is incredibly effective for big changes and changes don’t commonly happen overnight.

For coaching to truly work, coaches must build out self-efficacy slowly, and do it on a consistent basis. In learning theory, this approach is called scaffolding. A coach’s job is to reinforce the thinking patterns that capture the coachee’s thinking of the future by picking up on the difference between change talk (which reflects a desire or commitment to change) and sustain talk (which indicates arguments for the status quo). Change talk is the lifeblood of deepening the drive, and a coach’s effectiveness relies on her ability to listen and engage in conversation that’s largely grounded in change talk, subtle as it may be.

One of the most important things I have learned as a coach and a psychologist is that the most critical question a coach could ask is, “For what IS this person motivated?” The answer to this question must come from the individual. A coach’s ultimate goal is not to argue for change, but to help coachees vocalize the motivation for change that’s already in them.

This blog post was adapted from the original, which appears on the ICF blog.

Original art by Theo Payne.

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