CLEAR is a straightforward and intuitive coaching framework developed by Professor Peter Hawkins during the mid-1980s. It outlines a step-by-step process which can be utilised by individuals in managerial roles to enhance team performance and to deal with personal and professional issues.
The CLEAR model was formulated in the early 1980’s by Professor of Leadership Peter Hawkins, then of Bath Consultancy Group. Though it preceded the popular GROW model which developed during the 1990s, it is still considered a functional alternative for managers and coaches. CLEAR operates under the idea that in order to achieve maximum workplace performance, it is no longer enough to be just a manager – directing and orchestrating actions – you must often intervene in the processes of staff and act as a catalyst, or a guide to their development. The model places strong emphasis on the need for coaching and mentoring in today’s fast and competitive business environment to promote employee growth.
The primary focus of the CLEAR model is to create employees that are committed to team plans and are happy to contribute to shared goals, rather than simply complying to managerial demands. The coachee’s situation can be assessed as a whole, or each problem they have can be examined individually and then the process repeated iteratively. The CLEAR model is comprised of five key stages, which are as follows:
- Contract. this stage focusses on establishing desired outcomes – both individual and shared – and revealing how the coach and the process can be tailored to be most valuable to the individual’s needs. The main goal of this stage is to clarify the general scope of the session, and to outline the coaching process in order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. Logistical issues should be tackled, including the frequency, duration and location of meetings, in order to create an organized and trackable schedule for the process.
- Listen. This stage puts emphasis on the coach having the employee share their reality, their thoughts and feelings. The key aspects here are ‘active listening’ and ‘contract’-focused, catalytic questions that aim to allow the coach and individual to truly understand the situation. This step is crucial, as it allows the individual to challenge their own assumptions and motivations surrounding their behaviour. The coach should not intervene overly during this period; instead, they need only encourage and guide the conversation towards the topics and issues at hand. The four levels of listening should here be utilised:
- Attentive: The coach should provide full and undivided attention to the individual.
- Accurate: The coach should be able to interpret and understand what the individual has said, so that they would be able to paraphrase the discussion.
- Empathetic: The coach should be able to show that they understand the underlying emotions of the conversation, not purely the surface-level
- Pure: The coach should be able to understand, interpret and express further than what has been said by the coachee.
- Explore. Once the individual has outlined their current situation, the coach should act slightly more pro-actively to probe further about the depth and context of the situation. This step aims to enable the employee to develop an emotional connection to their behavioural change. More catalytic questions should be utilised to examine how the employee is emotionally and professionally affected by their current situation, and how future actions would impact them. Often in this step, an individual will have an epiphany, or a small ‘light-bulb’ moment, in which they will realise something which has been preventing them reaching their goals. This step also involves the initial determination of potential interventions and exploration of their effectiveness.
- Action. The focus of this stage is to get the employee to commit to the required changes with the intent of internalizing their new outlook. The employee should lead the route to action by truly considering each potential option for their next step and its impact on them, personally and professionally. Once again, the model suggests taking a slightly-backseat, question-focused approach that promotes consideration. This is done with questions that use ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘where’ ‘when’ and ‘how’ to enable the employee to put consideration into their rationale for each decision, and how their action plan will make them feel in perhaps a few months’ time. The coach should also offer support or help to organize potential support pathways throughout the action process.
- Review. This stage is as much about following up on employee progress as it is about feedback on the manager’s coaching ability. It is important to ensure that the employee is on track to reaching their goal whilst asking how the coach can improve their style to provide more support. Feedback should be encouraged from the employee – what they found beneficial, what they struggled with, and what they would change in future coaching sessions. The set of action steps should be reviewed and examined, to confirm that the most suitable and practical plan has been developed. Failure to reach several of their newly developed goals (perhaps gathered at a future coaching session) may require the process to begin again, with a re-assessment of the individual’s new position.
The CLEAR model is primarily used for goal-focused coaching, whereby the coach supports and enables an employee to make changes to their beliefs and behaviours to facilitate their personal and professional growth. It can be applied to situations in which an employee wants to or recognizes that they need to make a change to enable them to become more effective at a specific role or task. An example of this would be if an employee recognized that they were finding it hard to gain support for their ideas, as they can be over-bearing in team meetings. By using the CLEAR model, the coach can enable the employee to identify the areas that require attention as well as the strategies required to remedy these areas. All this personal growth is also overseen from distance by the coach thereby allowing the employee to receive support when they need it whilst still retaining the space to focus on themselves.
The CLEAR model is useful for individuals with managerial responsibilities who also see themselves as personable, aspiring coaches and who are still refining their style, as it allows for feedback for them whilst also providing a platform that encourages employee growth. It can be applied to many scenarios and does not rely solely on the employee noticing that they need to make a change it can also be implemented in situations where the manager intervenes as they believe that there are improvements to be made. Finally, the model is flexible and can be used to promote both long-term and short-term growth both to employees and the managers own coaching style.