The OSCAR model is a useful coaching and mentoring tool designed by Karen Whittleworth and Andrew Gilbert to provide a flexible developmental framework for individuals in managerial positions to develop the skills and knowledge of their team. It builds upon the original, and still popular GROW Model of coaching which arose during the 1990s.
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The OSCAR coaching model was originally described by Karen Whittleworth and Andrew Gilbert in 2002. The aim of the authors was to develop a model that built upon and enhanced the existing GROW model (1990s), with the intention to provide those in managerial positions with the ability to adopt a developmental coaching style, to the benefit of their company and team.
The model is built around five contributing factors, or sections:
The model operates under the notion that if these factors are satisfied, understood and applied by the coach then the long-term result of their interaction with the employee will be achieving the ‘outcome’, whereby demonstrating effective coaching.
The OSCAR model can be applied in almost any personal development scenario; however, it is argued that it is most effective when used when working towards long term ‘outcomes,’ as the framework provides impetus for the implementation of attainable milestones through the ‘actions’ aspect. For example, an employee may approach the coach for advice on becoming a stronger team leader when taking part in team-based tasks.
Firstly, the coach and the employee should discuss the issue at hand (the primary topic of the meeting) and work together to identify the desired outcome of the session, and the long-term goals of the individual. In the case of the example above, this would likely be to develop the ability to take charge and be heard in team-based scenarios. In a less specific scenario, here are a few sample questions that the manager or coach may ask the individual to encourage discussion:
- What is it you would like to achieve from this session?
- What is your long-term goal?
- Once you have reached your goal – what does it look like? What does it feel like?
The second step would be to ascertain the current skill/ability/knowledge level of the team member and encourage discussion as to why they are at that level. The aim of questioning and discussion here is to raise the mentee’s understanding and awareness of their own situation. Also discussed during this section of the process are the feelings of the individual, and how they feel their current situation is impacting their lives and those of their peers.
- How do you currently feel about your situation?
- Where are you at now in terms of your goals?
- What has been happening in your work and life recently?
- How do you think others feel about your current situation?
Following this, the coach will help the team member to identify all the potential avenues for attaining the ‘outcome’. For example, perhaps undertaking a training course of some sort. For all the brainstormed choices discussed, the consequences and ramifications of each will be considered, allowing the individual to discard less-practical or excessively difficult avenues and work towards a single viable route to their long-term goals.
- What current options for action are available to you?
- What are the consequences of any potential choices?
- What would be the impacts on other people?
- Which of your options has the best consequences for you, and for others?
The next step is to identify where improvements can be made and how to make them. The focus of actions is the immediate and attainable targets that the mentee can work towards. SMART (specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and timely) can serve as a checklist for any of the actions designed during this period of the session. All actions should be motivational enough that the individual will strive and work towards them, but not so far from their current situation that they will find the task impossible and therefore lose motivation. All actions should have distinct – though realistic – deadlines so that the individual is motivated to work, and has points at which they can measure progress. An example of action could be signing up for a training course or identifying a course that would most suit the team member. In addition to this, any support that may be required during the process should be identified.
- What immediate actions will you take?
- When are you going to take those actions?
- Who is going to provide the support for you throughout the process?
- How motivated are you to take these actions?
Finally, in the review stage the coach and coachee will arrange to hold regular meetings to ensure that the team member is on track and to offer any assistance, should it be required. These meetings and review checkpoints can be based upon the deadlines for tasks set in the action section of the process. If it is found that the individual is no longer on track for sections of their action plan, perhaps the long-term and short-term goals should be re-assessed using the OSCAR process once more.
- How do you plan to review your progress?
- When is it suitable for us to review progress?
- Have your actions been moving you towards your goal?
- Are you still motivated to take said actions?
The OSCAR model is useful for coaches that choose to adopt less autocratic approaches to leading and coaching, as it allows them to provide support whilst giving the employee space to take charge of their own action plan. By integrating the model, the coach or manager can regularly check that their team member is on track and working towards achieving their goals, whilst providing a safety net should the team member become overwhelmed or unable to complete certain tasks. As a result, the primary use of OSCAR is to encourage employee development over both the short and long-term. It is particularly useful for coaches that do not have large amounts of time to personally supervise and guide each employee to their outcome, as it allows the coach to provide support whilst encouraging the employee to take the lead on their own development.