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What is the STEPPA Model?

STEPPPA (2003) is a coaching and mentoring model developed by world-renowned coach and instructor, Dr. Angus McLeod. It acts as a process by which the context and emotion of a situation or issue can be used to define and act towards new goals. STEPPPA is primarily utilised as a technique when there are difficult emotions in play which need to be overcome. It acts as a framework to assist coaches both during coaching sessions and afterwards to reflect upon coaching practice. 

The questions and prompts which should be utilised during STEPPPA coaching practice are organised acronymically into the following framework:

  • S ubject
  • T arget Identification
  • E motion
  • P erception
  • P lan
  • P ace
  • A ction/Amend


1. Subject

The starting point of the coaching session will be to identify and understand the subject and context of the discussion. 

Generally, the client will be encouraged to initiate the discussion and bring up the topic for discussion. It will be the role of the coach to support the client by separating any emotions which may cloud the discussion and hinder the development of any future goals set. It may take some time and prompting for the coach to fully unravel the extent and context of the subject, and patience is required.

Example questions:

  • What would you like to discuss?
  • Is there an area you would like to focus on?

2. Target Identification

At this stage in the process, the coachee is encouraged to establish an attainable target or outcome, following the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic and Timely) template for goal-setting. 

If a goal cannot be immediately formed, then the coach should gently question the client and guide them towards the desired outcome. The target must be motivational enough for the client to wish to reach for it, but not so far that it is unachievable. The wider context and impact of such new goals should also be considered. If a SMART target cannot be set during this period, the process can continue, but target identification should be reintroduced following the perception section in order to be able to develop a plan for such.

Example questions:

  • What would you like to be the outcome of this session?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • When do you plan to achieve your current goals?

3. Emotion

No decision is entirely objective - emotions are one of our most important motivators, but yet are often neglected by mentors when it comes to aiding their mentees to make important decisions. Sometimes emotions will aid oneself in the drive towards a goal but often they can also act as a hindrance, blocking perfectly attainable targets. 

With a target or area for the subject to aim for, it must be considered whether emotions are going to act restrictively, or as a motivator en route to these goals. If the envisaged emotions are restricting or damaging, it should be considered whether or not the targets which have been set will be worth it. Pathways should be set out by which the individual can work to overcome any current or potential negative emotions. 

It should be concluded whether the client has the emotional motivation to achieve any of the targets previously discussed. Often, professional coaches will require additional training to be suited to interpreting and dealing with the expression of emotions.

Example questions:

  • How much do you want your goal – on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • If you achieve your goal – how will you feel? How will it look?
  • How motivated are you to reach this goal?
  • What would make you more motivated?
  • What is it exactly that excites you about this goal?
  • How will you know when you have achieved your goals?

4. Perception

Perception refers to the understanding of the wider context of the mentee’s situation and goals – how it will impact the grand scheme of things, how it will impact other people’s emotions and goals, and how it will open doors for the next stage of progress. 

Once both coach and coachee’s perspectives have been opened to the wider picture, it is much simpler to explore the various options available to the individual. The coach should not look to decide anything for their client, instead, they should purely look to guide the individual down a single pathway towards a SMART goal, whilst allowing them to continue to make their own decisions.

Example questions:

  • What do you feel about the current situation?
  • What have you already tried?
  • What problems still remain?
  • Is your target definitely what you need at the moment?
  • What choices are you currently making? What other choices are there?
  • What are your impacts on other people? What are future impacts?
  • How could you play to your strengths?
  • What could you do if resources (time, money, etc.) were not a limitation?

5. Plan

Once a target and overall path are initially decided upon, it is necessary to develop and systematically organise the first steps along said path

Once again, the coach should purely provide support whilst allowing the individual to keep control of their own decisions and actions. The plan should follow a series of steps which are entirely mapped out and under the individual’s control, with no ambiguity or difficult choices to be made along the route – instead, all decisions should be made now, before the plan is put into action. They should have clear guidelines and processes set in order for them to be able to check on their progress at regular stages along the route. The coach should offer potential amendments to these carefully laid out plans in order to further aid the individual in finding the most appropriate route to their goals.

Example questions:

  • What feels like the natural next step in the process?
  • What will that open doors for you to do?
  • How will the options you have chosen move you closer to your goals?
  • Look back once you have achieved your goals – what were the steps?

6. Pace

The pace of the plan should be decided through setting timescales and deadlines for the completion of each individual task within. Short-term goals and timescales maintain commitment from the mentee, as minor goals and targets are always attainable and within their sights. These timescales should also, however, be realistic, not unnecessarily short. Deadlines should be used as milestones for progress, and also to act as brief respites when the effects of previous actions can be reviewed.

Example questions:

  • When will you take each of these steps?
  • What is the timeline for your progress?
  • How will you review and measure progress?
  • What support might you require?
  • Are these deadlines realistic?

7. Action/Amend

The entire STEPPPA process should be reviewed, including each individual decision that has been made. 

This is when it should be considered whether there are any further steps that need to be made to make the goals more attainable for the mentee, or whether any action is inappropriate on further reconsideration. If so, stages of this process may need to be repeated in order to gain full commitment from the individual.

Example questions:

  • What have you learnt from the session?
  • What may need to be adjusted?
  • What possible barriers may you reach during your first stage?
  • Is your plan sensible?

The aim is that the subject will leave the coaching session with an idea of their current situation, long and mid-term goals, the effect of their own emotions on motivation and how to improve their drive, a greater perception of their actions on themselves and the world around them, and a carefully devised plan of action with clearly defined steps and measurable goals. This should allow them to retain their motivation throughout a manageable process towards their long-term goals.