Situational Coaching Model

Learn the 6 paradigms of the Situational Coaching Model (SCM) – plus exemplary questions & guidelines to navigate any coaching conversation.

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What is Situational Coaching?

Situational coaching is a dynamic approach that emphasizes a coach’s ability to tailor their style to the unique needs and circumstances of their coachees. It recognizes that different situations call for different levels of guidance and support – and that effective coaching requires the flexibility to adapt to varying conditions.

At the heart of situational coaching is a balanced approach that blends directive and nondirective coaching styles – the former involves providing more guidance and feedback to the coachee, while the latter revolves around active listening and open-ended questioning to facilitate self-discovery and learning. By striking the right balance between these two directions, coaches may enable people to realize their goals and unlock their full potential.

In the workplace, situational coaching equips managers with the tools and knowledge needed to implement the Situational Leadership process – and drive ongoing coaching conversations with employees. Through this approach, managers may align their behaviors with the readiness and needs of team members, as well as utilize a range of techniques and frameworks to enhance their performance.

Situational coaching

Introduction to the Situational Coaching Model

The Situational Coaching (SCM) model is a powerful tool for coaches to engage in meaningful dialogues with their clients. This conversational model is comprised of 6 steps – designed to help coaches navigate the coaching process with flexibility and precision, and adapt to the unique needs of each client/ circumstance.

The beauty of the SCM is its fluidity, allowing coaches to move seamlessly from one step to the next as needed. Seasoned coaching experts know how to combine different steps with ease, while still adhering to the golden principles of coaching.

Below are the key situational coaching questions:

ParadigmKey questionBrief description
GoalsWhere are you going? What have you accomplished?Goals and accomplishments in coaching
ExplorationHow are you going to get there? What else do you need to consider?Generating more ideas and possibilities, and seeing wider perspectives
AnalysisWhere are you now? What is the best way of getting there?Knowing the reality of where you currently stand – and finding out the best options for goal attainment
ReleasingHow do you feel? How can you feel better?Releasing and letting go of negative emotions that are blocking you, and evoking positive feelings
DecisionWhich path are you taking?Making the best choices among alternatives
ActionWhat action steps do you need to take? By when?Developing and committing to an action plan with a timeline

A genius coach knows how to shift seamlessly from one conversational paradigm to another – to best meet the needs of the situation for optimum results.

Jack Canfield & Peter Chee

6 Paradigms of the Situational Coaching Model

As mentioned, the Situational Coaching Model (SCM) is comprised of 6 components:

  • Goals
  • Exploration
  • Analysis
  • Releasing
  • Decision
  • Action

Situational Coaching Model

  1. Goals

Key questions: Where are you going? What have you accomplished?

One critical aspect of situational coaching is setting goals that motivate and focus the coachee to achieve their desired results. During this step, the coach centers the conversation on the client’s goals, seeking to understand what they hope to gain from the relationship.

In case of limitations to the amount of interaction, it’s essential to help the coachee focus on what is realistically achievable within the current conversation. Conversely, if the relationship starts for an extended period (e.g: 6 months), both parties are recommended to identify one or more overarching goals to work towards.


  • A client engaging in coaching over nine months, meeting every two weeks for a 90-minute session, might want to focus on discovering their life’s purposes and setting goals that align with these purposes.
  • Another client who participates in four coaching conversations over two months to help complete an important work project may need a more specific and detailed goal.

By setting clear goals and working towards them in a structured way, coachees may be able to unlock their full potential and achieve meaningful progress towards their aspirations.

  1. Exploration

Key questions: How are you going to get there? What else do you need to consider?

In situational coaching, discovery is a critical step that enables coachees to unleash their creative potential, gain a broader perspective, and generate innovative ideas that yield better results in less time. As a coach, it’s essential to help coachees nurture their creative thinking skills – by providing a safe and supportive environment for exploration.

Staying open to new ideas is key to this process. Encourage coachees to explore diverse points of view, as well as reflect on their goals and actions – so as to avoid missing out on any valuable ideas that could inform their decisions.

As a coach, you can add tremendous value to your coachee’s journey by fostering openness, encouraging breakthrough thinking, and promoting maximum creativity. Don’t be afraid to challenge them to come up with “weird” and “outrageous” ideas, as these often lead to the boldest and most innovative solutions.

Through discovery and creative exploration, coachees have the chance to attain breakthrough insights and realize their full potential, helping them to achieve their goals and reach new heights of success.

  1. Analysis

Key questions: Where are you now? What is the best way of getting there?

In the Situational Coaching Model, once ideas and solutions have been researched, the next step is to help the coachee identify the ideas and approaches most relevant to them. Remember that in most cases – a single coaching session is not enough to fully explore all of the available options. Therefore, it’s essential to work collaboratively with the coachee to assess and select the best solutions. This evaluation process will provide a solid foundation for understanding the gap between the coachee’s current reality and their desired outcomes.

During the analysis phase, the coach plays a crucial role in enabling the coachee to make better and more objective decisions. This can be achieved by asking insightful questions that delve deeper into aspects that matter most to the coachee (side note: it is also a great opportunity for them to practice their problem-solving and analytical skills).

By working together this way, both parties have the chance to identify the most effective path forward to visualize the desired outcomes.

  1. Releasing

Key questions: How do you feel? How can you feel better?

In the current fast-paced world, the need for coaching and counseling has never been greater. Every day, we face challenges that leave us feeling anxious, drained and bogged down by our own internal struggles.

Unlike mentoring, coaching is not about fixing people – it’s about providing a supportive environment for the coachee to solve their own problems. In the Release step of situational coaching, the coach’s role is to be present, empathetic, and caring. By listening actively and asking thoughtful questions, he/she can help the coachee articulate their thoughts, gain clarity into their own emotions, enhance self-awareness, and release any psychological pain they may be holding onto.

It’s important for the coach to remain grounded and objective during this step, and not let the coachee’s problems affect their own emotions. By establishing a safe space for the coachee to share their struggles, the coach enable them to lighten their emotional load and boost their morale. Ultimately, this will cultivate within them the resilience and inner strength needed to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and confidence.

Don’t be surprised if the coachee display strong feelings/ reactions during sessions – in fact, it should be a positive sign that they are experiencing an emotional release that will ultimately help them feel better. For some people, opening up and sharing their feelings may take time and requires a building of trust in the relationship.

As a coach, make sure to always respect the coachee’s pace – and avoid pressuring them to express themselves before they are ready. Instead, focus on showing genuine concern for their well-being. This will allow you to connect with them on a deeper level – as well as facilitate the replacement of negative emotions with positive ones.

  1. Decision

Key questions: Which path are you taking?

The Decision step in situational coaching is crucial for allowing the coachee to make the best actionable decision. Remember, rushing them can result in hasty and erroneous decisions – or even worse, ones to which they are not fully committed.

If the coachee is not ready to make a decision, try to find out why. Asking questions can help identify gaps in information/ areas where the coachee needs more time to do research or consult with others. In such cases, it is better to move to the Action step and come up with actions that enable the coachee to make the right decision in the next coaching conversation.

Sometimes, the coachee may be overwhelmed with too many options. As a coach, your role is to aid them in prioritizing and processing the more important one first. This will allow them to take action and begin achieving results soon.

  1. Action

Key questions: What action steps do you need to take? By when?

Taking action is the most crucial paradigm in situational coaching. However, pushing clients to take action before they are truly ready will likely lead to ineffective results.

There are several reasons why a coachee may be hesitant to take action, such as a lack of clarity and commitment to previously set goals, encountering obstacles that hinder progress, or dealing with the consequences of hasty and wrong decisions.

If the coachee is not ready to take action, it may be best to move on to other appropriate steps – and return to Action later. Even with the best efforts, one may still struggle to come up with a plan of action – in such cases, make sure to allow them to go back, reflect, and seek out more ideas.

Once an action plan is established, you need to support the coachee in being accountable and committed to their goals. Regular progress reports can be submitted at the next coaching session – this ensures that the coachee will be responsible for taking the necessary steps to create a new future for themselves.

How to Apply the Situational Coaching Model

The Situational Coaching Model (SCM) was developed to address the challenges of coaching in today’s world. Other models often rely on a simple, step-by-step approach to structuring coaching conversations, which can become rigid, uninteresting, and mechanical over time. While such patterns may be useful for those just starting out in coaching, experienced coaches tend to find them more of a setback.

SCM is a contemporary conversation model that can be applied flexibly to any situation. Although the 6 paradigms outlined above are presented in a linear sequence, in reality – coaching conversations are often more complex and require a coach to be adaptable. There is no single rule that is applicable to all scenarios; experienced coaches should strive to navigate each conversation by seamlessly transitioning from one step to the next – based on their client’s needs and the unique circumstances of each case.

Situational coaching

Situational Coaching Examples

  • Time: 80 minutes
  • Paradigm Sequence: Releasing – Goals – Releasing – Decision – Releasing – Action

One of our expert coaches had the opportunity to work with Lorenzo – an ambitious entrepreneur responsible for a chain of retail lighting stores. From the onset, Lorenzo expressed his desire to attain a better work-life balance.

During their first session, his coach established a strong rapport with him by asking relevant questions – and showing genuine interest in his situation. Lorenzo felt heard and safe, allowing him to express his concerns about work and family.

Recognizing the need to release pent-up emotions, Lorenzo’s coach seamlessly moved to the Releasing step. After a deep and empathetic conversation, Lorenzo felt lighter and ready to tackle his challenges head-on. With a question, his coach steered him back to his coaching goals, which helped him realize the impact of his work challenges on his family’s happiness. They agreed on a goal, and Lorenzo committed to improving his relationship with his loved ones.

As they progressed, Lorenzo uncovered a deep-seated issue that had been affecting him for years. His father’s workaholic tendencies had led him to believe that his career was everything, causing him to neglect his family. Through skillful questioning, his coach helped him recognize the limitations of this belief.

In the Decision step, Lorenzo committed to take control of his life and not let his work dominate him. The coaching session was coming to an end, but Lorenzo still needed to vent about the issues he was facing with his wife. His coach empathetically listened for an additional 15 minutes before helping him define action steps for their next meeting.

Through this approach, Lorenzo’s coach showed that situational coaching can be highly effective in creating a flexible and customized coaching experience that addresses clients’ unique needs.

Final Thoughts

Through decades of experience coaching business leaders and others, we have encountered a multitude of unique situations. We understand that every coaching conversation and relationship is different, which is why we have developed the Situational Coaching Model (SCM). Instead of following a rigid structure, SCM allows you to adapt and change your approach in real-time, ensuring a smooth and productive coaching session for the coachee.

To truly master this Model, consistent practice and reflection are essential. Over time, your intuition will sharpen, allowing you to navigate diverse circumstances with ease and maximize effectiveness. With dedication, intuition, and attentiveness, you may expect to achieve an advanced level of coaching mastery in no time.

Compiled based on the publication “Coaching for Breakthrough Success” – by Dr. Peter Chee and Dr. Jack Canfield:

Coaching for Breakthrough Success

Other resources you might be interested in:

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