The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Models and Frameworks

I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to ideation. Chewing on ideas, building frameworks, creating models, crafting mnemonics, finding ways to connect-the-dots… It’s one of my God-given strengths. And it comes in handy, since I’m often writing curriculum, books, and blog posts.

Model-making can also become one of my weaknesses when I inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) fall in love with my model and hyper-focus on it, to the detriment of my clients.

Models are like metaphors. They need to fit the client’s frame of reference. If I were to use a baseball analogy with someone who could care less about baseball, I’d consider the action thoughtless and a bit lazy on my part.

Frameworks and models also influence outcomes. The carpentry image above gives you an idea of what the building will look like–in this case, a 2nd story addition. But, what if the client doesn’t want to climb stairs? What if the client wants a flat add-on for her home improvement?!

In studying descriptions of Active Listening, the International Coach Federation describes what Active Listening (ICF competency #5) looks like at the PCC credential level—here’s just one of their descriptions:

  • PCC skill level: The coach is focused on what client is saying, but more from the perspective of gathering information that fits into coach’s particular tool or discovery model.
  • Unacceptable to pass PCC skill level: Coach demonstrates that they can only hear through their own perceptions, and models of thinking, learning, and creating rather than being able to hear some 
of the client’s models and methods of thinking, learning, and creating.

Coaching tip from our Advanced Coaching Course:

Look for and draw out the client’s own frameworks.

This doesn’t mean you can never, ever share a different model or framework. Just hold it lightly and, with discernment, draw from your own models when it might complement the client’s learning.

When clients begin to articulate their own ways of thinking, learning, and creating, they will be unstoppable. Do you trust that they can do this?!

For the folks who want to dig deep: To ponder how our frameworks/models impact our behavior, watch professor Robert Sapolsky (author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers) in his Stanford lecture: Intro to Human Behavioral Biology.


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