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Understanding implicit models that guide the coaching process

Robert Barner (Belo Corp., Plano, Texas, USA)
Julie Higgins (Austin, Texas, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 13 February 2007




This paper seeks to provide readers with a better understanding of four theory models that inform coaching practice, and to reflect on how the theoretical approach that one adopts is likely to shape one's coaching practice.


This article is based on the authors' combined 30 years of experience as internal and external executive coaches. Organizational examples are provided to illustrate key concepts.


The authors conclude that, although coaches tend to be eclectic in the methods that they employ, they tend to center their craft on one of four prevailing coaching models: the clinical model, the behavioral model, the systems model, and the social constructionist model. These models inform the practice and shape the approaches that OD practitioners take in directing coaching assessments and interventions.

Practical implications

This article serves as a “think piece” to help OD practitioners understand the theoretical assumptions, constraints, and caveats that are associated with each model. The authors strongly believe that having this knowledge enables practitioners to introduce a higher level of discipline and effectiveness into the coaching process.


This article represents a unique attempt to bridge theory and practice by encouraging readers to reflect on how each individual's practice is developed from, and informed by, a particular theory position. It represents one of the few papers that have tackled this particular management development topic.



Barner, R. and Higgins, J. (2007), "Understanding implicit models that guide the coaching process", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 148-158.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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