Agile coaches have the best outcomes: What it takes to be an agile coach

Agile coaches have the best outcomes: What it takes to be an agile coach

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A recent study has found that the clients of agile coaches have better measurable outcomes than coaches without what is known as model agility.

Are you an agile coach? 

What exactly is agile coaching?


This research briefing was sent out to members in July 2016 – be ahead of the crowd and get the

A full copy of this research briefing can be downloaded here


A study recently published by researchers found that the clients or coaches of agile coaches have the best outcomes. But what is it that makes an agile coach? The study measured the client’s outcomes and what factors and attributes the coaches displayed that resulted in the best outcomes.


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Firstly the study found that the most agile coaches tended to have the best outcomes.


Agile coaches


Agile with reference to coaching refers to the ability of the coach to be able to analyse and process what is going on for the client through a number of different perspectives and come up with a range of options based on several theoretical coaching models.

The researchers found that coaches that use a system for analysing their coachee’s position through four or more models of psychological enquiry show much greater agility and ability to meet the needs of their client than those that don’t. This model agility, or parallel lines of thought and analysis, helps the client to arrive at the best solutions, especially for complex problem scenarios.


Coaching agility


In developing this understanding of model agility the researchers, based at Harvard Medical School, used the adage that ‘if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail’.

The researchers found that coaches who are only using one or two schools of thought or models to help someone with a complex issue, are significantly more likely to force the client down their ‘line of understanding’. What this means is that the coach’s understanding of the situation will be limited and restricted due to their general lack of model agility.


The 4 model bases of agile coaching


The study found that coaches with at least a grounding in four meta-models of coaching tended to be significantly more agile than coaches with a lower level of model agility.


4 coaching models

Agile coaches provide significantly better, more flexible and adaptable outcomes for their clients. Whilst there are a large number of other models that could be used by coaches, the researchers found that there are four schools of thought that distinguish themselves primarily because they sometimes clash and therefore provide paradoxes. It is this set of paradoxes, that provides and develops the level of agility required in the coach.


In brief


In brief the study found that coaches that:

  1. Know at least four different psychological coaching meta-models
  2. Can hold all of these models in their minds as they coach and
  3. Are able to apply them appropriately to their clients


tend to have better coaching outcomes for their clients than coaches who operate from one or two (or even no) psychological models. This ability is known as model agility and, as this study shows, significantly enhances the results of the coaches.




The researchers found that model agility not only leads to better coaching outcomes but also fosters and develops more agile approaches from the coachee. Further the researchers discovered that model agility is particularly suited to the complex problems most executive coaches face.


A full copy of this research briefing can be downloaded here which includes full details of the 4 paradoxical models


Reference – available to members and in the full research briefing 


This research briefing was sent out to members in July 2016 – be ahead of the crowd and get the very latest research briefings as they happen by becoming a member of The Oxford Review



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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page