The Best Coaches Routinely Employ the WOOP Exercise

January 11, 2018

Are you sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like most people, you’re finding that making changes is very challenging. Data published by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) describes what increases your chances of success:

  • If you listen to someone else talk about achieving a goal, your chance of accomplishing a positive outcome is 10%.
  • If you decide to accomplish a behaviorally-based goal, your chances improve to 25%.
  • If you establish a deadline, you increase your probability of succeeding to 40%.
  • If you create an action plan, you boost your chances to 50%.
  • If you commit to someone to remain persistent, you boost your success rate to 65%.
  • If you get performance coaching, your likelihood of success jumps to 95%!

How do you determine whether someone can be an effective coach? Find out if the person you’re considering utilizes the three steps that studies show lead to the best results:

  1. What tools does the performance coach use to assess when you’re at your best as well as when you’re struggling?
  2. Do they establish a routine, ongoing two-way feedback loop? In addition to giving you suggestions to improve your performance, it’s essential the coach asks you about what they can do to tailor their approach to suit your learning style.
  3. Do they engage you in “deliberate practice” activities? Successful people do things differently than individuals who remain stuck: They engage in effortful activity designed to improve performance.

Effective coaches give homework designed to change your thinking and behavior in every meeting. Deliberate practice includes:

  • Becoming aware of and replacing old mindsets and patterns of behavior that have become “automatic” and are blocks to your success.
  • Establishing an overall action plan and providing specific practice steps at the conclusion of each meeting.
  • Measuring progress by comparing your performance to your starting point.
  • Refining your homework as you give feedback to your coach.

The best coaches routinely employ the WOOP exercise to solidify the plan for taking the next step. WOOP has been proven to greatly enhance the probability that you’ll actually follow through on your assignments in research by Gabrielle Oettingen at New York University. WOOP is an acronym for a four part process that is completed at the time you determine any new behavior you want to practice:

Wish – What will it look like when you have reached your goal? What new behaviors will be displayed?

Outcome – How will you feel when you’ve accomplished your goal? How will success change the way you think about yourself?

Obstacle – What is it within you that could hold you back from doing your homework? What does your inner critic say could go wrong if you deliberately practiced new behaviors?

PlanIf the obstacle within you arises and you’re hesitant to act, then what will you do to overcome that inner block? Where can you post your “If, then” plan so you’ll see it when you need a reminder?

When you agree to start working with someone, see how the first session or two goes. An alliance will be forged by discussing:

  • What you wish to achieve and why
  • Your beliefs, values and experiences
  • What you think should be the way goals are achieved
  • How you feel about the coaching

The best coaches establish a two-way feedback system. They ask about what progress you have made at the beginning of every meeting, and what they could do even better at the end of a session.

If there has been no improvement or there has been a decline in your performance, great coaches drill down to understand more about the situation and the internal obstacles that are holding you back. After asking numerous questions, they will offer a new or refined strategy for you to try. Success requires grit = passion + perseverance.

Feedback creates an alliance between you and your coach that is based on the principle that both parties need to be engaged in learning from one another on how to become more effective in achieving the target goals. A great coach realizes that there is not one strategy that works for every person in every situation; hence, two-way feedback is crucial in order for both parties to continually improve their working alliance.

The coach’s willingness to receive feedback to improve his or her performance provides a growth mindset model. The essence of having a growth mindset can be summed up with Henry Ford’s quip: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

Dr. Tom Muha is the Director of the PROPEL Institute and author of PROPEL to Quality Healthcare: Six Steps to Improve Patient Care, Staff Engagement and the Bottom Line.

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As the science of optimal human functioning has emerged, Dr. Muha has become a leading practitioner of positive psychology. He has been at the forefront in the study of how people involved in healthcare systems can achieve the highest levels of success and satisfaction. The PROPEL Principles empower healthcare professionals to apply six positive psychology principles – Passion, Relationships, Optimism, Proactivity, Energy, and Legacy – to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable results.

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