The Six W’s: What are they and How Can You Use them in Coaching?

Commonly used in coaching practices, the six W's are an important resource and technique for coaches to use in effective coaching practices.

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Whilst a lot of the time we focus on mentoring, our platform can be used for coaching programmes too. In fact, some of our clients have adapted the phraseology (that’s a feature we have on PushFar) to focus solely on coaching. So, we thought today we would write an article exploring one frequently used coaching technique. The Six W’s.

You may have heard of the Six W’s but then again, maybe you haven’t. Either way, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this article. The Six W’s are six words, unsurprisingly, beginning with the letter W, to help coaches and the individuals they are coaching. This coaching tool can be applied on a daily basis and helps transform the individual's current situation and analyse it effectively.

Both a conversational and accessible tool, the Six W’s allows the coach or interested party, to help their ‘coachee’ (the person their coaching), their team and the people in their environment. During a conversation, you can use this technique to clarify where an individual wants to go, what they want to have, who they want to become and what their goals are. The punctual questioning process consists of often taking the individual out of their comfort zone and building an action plan to achieve their goal, or goals.

This conversation involves the development of skills, coping with challenges, promoting behavioural changes and emotional control, among other things. So, let’s dive into the six W’s and explain how this all works. The Six W’s consist of six English words. Expressions that are used to identify:

  • Why. Why training: what are the objectives and expected results.
  • What. What should be taught: training content. This also includes values to be transmitted by the coach or instructor.
  • Where. Where it should be taught: the training location and necessary infrastructure. Several factors that can stimulate learning or discourage trainees, and these must all be taken into account.
  • Who. Who should teach: the coach, instructor, qualification and knowledge of the subject. Today it is also important to evaluate other factors such as creativity, relationship, and dynamism. The power to captivate to teach.
  • For Whom. Who should learn: trainees (with their due history).
  • When. When should be taught: time or periodicity? Work that begins in the classroom must continue with the adoption of a calendar for new training or through periodic meetings.
As well as the above Six W’s, there are three additional considerations, which sadly don’t begin with the letter W but they’re still important too!

  • How. How to teach: the instructional methods and resources.
  • How much. How much should be spent: the volume of financial and time-based resource.
  • How many. How much to train: the duration and the intensity.
Now that we know all of this, let’s explore how these words can work and some of their potential applications in coaching.

Current state
Identify where that person is, what their current ‘state’ is and their emotional state. This state consists of a self-reflection for them identify their life as a whole: their career, affective and family relationships, health, emotional.

Desired State
In a continuous process, after obtaining the answers from the current state, this is the search for knowing where the individual wants to go. What is their main objective, the one that will guide them along their path? Determining the desired state helps to build the action plan at the end of the analysis.

Going to the second W (what), it’s important to identify the challenges necessary to overcome, in order to achieve the greater purpose. Aspects that can prevent success at the end of the journey must be worked on to minimise the chances of giving up.

Here, we assess what resources are needed to reach an end goal and/or to overcome the challenges. These resources can be material, such as money, or people, or even internal resources, characteristics of the person.

Having defined the current and desired states, the possible challenges, and the necessary resources, it is time to plan the actions. Those that happen after the conversation or at a certain time, depending on the target term. Observations need to be transformed into concrete actions, such as investing in savings, enrolling in a course, starting a diet and exercising. The whole plan depends on the initial purpose and end goals.

Finally, measure the results. It is important to know what and how your performance was and when your goals are achieved. In some instances, you’ll have a clear understanding of the end goal and know when you’ve reached it but defining the process can help you to measure it and work out how far you are from completing it. These measurement indicators can further support motivation too.

Now that we have the whole process of executing the Six W’s tool, the next question may well be “how can I actually implement this?”.

The tool is simple, basic, and yet when executed correctly can be immensely powerful, and capable of transforming people's lives in a short space of time. For this success to be achieved, recognition by the coachee is important.

Follow the implementation steps:

  • Step 1: present the person with their challenges and help them to understand the problem.
  • Step 2: provide possible solutions to their challenges and problems.
  • Step 3: seek the person's agreement and commitment to start the concrete action phase.
  • Step 4: perform the follow-up necessary actions and measure the results.
Several coaching tools can be applied in professional and personal life, as well as being used outside of sessions. Coaching increases the effectiveness of the technique and allows a better support the coachee, increasing the chances of the success. Remember, if you’re looking at coaching, why not try mentoring someone first? It’s more flexible, directive and based on personal experience.
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