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The FUEL Coaching Method: Definition, Pros & Cons

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

The FUEL coaching method is one of several managerial coaching methods available. Explore the defining traits of the method, its pros and cons, and the meaning of each letter in the acronym. Updated: 01/23/2022

Heading Down the Road

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of fuel? Gassing up your car to help you head down the highway? Fuel is the power behind our ability to get to work and meet up with friends on the weekend. Fuel in business means something else entirely, though it's still a catalyst toward progress and achievement. It's one style of coaching model used to help people realize personal or professional goals. It's the FUEL method of coaching.

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  • 0:05 Heading Down the Road
  • 0:32 What is the FUEL…
  • 4:23 Applying FUEL
  • 5:03 Pros and Cons of FUEL
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
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What Is the FUEL Coaching Method?

FUEL is a handy acronym that helps us remember each step in the method. Originally developed by John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in the book, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, the FUEL system pairs a coach asking open-ended questions to an employee, whose role is to analyze their own situation, formulate an outcome, and take ownership for completing it. The pieces of FUEL include:

Frame the Conversation

The frame is what the content of the conversation between the coach and the employee will entail. It includes determining how the conversation will proceed and its purpose, as well as identifying outcomes for the coaching session. For example, either party might ask the question, ''What would we like to achieve in this conversation?'' or ''What should the focus on this conversation be?''

Let's look at an example between a manager and an employee. Sasha is coaching an employee of two years named Stephanie. Stephanie has had several run-ins with management, which have caused leaders to deem her as insubordinate and incorrigible. As a result, she is struggling to engage in her job, struggles with taking constructive criticism, and is avoided by her colleagues. When Sasha initiates the conversation, she begins by telling Stephanie what she wants to accomplish in their coaching session.

Understand the Current State

The U in FUEL stands for understanding the current state. This means that the coach works with the employee to get insight into their current reality and help them further develop their perspective. It's all about seeing things from the employee's point of view. During this stage, a coach might even share their perception of the situation after thoroughly listening.

Continuing with our example, Sasha is able to learn that Stephanie feels unvalued in her current role with the company. She has been passed over for other opportunities and has asked to take on more responsibilities, but she has been denied. This acknowledgment from Stephanie allows Sasha to better understand Stephanie's point of view. It gives Sasha an opportunity to ask questions in order to help Stephanie better see the impact her current reality is having.

Explore the Desired State

With greater insight into the current state, both the coach and the employee are now able to explore the desired state. Exploring the desired state or outcome is when the employee explains what they would like to see happen and identify ways to get to that outcome. This is the time when the coach can better help the employee explain the objective and look at action steps to get to the next level.

For our fictional coaching session, this step uncovers Stephanie's desired state. She has aspirations of advancement inside the company, but needs to hone her skills in order to successfully apply for a management position. The two discuss options that might help Stephanie get there, including additional training, certifications, or finishing her college degree.

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