Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.
Shifting Your Focus
James recently hired a new college graduate, Sarah, to work in the administrative office of his business. Everything went well the first few months, but it's become obvious that Sarah has started bad-mouthing both the company and its management team. Several workers have already complained about Sarah's mouthy style, and a few others seem to be suffering from stress and low employee morale. James could simply fire Sarah from her position or he could introduce her to OSKAR.
But, who - or what - is this OSKAR?
Developed in the early 2000s by Mark McKergow and Paul Z. Jackson, OSKAR is a solutions-oriented coaching model for businesses. OSKAR provides a framework for focusing on the solution to the problem rather than the problem itself.
OSKAR is an acronym for a five-points method that starts with setting an objective you hope to achieve to reviewing how well the changes have worked. Let's outline each of the five steps now:
O Is for Outcome
Formally know as outcome, this step could also be called objective because you're setting an objective that you want to achieve during coaching. In our opening example, this objective might be to curtail Sarah's behavior so that all employees are happy and successful. At this stage, appropriate coaching considerations might include what you want to accomplish or what a successful long-term objective would look like.
S Is for Scale
Think about the scale step on a scale of one to ten. Where are you on the scale toward achieving the objective you want? Ratings from both the coach and the individual are helpful in getting an honest assessment of where each thinks they are in successful attainment of the outcome.
For Sarah, she probably thinks she doesn't demonstrate a problem and might rank herself as a nine or ten on the scale in terms of appropriate behavior. For James, that ranking might be closer to a three or four. Scale gives you the opportunity to assess where things are at the current moment.
K Is for Know-How
Now that you know where someone stands on the scale, you are better equipped to figure out how to get from where that person is to where you want them to be. For example, if Sarah is a four but needs to be at least an eight, the know-how step is where you figure out how to make that leap.
What does Sarah need to bridge that gap? Perhaps she needs additional training because she doesn't understand enough about the business or why things are run the way they are. It could be that Sarah needs a few sessions with a life coach to work on adjusting her perceptions or communication style. Know-how addresses the action steps to get from point A to point B.
A Is for Affirm + Action
Good coaching doesn't just focus on where improvement is needed but where an employee is already performing successfully. This is where affirm + action comes into play. You speak positively about the areas in which someone in achieving and define the actions that need to be taken to bring a mediocre area up to par.
James recognizes that Sarah is very good at interacting with customers and also quite successful at up-selling them on additional products. She's also willing to work more than her required time each week to complete her tasks. This is affirmation. Next comes the action of defining what needs to happen to be successful in all areas.
R Is for Review
Being able to review how the steps are working is important to achieving your overall outcome. If you don't step back and review how well your plan is working, you can't make tweaks or modifications to get you to your ultimate goal.
In our opening example, James and Sarah identified that additional business training would better help her understand the ins and outs of the business, which should help modify her negative attitude. James assigned her to work with Brooke, who has been with his company for more than ten years. So far, their ''buddy system'' has helped give Sarah a better foundation of what his business is all about. But, he decides an extra step would be good for Sarah and assigns her a mentor inside the business to guide her along.
The review step focuses on the positives that have come as a result of the action steps and assesses if further help is needed.
For supervisors and managers, using the OSKAR model can be a more positive approach to solving a problem than simply calling someone out or reprimanding them for an acceptable behavior or work practice. Because it focuses on solutions, with the support of the employee, it can help both parties develop an action plan to move from the current situation to the goal.
This type of coaching delivers a more collaborative experience that helps the employee take a proactive role in improving his or her performance to achieve set goals. It also gives the coach an opportunity to focus on the positives that are already there. For both, it sets expectations of success and progress, which is a more motivating approach than other methods.
OSKAR Pros and Cons
Still trying to decide is the OSKAR method is right for you? Weigh these pros and cons in making your decision:
OSKAR promotes collaboration between the coach and employee. It's a positive, motivating approach that's goal-focused and oriented towards the solution, not the problem. Employees are focused on making progress one step at a time. Employees also get acknowledgement of where they're performing well, which can be a good motivator.
However, this coaching method might stall on the affirmation step and not address negative behaviors. Employees may be offended by their coaches' differing opinions or behavior rankings, which can arrest any progress they were making. When objectives or outcomes are unclear, the process is also at risk of failure. Progress can be stifled by an employee who won't open up or demonstrate a willingness to collaborate.
The OSKAR coaching method is a solutions-oriented approach to correcting a problem. It utilizes five steps: outcome, scale, know-how, affirm + action, and review. Following the model, you work with an employee to set objectives, determine where the situation currently is, establish action steps to get to the objective, affirm positive behavior, and review the success of the plan. Because of its collaborative, motivational approach, it can be an effective coaching method. However, stalling on the affirmation step or dealing with an uncooperative employee can inhibit the process.
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