The CPW 7 steps approach for coaches

The CPW 7 steps approach (Visser & Schlundt Bodien, 2005; 2013) is a progress-focused interview structure that is used by many coaches. Both for beginning and experienced coaches this structure is a useful tool to guide their conversations with clients. 

Not to be used rigidly 

These steps can be used in individual coaching, in sessions with groups, and even in self-coaching. The sequence of questions is usually perceived by clients as logical and helpful. But the structure is not restrictive or rigid. In other words, it is not strictly required to always follow the structure. If you have little time, you can decide to use only a few of its steps. And if clients, by what they say to you, use a different sequence then it is quite alright to follow their sequence.

The structure allows clients to bring forward anything they like. At the same time, it gives a useful direction to their responses. Through the questions, clients are led from where they want progress to how they want their situation to become, to what has already gone well, to what small step forward they might take from where they are now. On the following page the seven steps are explained, all with some examples of questions that go along with each step 

1. Usefulness of this conversation 

  • How can we use our time together as usefully as possible for you? 
  • How will you notice afterwards that our interview was useful? 

 2. Clarify the desire for progress 

  • What would you like to become better? 
  • What is bothering you? 
  • How is it bothering you? 

 3. Describe the desired progress 

  • What do you want instead of the problem you now have? 
  • What do you want to achieve? 
  • What will be better when you will have achieved that? 
  • Suppose you are a few months further, and you are satisfied with how things are, what will be better then? What is different then? What would you be able to do differently then? 

 4. Determine where you already are 

  • On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is the situation in which nothing has been achieved yet and 10 means the desired situation has been achieved, where are you now? 
  • What is already there between 0 and your current position on the scale? 
  • What has already worked? 

 5. Analyze previous success 

  • When have you already experienced that what you want to achieve has happened (to some extent)? How did you accomplish that? What worked well? 
  • What is the highest position you have recently been at on the scale? What went better then? How did you achieve that? 
  • Was it useful to talk about this situation? 

 6. Choose one step forward 

  • What small step forward could you take from where you are now? 
  • Which small improvements could you make tomorrow? 
  • How would other people notice you have taken a small step forward? 

 7. Usefulness of this conversation 

  • Was this conversation useful to you? 
  • If so, what specifically was useful to you? 

If you go through the 7 steps once more, you may notice that the approach supports three pillars of the progress-focused approach
  • The progress principle is explicitly highlighted in the conversation by looking at what progress has already been achieved (steps 4 and 5) and by focusing on further needed progress (step 3). The power of small wins is utilized in step 6. 
  • You can also see how the question structure provokes a growth mindset. By asking what progress clients would like to achieve (step 3) and by building a concrete picture of this, confidence in the possibility of progress often rapidly increases. This is further supported by the fact that previous successes are discussed (steps 4 and 5). 
  • Furthermore, the approach is supportive of autonomous motivation, due to the fact that clients themselves can say what the conversation should be about and what they want it to result in (see for example steps 1, 2 and 7). They are also encouraged to formulate their own desired situation (step 3) and choose which steps forward they want to take (step 6).