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Coaching Hotel Team Members the OSKAR Way - Not like training a dog!

By Jim Hartigan
January 2011

Coaching skills, for some, are innate. There are leaders out there who simply seem to know exactly what to do or say in order to bring out the best in others. However, the majority of us could benefit from some training in the art and science of coaching. It’s a critical competency to possess in the business world. A leader is evaluated by his or her ability to inspire a team, particularly when the chips are down and coaching can be a key tactic for accomplishing that task.
So, what does coaching actually look (or sound) like? As one might assume, there are myriad models out there to help leaders hone their coaching skills. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll use the OSKAR model as an example. Developed by Mark McKergow and Paul Z Jackson, OSKAR is a model centered on what they refer to as the “Solutions Focus” approach to coaching. OSKAR stands for:

Affirm & Action
But before our discussion goes any further, let’s take a listen to a real-life example of coaching in action. Exciting! After listening to a brief audio clip, we can evaluate the speaker’s effectiveness using the OSKAR model as our standard.
Allow me to set the scenario. What you’re about to listen to is a man, we’ll call him “Tommy,” trying to coach his dog, “Rufus,” to become housebroken. Pretty straight forward stuff, really. Okay, click here to tune in while “Tommy” attempts to coach his dog. (Note: We really do understand the difference between coaching employees and training dogs, but we’re into both, so cut us some slack, ok?)
Well, there you have it. Assuming that the OSKAR model applies to inter-species coaching, we can probably all agree that Tommy’s attempt at coaching was horrible and should serve as an example of what not to do. Let’s break it down step by step.


McKergow differentiates the “Outcome” phase of OSKAR from the “Goal” phase of other models by stating that the Outcome phase is “not simply the goal of the coachee. It is the difference that the coachee (and those around them) want to see as a result of the coaching.” The Outcome is a more holistic view of what the coachee wants to achieve, and includes an acknowledgement of the signs of progress that become visible during the coaching process.
Tommy’s interpretation of the Outcome phase was off the mark. While he did mention that the Outcome is not only a concern of Rufus’s, but also of others (“nobody likes a house that smells like dog pee”), he presented a rather myopic point of view. He could have expanded his discussion of the Outcome by presenting Rufus with more information than “don’t pee in the house.” For example, he could have explained how Rufus would not only control himself, but in a sense his master, by learning how to communicate his need to demonstrate his sign of progress by barking at the door to go out.  Finally, Rufus would undoubtedly derive increased self-esteem from knowing he would be viewed as a more mature, upstanding member of society once he is fully housebroken.

The “Scale” phase is about quantifying the coachee’s progress during the coaching process. An initial 0-10 scale is set up, with 10 representing the Outcome. The coach and coachee work together to rank where the coachee currently sits on the scale in relation to the ideal, 10 ranking. Throughout the process, the scale is updated to reflect progress.
Here is another area where Tommy missed a key point of the coaching process. He refers to previous successes (“I thought we were making progress here”), but it’s clear that neither he nor Rufus have been keeping track of the progress they’ve made during the coaching process. This would have been a perfect opportunity to refer Rufus back to the scale, remind him of the progress they’ve made (and the treats Rufus enjoyed), and then show him how this latest incident has set their progress back.


After identifying where the coachee sits on the scale, the “Know-how” phase seeks to discover what has been working to get the coachee to where he or she is. The coach’s task is to go on a fact-finding mission to figure out as much as possible about what motivates the coachee.
Tommy did a sub-par job during the “Know-how” phase of his coaching. He identified that treats seemed to be working briefly for Rufus but it doesn’t appear that he or Rufus have uncovered any other motivators for Rufus’s success. Perhaps, with a little more attention to the Know-how phase, Tommy would have realized that Rufus finds the “Yentl” soundtrack, which has been on repeat at his apartment for 2 months straight, to be completely unmotivating.

Affirm & Action

The goal of this two-part phase, as described by McKergow, is to affirm “the positive qualities of the coachee” as a means of increasing the coachee’s self confidence and fortifying the coach-coachee relationship. Additionally, Action is described as “finding small next steps” that build on what has already been working (as identified during the Know-how phase).
Again, Tommy was off-target with his attempt to affirm the positive qualities of his coachee. It’s not advisable to begin the Affirmation phase with insults such as “Despite the fact that you chase your tail around for hours,” etc. Perhaps some attention and positive reinforcement, like a quick game of Rufus’ favorite pitch and catch with the tennis ball, would have given Rufus the affirmation he needed.  Tommy also failed to break down the Action phase into small, attainable steps. He simply described (or shouted) the “big picture” as a means of wrapping the coaching session.


As with many good models, the final phase is focused on follow-up, evaluation, and continued process improvement. Together, the coach and coachee discuss what has been working and will work better in the future to help the coachee achieve and/or maintain his or her desired Outcome.
Luckily, we were spared from having to listen to Tommy’s attempt at the Review phase, but we can all safely assume that it was embarrassingly terrible.


The OSKAR model we just reviewed is but one of many models that coaches use to work with their coachees. For those of us in the majority who aren’t natural-born coaches, it is important to explore the coaching training and model options available until you find the one that best suits you and your team.
Until next time, remember to take care of your customers, take care of each other, take care of yourself, and take care of your *pets!
*NOTE: No animals were verbally or physically abused during the creation of this blog


About the Author:
Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

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