CLIMB – A Step at a Time Towards Your Optimal Performance


A Coaching Model By Marta Potulna, Leadership and Optimal Performance Coach,  AUSTRALIA

CLIMB: The Client Observes and Explores Their Path Forward

You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step. Martin Luther King Jr.

Working as a leader and with leaders at different levels of an organization has taught me that leading is one of the most rewarding and at the same time one of the most overwhelming roles in a corporate environment. Leaders impact people’s lives and the thought of it itself may be daunting for many professionals in leadership roles. The expectations of leaders by those in their charge are high, but very often not as high as the expectations of leaders of themselves! The inherent pressure to be “everything to everyone” can undermine leaders’ confidence, self-esteem, and consequently their productivity and performance.

In my career as a People & Culture leader, I have met many high-performing players who turned into poor-performing leaders. Why is that? Because the moment they stepped into leadership, their role fundamentally changed, and the new expectations were far outside of their comfort zone.

How can I as a coach support these incredible people so they can have strength, courage, confidence, and trust in themselves to climb up the steps of this new challenge, even if they can’t see the whole staircase?

As a leadership and optimal performance coach I strive to help my clients find their “optimal place”. Optimal performance doesn’t mean being the best. It means to be the best version of yourself and achieve great outcomes by intentionally applying your own unique talents and qualities in a productive way.

My CLIMB coaching model takes the client through the coaching process one step at a time, without hurry and without strict timeframes. It gives the client time and space at each step to really come to terms with their wants, needs, dreams, limitations, obstacles, and possibilities beyond today. Each step in CLIMB has two lenses through which the client observes and explores their path forward.


CLIMB Leadership Coaching Model Marta Potulna

Current Circumstance & Control

  • What is your current circumstance, or concern?
  • What is in your control, and what is not?

This is the first step in the CLIMB process of partnering between the client and a coach. This is an interesting step because it gives time to look at the client’s current situation through the lens of what is in their control, what is it that they want to control, and what is it they can let go of at the start. The control circle perspective is a helpful lens for exploring the desired situation and using the awareness of my control circle in the goal-setting process.

Longing & Limitations

  • What is the ideal state you have envisaged for yourself?
  • What limitations do you see/anticipate?

Now an interesting step of exploring the client’s desired states, the places they are longing for. Longing invites the client to feel strongly about their desired outcome in the goal-setting process and asks the question of how much do you want this to be your goal and what meaning is behind this ‘longing’? The second lens of limitations helps the client keep their feet on the ground and assess their longings from the perspective of what potential obstacles could stand in the way to reaching their optimal place.

Ideation & Initiation

  • If there were no limitations, what would you like to see happen?
  • How can you initiate it / make it happen/get started?

Now, this is the fun part where the client is invited to ideate and think outside the box about ‘what if’. Ideation opens up the mind to endless possibilities, invites creative energy to flow, and works around the limitations of the previous step. This step is about stocking up options, and different routes to the goal, it’s like creating a map with different walking trails and playing with different scenarios. It’s in a way a playful step of the CLIMB process because it feeds our internal child (metaphorically). The second lens, initiate, asks to sift through what really matters and what will make the biggest difference. The client is invited to evaluate their own motivation as to which route they want to take.

Means & Measures

  • What do you need / what support / to get started?
  • How will you measure progress?

The lens of means is inviting the client to well prepare for the path ahead and consider what they need in order to succeed and what supporting tools they might want to call for in the process. The second lens of measures is straightforward – it invites the client to follow up on their own progress. This is more than just accountability, this is an invitation for the client to lead themselves in the growth process and to measure their own ‘progress steps toward the goal.

Buy In & Begin

  • How convinced are you / what is your drive right now to get started?
  • When / how will you begin?

The last step in the CLIMB model is about the final review of the client’s belief in the road map and their “emotional connection” with the plan. It’s an invitation to mentally sign off their plan, just before they begin the journey and take steps toward optimal performance.

I often think about the days when I believed I was inadequate as a leader, and couldn’t do it, and how scary this thought was. Thankfully, I had a great boss as my coach who gave me time and space to become the best version of myself and flip from “I can’t do it” to “Yes, I did it!”. With my CLIMB coaching model, I won’t give the same opportunity to my clients and take them to step by step from “I can’t do it” to “I want to do it”, through “How do I do it?” and “I’ll try to do it” to finally “I can do it” and “I will do it”. So that one day they can say “Yes, I did it!”.

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