ACE (Awareness, Cognitive Triangle, and Evaluation)


A Coaching Model By Carrie Cullen, Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES

ACE – Awareness, Cognitive Triangle & Evaluation

My previous career working in the advertising sales industry and managing salespeople showed me the power of mindset! I was always curious to see who on the team succeeded and who did not. What I learned is that mindset was everything! Specifically stemming from thoughts/beliefs that the salesperson had about a myriad of things: themselves, the product, the proposal, the relationship with the client, and their own belief that the client’s advertising belonged in our magazine. These were all significant drivers of the outcome.

Once I became a manager myself, I saw that my own mindset became critical to my AND my team’s success. Early on, I was riddled with self-doubt, insecurity, and fear. In hindsight, I see that it was my thoughts about the circumstances that were causing all this; and stifling my efficacy as a leader. In my industry, there was no such thing as management training. You were thrown into the deep end and you sank or swam.  And, while I like to think I swam, it took me a while to get my bearings!

But, I’d like to change all that and help new managers find their footing as quickly as possible so that the new manager and team can both thrive. As a new leadership coach, I’ll help new managers become great leaders using the power of their minds.

My coaching model is called ACE. It’s steeped in the Cognitive Triangle and is designed to help clients:

  • Understand the power of awareness
  • Manage their mind and their thoughts
  • Get in touch with and manage their feelings
  • Identify what actions are driving the results they are getting, and how to change them.
  • Understand how changing one end of the triangle (thoughts, feelings, actions) can change the whole outcome.
  • The power of evaluation

Ultimately, once people understand that they can change their reality by changing their thoughts and feelings, they become very powerful creators!

The ACE Coaching Model Visual

ACE Carrie Cullen Coaching Model


Oxford Language’s definition of awareness is:


knowledge or perception of a situation or fact. “We need to raise public awareness of the issue”

Awareness is perhaps the most critical step to the ACE coaching model, for without it, the client will be nowhere. And, this can be a difficult and painful step for new managers; to admit that they feel out of their depth. It’s an incredibly vulnerable position to be in, particularly if one works in a competitive or unforgiving corporate culture. But, coaching provides the perfect safe space, an objective container for this type of work.

Cognitive Triangle:

This tool was designed by Dr. Aaron Beck and illustrates the interactive relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and actions. In order to change our outcomes, we must change at least one portion of the triangle. The important thing is to not get stuck into a cycle of thinking, feeling, and doing the same things over and over again. This is why the ACE coaching model also highlights awareness and evaluation.

A person’s thoughts are very much directing their results. This is because thoughts create feelings, which create actions that create the results they are getting.

If the thought of a new manager is: “I don’t know what I’m doing.” then the feelings that accompany that thought are likely going to be doubt, fear, and insufficiency. These feelings can create actions such as indecision, inaction, and also, “paralysis by analysis”, which can be really detrimental to momentum. This triangle will likely result in more thoughts of “I don’t know what I”m doing.” and so on and so forth.

We must break the cycle, and coaching can help do this. Helping new managers manage their mindsets and thoughts will change this whole cycle. Once they see that they can affect their results by breaking this cycle, they will start to believe in their own personal power and gain confidence bit by bit.


Once the client is able to identify the triangle pattern that’s keeping them stuck and they decide to change their thoughts and mindset, everything will change. This is a good time to stop and evaluate. Being curious (but non-judgemental!) at this stage will truly help the client see clearly the progress they are making and also what’s still holding them back.

Some questions to ask once the client has changed 1 part of their triangle:

  • What new thoughts or beliefs about yourself as a manager are you practicing now?
  • How does the new thought make you feel?
  • With this new thought, how are you showing up vs. before?
  • What feels different?
  • What are you doing differently?
  • How would you like to continue moving forward?

The ultimate goal of the ACE coaching model is SELF-awareness; helping the client to understand where their personal power lies, helping them to understand how they are contributing to the situation, and to give them the tools to change it. I believe tremendous learning and growth come when we realize that the power lies within us and not our outside circumstances.

Great leadership starts with a well-managed mind. In order to handle the myriad of stressors that come with managing a team, a strong leader must first manage him/herself. This is critically important as the team looks to the manager not just for tactical direction, but for a sense of tone and culture. Everything the manager does is a signal to the team of something. For instance, if the manager is completely frazzled and stressed out about a circumstance, this sends a message to the team. Conversely, if the manager handles the same circumstance with ease, calm, and possibly even a sense of humor, this sends a completely different message to the team. In this scenario, the circumstances may be the same, but an entirely different message is being conveyed to the team. Circumstances handled by a manager with a well-managed mind can change the entire dynamic and culture of a team.

Managers with well-managed minds lead to more productive teams and generate better results. Here’s how: 

  • Clearer communication
  • Decisive action leads to faster team response times
  • Inspire trust and confidence
  • Create a safe space for others to share ideas
  • Higher morale
  • Better, more serving team culture
  • Better quality of life for the employees working for that manager

If you have new managers on your team or if you are a new manager, The ACE coaching model can help!

Learn How to Create Your Own Coaching Model

Your Coaching Model reflects your values,
philosophies, and beliefs and must communicate who you will coach
and the problems you will solve.
Read more about creating your coaching model

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