The SOAR Coaching Model


A Coaching Model By Renae Waneka, Leadership and Business Coach, UNITED STATES

The SOAR Coaching Model

Professional working women strive to advance their careers to the highest levels of leadership yet experience many frustrations and systemic issues along the way – including their own personal mindsets and behaviors, societal expectations of their behavior on the job, and dissatisfaction with the world of work. These circumstances limit their advancement, present obstacles in helping them reach their professional goals, and reveal themselves in the data. Women continue to be grossly underrepresented in all levels of leadership – only 44 (8.8%) of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies identify as women (Smith, 2022), only 25% of C-suite leaders are women (LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 2022), and fewer women are promoted from entry-level positions into manager roles compared with men (LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 2022). While the share of women in leadership positions has increased, women remain underrepresented at all levels of leadership.

In addition to the lack of women in leadership positions, more women are leaving the workforce altogether as work is failing to provide what they want and expect from work. In a 2022 study of 40,000 women in the workplace conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, they found that “women leaders are leaving their companies at higher rates than ever before… for every woman at the director level who gets promoted, two women directors are choosing to leave their company” (LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 2022). Between 2020 and 2022, women said that they wanted more flexibility from work and wanted to work with a company that is more committed to employee well-being, diversity, equity, and inclusion (LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 2022).

As individual women confront their own challenges with work, discussing their dreams and how they can build what they want from work with a leadership coach is a tremendous opportunity for women to soar. Whether women are confronting a lack of flexibility at work, challenged by a lack of promotion opportunities in their current work situation, or considering changing companies or careers, the SOAR Coaching Model is one approach to helping individual women discover their next steps in reaching their professional goals.

SOAR Coaching Model

The SOAR Coaching Model is built on the foundation that women have professional dreams and aspirations and need help navigating some of the systemic barriers and individual habits and behaviors to achieve their dreams. Understanding the significance of the issues they are bringing to the table and how they align with their internal purpose will help them stay internally aligned and show up with the characteristics that make them unique – regardless of their position in work and life. In Harvard Business Review, Nick Craig and Scott Snook wrote about purpose-driven leadership and the importance of “purpose to impact” when planning and acting to achieve goals (Craig & Snook, 2014). When using a “purpose to impact” approach to goal setting, exploring the client’s purpose provides a framework with which they can drive themselves forward by allowing their purpose to drive their mindsets and behaviors towards their intended impact. Using the “purpose to impact” concept, the SOAR Coaching Model helps women connect the obstacles in their work lives to their purpose so that they can lead purpose-driven lives that empower them to create an action plan to achieve their professional goals.

Steps of the SOAR Coaching Model

The SOAR coaching model is an approach to helping women work through challenges by empowering them to identify, act, and soar into the professional opportunities of their dreams.

S – Significance

Significance is identifying the significance of the initial challenge shared by the client. The initial issue may be the frustration with being overlooked for a promotion or feeling like her ideas are adopted by others as their own. Taking that initial challenge shared by the client and then asking open-ended questions to identify the underlying issue helps to explore the significance of the issue, how it aligns with her purpose, why it is important to her now, and how it connects to her values. Understanding the connections between the issue and its significance can help women identify their values, motivations, and associated goals. If a client is trying to get a promotion, a question could be “What motivates you to achieve big goals – like this promotion you’re trying to get?”

O – Options

Once understanding the significance of the issue and the client’s goals, Options help the client identify different options that she could pursue to change her mindset or behavior. This approach helps the client broaden her thinking around approaches to reaching her goal. Asking powerful questions that allow the client to explore how she might approach her goal helps the coach explore different options for the client to consider.

A – Action

Once options have been discussed, Action is helping the client to narrow and define which action she will take of the options identified. Working with the client to ensure that the next steps associated with the action are framed as SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound) will help the client have a plan for implementing what they plan to do and a way in which they can measure it (Martins, 2022).

R – Reflection

There are two components of the Reflection element of this model. The first is for the client to reflect on the coaching session – where they started with their initial issue, the exploration of the significance of that issue, options to take action on, and their action steps – to see how they are thinking and feeling about the process and where they have ended up with the coaching session and their planned next steps. The second component is to have the client reflect after completing their identified action by asking themselves questions such as those that follow.

  • Did you complete the identified action? If not, what prevented you from completing the action?
  • What insights did you have after completing the identified action? How are these insights related to the goals you identified?

The SOAR Coaching Model – Significance, Options, Action, and Reflection

Women aspire to leadership positions. While women encounter systemic barriers to leadership positions and frustrations that impact their ability to achieve their professional goals, the SOAR Coaching Model – Significance, Options, Action, and Reflection – is one approach to help women determine a path forward so that they can soar and reach their dreams.

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


Craig, N., & Snook, S. (2014, May). From Purpose to Impact. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved November 27, 2022
LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. (2022, January 17). Women in the Workplace Study 2022. LeanIn.Org. Retrieved November 27, 2022
Martins, J. (2022, July 19). How to Write SMART Goals (And Why They Matter) • Asana. Asana. Retrieved November 27, 2022
Smith, M. (2022, July 22). Fortune 500 CEOs Roz Brewer, Kathy Warden, and Beth Ford share the best career advice. CNBC. Retrieved November 27, 2022

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