Coaching Tool: Ladder of Inference

Chengeer Lee
3 min readNov 4, 2023

Ladder of Inference is a coaching tool that helps a coachee to become aware how they process information, make assumptions and form conclusions. Let’s explore this concept.

To make things simple let’s create a persona (Sarah) and apply this tool.

Step 1: Observable Data

The first rung of the ladder is observable data or facts i.e. the information that is available.

Sarah is a manager at a tech company. She gets an HR data report. The report shows the team’s productivity has plummeted.

Step 2: Selecting Data

Step 2 — Sarah is selecting data from the data set.

She starts seeing some specific information:

  • the number of completed projects
  • the number of sick days taken by team members
  • negative feedback from the customers

Step 3: Adding Meaning

At this step, Sarah starts to add meaning to the selected data.

This is when the interpretation happens.

Sarah thinks:

  • 💭 there is a decrease in productivity because my team’s performance has dropped
  • 💭 they are taking sick days because they are unhappy here or dissatisfied with the work
  • 💭 negative feedback makes sense if the team is unhappy and underperforming

Step 4: Making Assumptions

As Sarah adds meaning to the data, she begins to make assumptions.

  • 💭 What if my team’s decline in productivity is because of my poor leadership?
  • 💭 What if I am the reason why my team is unhappy?
  • 💭 What if I am responsible for how the team’s unhappiness reflects into negative client’s feedback?

Step 5: Drawing Conclusions

Based on her assumptions, Sarah draws conclusions.

  • 💭 I am a bad manager
  • 💭 I can’t motivate my team
  • 💭 My job is in jeopardy because of my team’s performance

Step 6: Taking Actions

Finally, Sarah’s conclusions lead her to take actions.

She may:

  • become stressed and anxious
  • start micromanaging her team
  • consider seeking a new job thinking that her current position is unstable

What is the practical application of this model?

This model can be applied to coaching and just as effectively to self-coaching.

How to apply this model:

1. Recognize the Model: Understand the Ladder of Inference as a common cognitive process. It helps you to start thinking about your thinking.

2. Start with Data: Begin with observable facts related to a situation. What is your data set?

3. Question Assumptions: Challenge your assumptions and beliefs as you move up the ladder.

  • Are my assumptions well-founded?
  • Am I making any leaps in logic?
  • Could there be alternative explanations for the data?

4. Be Mindful of Conclusions: Your conclusions are based on assumptions. How accurate are your assumptions?

5. Consider Consequences: Think about the potential consequences of your conclusions. How can you reverse engineer from the result that you expect?

6. Take Informed Action: Make decisions based on your thought process and awareness. Are you being reactive or proactive?

7. Monitor Outcomes: Assess the results of your actions and adjust if necessary. Iterate and learn. Reevaluate your data, meaning, assumptions, and conclusions. Calibrate your actions.



Chengeer Lee

Coach | I help Servant Leaders build Unshakeable Confidence and fulfill their Life Purpose ⚙️🔝