This series will showcase a range of coaching tools, drawing from the book, Coaching Tools: 101 coaching tools and techniques for executive coaches, team coaches, mentors and supervisors. This issue: The Magic Roundabout: a tool for helping clients explore multiple choices. Maggie Grieve reports


The Magic Roundabout (Grieve, 2022) is a tool I find to be immensely useful for helping clients explore choices and one which works as well with individuals as it does with groups, teams or boards.

Inspired by a highly effective roundabout in Swindon in the UK, the Magic Roundabout is a tool I’ve developed around the metaphor of a roundabout, how it feels when you reach one and my own personal experience of using this concept with clients. Of course, there may be others who use a similar metaphor – I’d be surprised if I was unique in having thought of the analogy between arriving at a road junction/roundabout and decision making.

The tool
When we’re driving, we use a roundabout to help us get to where we want to go, in a safe and deliberate fashion. When we reach one, we may have already decided or know exactly where we’re going to go and so we take the exit in a pre-planned way. Or we may take an exit on autopilot, without really thinking about it. Or we may use the signs around us to help us decide which road to take. Or sometimes we use our intuition or our sense of direction to guide us in deciding which exit to take. Or even sometimes, we drive round it twice (or more) considering the options as we go, before choosing an exit!

The next time we arrive at the same roundabout, we may make the same choices or a different one, depending on where we’re going at that moment or what circumstances dictate. And when this happens, it’s likely the same exits will still be there. And it’s possible that developments might have added some more.

Using the Magic Roundabout as a coaching tool has several purposes.

First, it provides a strong, useful and familiar-to-most image that becomes the grounding point for the coaching session discussion. It allows for structured yet quite free thinking to take place, so clients can work towards a single picture that outlines the wide variety of options available to them.

Second, it can help clients identify and think through options they hadn’t previously considered, were afraid of, or were not ready to contemplate.

Third, it then allows the client to freely explore each option either alone or in the context of each other, without committing to action in any of the options at that stage.

Finally, it allows coach and client to shortlist or prioritise between two or three favoured options and create possible ways forward with these, safe in the knowledge that de-prioritised options are still available to them at a future date, just as routes off a roundabout would be. It’s this sense of not closing off options by taking one route today, that makes it a most powerful way to explore ideas.

  • How it works
    Offering a piece of paper or a flipchart, encourage your client as follows:
  • Suggest they close their eyes and imagine standing in the middle of a roundabout.
  • Get them to open their eyes and draw the circle of the roundabout and then draw the possible exits (available options to take) – even the least likely should be included.
  • Prompt their thinking as they complete this task, using lots of questions around, for example:
    – what they wanted to do when they were younger but felt discouraged from doing
    – what they dream about
    – options that present risk or too many unknowns to them
    – what they dare not dream of doing
    – what their gut or instinct tells them they should be doing
    – options that are comfortable or well tested or feel familiar and safe, etc.
  • Keep prompting until it’s clear that no other roads exist – either obvious or less obvious. Check this with them. Ask whether it reflects the picture they had in their head – are there any surprises or options they feel excited or uncomfortable about?
  • Next, explore each route with them in turn. Explain to them that you’re going to do this but reassure them that they don’t need to move forward on any of the routes. This is important for open discussion. Use language that describes you walking down each of these routes together – even asking them to close their eyes again.
  • Ask them what they think intuitively about each – does it leave them scared, excited, bored, etc.
  • Get them to note down the upsides and downsides against each route.
  • Now ask them to cross off the routes they don’t want to travel down, even if this is just for now, using a large cross at these exits.
  • When only two or three routes remain, use these as options to further explore either in coaching sessions or with tasks outside of the coaching environment.
  • The client should return with the roundabout picture for subsequent meetings and can be encouraged, in between times, to display this somewhere they’ll see it often, so they can keep thinking. This can also help them to discuss it with a partner, family member or friend to get feedback or reaction.
  • The roundabout (as described earlier) can be further developed into the magic roundabout (roundabouts off roundabouts: to help identify tasks or sub-options within the two or three chosen exploratory routes.

Roundabout lends itself to all sorts of coaching scenarios and I’ve enjoyed using it with clients to help with so many topics, including life or career decisions, business development opportunities, personal development, project prioritisation and company strategy development.

I asked one of my clients – a solopreneur – to write about her experience of working with me. Here, she looks back on her coaching and how it has influenced her business and life.

The client’s perspective
“As a 33-year-old woman, I thought I knew myself pretty well. As it turns out, I still had a lot to learn, and these lessons came at a crucial time. I began working with Maggie when my career was going through a period of change; I had been building a business as a freelancer for years and yet an unexpected opportunity in games design had added an alternative option to my path.

Approaching a junction, I needed a wise guide to help me not only manage the two simultaneously for now but also make some longer-term decisions about which, if either, to focus on – the road of the freelancer, the entrepreneur or something else? I also wanted some support in building my confidence and managing an ever-present feeling of imposter syndrome, both of which were holding me back from my full potential.

I’ve always had trouble knowing ‘my vision’; there were too many contrasting ideas which didn’t neatly fit into one concise, tangible goal. On the flip side, I’m very aware of what I don’t want – so we started there. Being in-person, Maggie and I were able to use paper and pen to brainstorm and take notes. Knowing myself a little better thanks to previous sessions, I started to see patterns and with these, we were able to distil a vision. Maggie helped me get to a feeling, a moment in time, rather than a rigid goal, and for the first time this vision felt right for me.

With a vision in mind, we started trying to think around it, stripping away all the obstacles of life and work and asking: ‘How could I get there’? Maggie wanted unlimited imagination and she encouraged me to think as if everything and anything were possible. Now, I’m a creative person and I love nothing more than a good daydream, but I found this really hard. I assumed being away from my computer and the pressures of the day job would be freeing but I think in reality everyone struggles to think in this way. Seeing my brain melt, Maggie introduced me to her ‘Magic Roundabout’ concept.

The Magic Roundabout starts with a standard roundabout, with each exit an option – a route you can or are currently taking in your life. The Magic Roundabout takes it a step further, providing a new roundabout for each exit until you have a network of roundabouts and a roadmap of choices available to you. In one session, we were able to draw the first few layers of this, realigning my thinking from ‘this is what I do now’ to ‘these are the roads I could take from here’. It seems a simplistic approach but when creativity failed me, it gave structure to my thoughts.

In this fourth session, everything felt like it was starting to come together. Hours of coaching had revealed pieces of me that I loved and also misunderstood, and I was now beginning to choose which of them made it into my bigger picture. In four sessions, Maggie gave me tools to learn from my past, accept myself in the present and create a personalised vision to guide my next steps in the future. We’re not 100% there – I don’t know if anyone ever is – and I’ve yet to choose exactly which road is for me. But the process has given me more confidence to try a few different options without fear of the odd u-turn or pothole. Armed with that, I’ll meet Maggie at the next junction – wherever that may be.”

  • Gemma Newton is creative director of Moonstone Games, designing and bringing to market future based board games, free from single-use plastic and made from sustainably sourced materials. Her first game, Plotalot, was successfully funded on Kickstarter in June 2020 and is now widely available across the UK. Gemma also works freelance as a copywriter and designer.
  • @GemmaNewton

The beauty of this tool is the simple but comprehensive picture of available choices it provides and how it helps a client to overcome feelings of being stuck by promoting creative and unrestricted thought, followed by objectivity to see beyond the choices already identified.

The creation of the image using a pen and paper can provide coach and client with a clearer insight to the client’s big picture and real goals, the pluses and minuses of the options open to them, and any potential roadblocks. This paper image also provides an opportunity for the client to revisit their thinking and their options in their own time later, or together with the coach during follow-up sessions.

At those tender early stages of a coaching relationship, it can help a client to feel ‘safely’ open to more explorative thinking, ideally after a high-level goal has been established and some discussion around the current situation has occurred (ie, in the O – Options – phase, if GROW is being used, for example).

In the example highlighted above, my client and I had already spent some time in three previous sessions working through an exploration of her past and her strengths and values as well as her ‘superpowers’ (another of my favourite tools) and so Magic Roundabout allowed us to build on this to create and provide long-term and short-term options and to start to understand the implications and context between these two planning timeframes.

I wouldn’t be without roundabout either in my own life or in my coaching practice. It is simple, powerful and adaptable. Gemma puts it best in her own words: “It felt like the answers had been there all along, I just hadn’t looked properly. In the next session, we took the vision a step forward and start dreaming beyond the present, looking at the options I had and ones I wish I had.”

  • Next issue: Laura Komócsin shares her Good Enough sets tool



  • M Grieve, ‘The Magic Roundabout’, in C Day, J Flower, J Jovanovic Moon and J Passmore (eds), Coaching Tools: 101 coaching tools and techniques for executive coaches, team coaches, mentors and supervisors: WeCoach! vol 1: 2, Libri Publishing, 2021.
    Volumes 1 and 2 are available from all good booksellers and Amazon:


About the author

  • Maggie Grieve is a triple accredited professional executive and team coach. She holds a business degree from Edinburgh Napier University and postgraduate Diploma in Executive Coaching from Henley Business School (AC and ICF accredited) and in Team Coaching from WBECS (EMCC) as well as a Marketing Diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Maggie spent 30 years in Senior Business Development roles in the Global IT sector and in her last corporate role, Maggie was Head of Global Partnering Strategy for BT Plc. In 2016, Maggie set up her own coaching and strategy consultancy business, Ping Thinking, where she combines her business experience and her coaching knowledge to help clients develop and build personalised strategies, focused on creating success and achieving things that matter to them, by championing strengths, people and team development. Maggie was born and raised in Scotland, but home is now in the beautiful Berkshire countryside, where she lives with her husband, her twin daughters and her much loved German Shepherd dog.