Research Paper By Tineke Tammes
(Career Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
In organisations IT systems, processes, teams are constantly changing.
Sometimes these changes are profound and transformational. However, more often than not changes are called ‘transformation’, even though they are nothing more than IT changes, where people need to start using new IT systems, or process changes, where people are expected to do their jobs in different ways and more efficiently. In those cases the word ‘transformation’ is being misused to describe something that is merely a change, thereby devaluing the meaning of the word transformation.
In coaching, we find a range of names given to coaching niches and coaching approaches. Coaches identify themselves as change coaches, transition coaches, transactional coaches and transformation coaches, with little or nothing to describe what this actually means.
So, why does this matter?
You could argue that it doesn’t. What’s in a name anyway, right? However, I believe it does matter what you call the type of coaching you provide for the following reasons:
Coaching is still an unregulated profession, which means that anyone can call themselves a coach without having received proper training in coaching. Adding to this the wide range of names coaches call themselves makes choosing a coach a bewildering undertaking for any client.
Using a common language around the different types of coaching would help clients to be clearer about what type of coaching support they can expect.
For a coach, it requires careful consideration which coaching service they want to provide. Is your ideal client looking to achieve a short or a long-term goal? What is it that your ideal client is actually trying to change? What type of coaching are you able or willing to provide? What language do you use to attract your ideal customer? All valid questions to consider before starting your coaching business.
‘I’m a human doing, not a human being’ is what one of my clients said to me. My – already strong – interest in transformational coaching was put on high alert. Having gone through intense transformational change myself I know the value I would have placed on coaching (instead of the years of self-help books and self-coaching I used to help me through my transformation). In a society so strongly focused on ‘doing’ rather than on ‘being’, I asked myself ‘if transformation brings about such a powerful shift in who you are and how you perceive yourself, how do you place a value on that and what role can coaches play to support people in making this shift?’.
So, first things first, I examined some of the terminology used first.
If the need for coaching comes about as a result of an external driver it is called ‘change’ and is defined as ‘physical manipulation that occurs on the organisational level’[i]
In organisational change management, where IT, process or organisational changes are being externally ‘imposed’ on employees, effective coaching will increase enthusiasm for change, tackle potential resistance early in the change process, and help identify internal influencers of change. In these circumstances, a successfully managed ‘change’ would lead to individuals making their individual ‘transitions’ (see below) toward acceptance of the changes and adoption of new solutions.
In this definition, the ‘change’ is externally determined and triggers a positive or negative reaction that can lead to a change being adopted more readily and with or without resistance.
Transition is defined in the Oxford dictionary as ‘the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another’. Also, unhelpfully, synonyms given include words like ‘change’ and ‘transformation’.
Linda Rossetti in her book Women and Transition: Redefining Life and Work[ii] defines the transition not as ‘the divorce’, or ‘the change in jobs’ or ‘my redundancy’. No, these are merely triggers (or changes, see above). She sees the transition as the decision that leads to action to get you from a state A to a state B.
Transactional coaching is focused on actions, the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘being’. Transactional coaching helps the client to achieve their short term goal and improve performance in relation to that goal. This can be particularly suitable for situations where a specific outcome is required either by the client or commonly by an organisation procuring the coaching on behalf of the client for issues such as overcoming a challenge or improving a specific behaviour.
And then, finally, transformation. The definition of transformation is a marked change in form, nature, or appearance. Where transactional coaching focuses on doing, transformational coaching focuses on being.
A transformational coach doesn’t just try to resolve an issue or a challenge but to explore underlying assumptions, beliefs and values so that the client has a shift in how they perceive themselves.
Classification of coaching
Knowing the above definitions, how do they ‘translate’ into coaching niches and approaches?
Once upon a time, there were two types of coaches: executive coaches and life coaches. Look now and you’ll find an enormous amount of different types of coaching niches. In books like ‘101 Real Coaching Niches’[iii], the new coach can get lost trying to determine the type of coach they want to be. There is:
- Skills coaching – supporting clients in learning new skills: communications, conflict management, engineering, team building and even dog breeding coaching are examples
- Business and career orientated coaching: executive, business, leadership, career and supervision coaching
- Coaching focused on specific groups: attorney, clergy, educator coaching
- Situation coaching[iv] – where external circumstances lead the client to look for support in dealing with these new circumstances: ADHD, cancer, end-of-life and loss coaching are examples
- Relationship coaching: divorce, grandparent and family coaching are examples of this.
Approach to coaching
There are many approaches to coaching and many styles, but in general three kinds of coaching are being identified.[v] These are:
- Performance Coaching
- Developmental Coaching
- Transformative Coaching
Each is distinctive in its intention:
- A performance coach’s main intention is to help the client towards agreed outcomes and to achieve this more efficiently and effectively than if the client didn’t work with the coach.
- A developmental coach broadens the coaching to explore what learning the client takes from the coaching and the change that takes place as a result. The fundamental intention is to create learning from action.
- A transformational coach could be said to work “deeper”. Their focus is on helping the client explore the underlying assumptions, beliefs, values, expectations, personal attitudes that shape their experience of themselves, their world and other people.
Some argue that these different approaches can be found on a continuum and coaches might find themselves moving between these approaches in line with the needs of the client.
What is Transformational coaching
When exploring further what transformational coaching really is I found the below sources.
Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development
Kegan (a former Harvard psychologist) shows that people go through five distinct developmental stages. [vi]
The five stages are:
- Stage 1 — Purely impulse or reflex-driven (infancy and early childhood).
- Stage 2 — The person’s sense of self is ruled by their needs and wishes. The needs and wishes of others are relevant only to the extent that they support those of the person. (adolescence, 6% of the adult population)
- Stage 3 — The person’s sense of self is socially determined, based on the real or imagined expectations of others(58% of the adult population)
- Stage 4 — The person’s sense of self is determined by a set of values that they have defined for themselves(35% of the adult population)
- Stage 5 — The person’s sense of self is no longer bound to any particular aspect of themselves or their history, and they are free to allow themselves to focus on the flow of their lives. (1% of the adult population)
Becoming an ‘adult’ means transitioning to higher stages of development, becoming wiser and more mature, more self-aware and aware of our social environment. The way to achieve this is by being able to be more and more detached of yourself, your emotions, your thoughts, your worldview, your behaviours and being able to view them objectively.
Transformation according to Eckhart Tolle
In his book ‘A new earth’ Eckhart Tolle[vii] sets out his view of how people are transforming. In his view the way to transform is to be in the moment, become aware of when it is your ego talking and detach yourself from any manifestation of your ego.
In his view, your thoughts are not you, but a manifestation of your ego, and “You become most powerful in whatever you do if the action is performed for its own sake rather than as a means to protect, enhance, or conform to your role identity.”
There are really powerful lessons in this book, with regards to:
- Becoming aware – detaching yourself from your thoughts and your ego
- Creating space – by creating space you will allow new things to emerge
- Awakened doing – Tolle states that you should be doing things that you either accept (do without grumbling), enjoy (when you are in ‘flow’) or have enthusiasm for (enjoy and do with purpose). Anything else will cause you and others pain and should be stopped.
Transformation and the role of the coach
So, what does all of this mean for coaches?
Who will you coach?
According to Kegan’s theory of adult development, adults go through stages of development. And whilst – according to this theory – 65% never reach stage 4 of adult development, 35% will!
This means that 35% of people will make the transition from being driven or influenced by what is expected of them by others or society to a person who is self-driven. This is a major transformation in a person’s life. It means that someone is required to start looking at what is important to them, starts discovering their values and starts questioning the beliefs that have served them up until then, leading to the client having a whole new outlook on who they are as a person.
It also means that the person is going through an emotional journey, equivalent to grieving, saying goodbye to the person they were and welcoming the person they are becoming.
The coach can play a key role in supporting people during a period of profound disruption in their life-supporting them in making these key steps and supporting them knowing how this transformation is affecting them emotionally.
Benefits of hiring a transformational coach
Identifying or even quantifying the benefits of coaching is the topic of many publications. The focus of attention of these publications is often on executive coaching, where organisations are paying for coaching to improve performance of their executives. This, therefore, relates more to performance or developmental coaching.
Despite the number of publications about the topic, according to the 2013 ICF Organizational Coaching Study organisations contributing stated that they ‘know’ coaching has been effective, but the evidence to support this is mostly anecdotal.
Identifying the benefits of transformational coaching – where the results are leading to a different way of being (rather than doing) – is (even) less measurable in terms of performance improvements or learning.
A number of transformational coaches make an attempt to quantify benefits by adding figures to how they feel about the change they are making (i.e. ‘on a scale of 1 to 10’). Others pride themselves on not measuring the benefits they bring to the transformation at all.
If we step outside the coaching realm for a minute and ‘borrow’ some of the work that was done in change management on benefits realisation we could say that the benefits of coaching can be found in:
- Early adoption – Coaches help clients to ‘get there’ quicker than they would on their own. Yes, self-coaching and self-help books can help you get started on the road to transformation, but someone listening, mirroring, providing you with feedback, challenging you and supporting you in going through the emotional roller coaster you’re about to embark on might get you there quicker.
- Full realisation – in change management this means ‘how many’ employees adopt a change. Translating this to coaching could mean measuring how to complete the client’s transformation is. The role of the coach in making this happen is to support the client in keeping him or her accountable for the action they are taking.
- Proficiency – again, in change management, this means how the learning has ‘stuck’, are employees using new processes and ways of working in the way that was envisaged? In transformational coaching, you could measure how the client applies and continues to apply the learning in their daily life. This might mean that coaches would measure the result of their coaching long after the coaching relationship has come to an end.
In some of my own research – when researching my coaching niche – I found that some potential clients could have done with someone who supported them through the emotional rollercoaster they went through. Knowing how emotional this (or any) transformation is going to be, can you really afford not to hire a coach?
A whole new research paper could be written about this topic alone!
Having established what transformational coaching is for, what it tries to achieve and how value for money could be measured you could now ask ‘what would I do to support clients in making this transformation?’ Apart from good listening and coaching skills, I am listing some of the key support activities that coaches can help clients with.
What a liberation to realise that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.’ – Eckhart Tolle
Mindfulness or meditation are practices that coaches are actively encouraged to adopt. Practising mindfulness teaches you to witness thoughts and letting them go. This has the benefit of allowing you to distance yourself from your thoughts. After all, if you can witness your thoughts, who is it that’s actually witnessing them? It’s you!
Your role as a coach can be to actively encourage and support clients to adopt mindfulness practices. This will allow clients to detach themselves from their thoughts and – in the words of Tolle – of their ego. The obvious benefits of this are that it provides the client with more awareness as they are more in touch with who they really are. In the coaching profession, we believe that the client already has all the answers. If you, however, continue to be a ‘human doing’ instead of a ‘human being’ you will never stop to listen for these answers.
In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels – Daniel Goleman
Daniel Goleman in his book ‘Emotional Intelligence’[viii] has made us aware of the role of emotions in daily life and how you can manage your emotions. He describes the following elements to emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness: being aware of how you’re feeling and what your impact is on others
- Self-management: the ability to manage your emotions and not react without thinking
- Social awareness: being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and respond to someone’s feelings as well as awareness of their environment
- Social skills: the ability to engage and manage relationships.
Coaches can help clients to become more emotionally intelligent, starting with raising levels of self-awareness. Mindfulness (see above) and journaling are two key tools to become more self-aware of your emotions and what thoughts trigger them.
Also, being aware of how people go through a range of emotions during change – as described in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross book on grief [ix] – will help the coach in supporting clients who are going through profound transformational change.
The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power, or goodness. – Martin Seligman
Martin Seligman, the ‘father’ of positive psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on the
scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive
developed the PERMA model[x]. PERMA stands for: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments. Seligman identified that enhancing these qualities in your life will improve your happiness and wellbeing.
Seligman describes in his book ‘Authentic Happiness’[xi] that meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves. So rather than pursuing pleasure serving this bigger cause will improve your long-term happiness and fulfilment.
If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others – Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle also describes a number of states of what he calls ‘awakened doing’: Acceptance, Enjoyment and Enthusiasm. Tolle says: ‘If you are functioning from a space of obligation, resentment, impatience or boredom, you will find that you are creating pain for yourself as well as for those around you’.He says that if you can’t enjoy what you are doing you can at least accept it, at least be at peace with what needs to be done. Enjoyment is when you are in ‘flow’ (as described by MihályCsíkszentmihály[xii]), fully engaged and happy to do what you are doing. Enthusiasm is when you have a purpose and as a result, you bring a new level of inspired energy to the doing.
Coaches can play a number of roles in supporting the client to ‘wake up’ to what is meaningful (I’m deliberately using these words, as a study[xiii] shows that people will know what is meaningful to them by really looking within themselves rather than ‘finding’ meaning outside themselves). A coach can help clients to become aware of what is meaningful to them and support clients in achieving this stage of enjoyment or even enthusiasm.
There are lots and lots more to say about transformational coaching. I have only scratched the surface in unearthing some of the thinking about what transformational coaching is and how coaches can help clients through this difficult journey.
I believe there is more work that can be done on evidencing how coaches provide value for money – in all coaching, but most specifically in transformational coaching. I’ve borrowed some of the thinking of the change management discipline and applied it lightly to coaching (a topic for an earlier – and abandoned – idea for a research paper) with the aim of applying some of that thinking in my own coaching practice.
Finally, I am fortunate to be able to work in a field where I can support people to make their personal transformation happen, thereby creating ‘a new earth’ – or in my own words: happiness, meaning and fulfilment!
[ii]Women and transition: Reinventing work and life, Linda Rossetti, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015
[iii]101 Real Coaching Niches, Glenn Livingston PhD
[iv]This is not an official term, but made up by myself.
[vii]A new earth, Eckhart Tolle, 2004
[viii]Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, 1995
[ix]On death and dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, 1969
[x]Flourish, Martin Seligman, 2011
[xi]Authentic happiness, Martin Seligman, 2004
[xii]Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, MihályCsíkszentmihály, 1990