The Difference Between Transformative & Transactional Coaching

Written By: Wanda Baldock – 82nd Cohort – Auckland –

Albert Einstein philosophizes that ‘it takes a different kind of thinking to solve a problem than the kind of thinking which produced the problem’.

ICF tells us that the coach’s responsibility is to:
•    Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
•    Encourage client self-discovery
•    Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
The strength and power of coaching is based on a level of openness and trust between the coach and client. The nature of the relationship is not just about outcomes, but also about helping an individual to better understand himself or herself and from this to grow and change as an individual.

Simply, coaching is the act and process of helping people, its creating partnerships based on trust, it is listening and asking great, artful questions to enable our clients to think in new and creative ways so that they can understand themselves and their issues, commit to smart action to change their experiences, and bring about meaningful change.

At a very fundamental level, I think the act of an adult individual seeking out or agreeing to attend coaching shows an openness to personal growth and development.  It shows a beautiful step towards a more fulfilling and meaningful life and so on this level I believe in the value of both transactional and transformational methods of coaching.  There are however some distinct differences, I think ultimately the journey for any coach or client is to reach the earth-shattering panicle that is a truly transformational coaching conversation, however, I think in practice there is a time and a place for both styles in coaching to improve our lives and careers.  It is up to the skilled, connected coach to pull the tools out of their kit to deliver the best outcome possible at that moment in time.


Transactional Coaching

Transaction is defined in the dictionary as, “transacting of any piece of communication, business deal or negotiation.” A transactional coaching conversation focuses on as you would expect ‘a transaction’. This can be the case due to; the style and approach of the coach, the requirement of the sponsor/employer or the stage of the personal development journey of the client. Transactional coaching helps the client to achieve a short-term goal or change in performance. It focuses on the external symptom or problem and can be very practical style to use. Transactional coaching facilitates the client to arrive at his/her own problem solutions from an external action which often results in a shift in doing. This can be particularly suitable for situations where a specific outcome is required either by the client or commonly by the organization procuring the coaching on behalf of the client such as overcoming a challenge or improving a specific behavior. Ultimately, we can predict that although the client may achieve some short-term changes and make some progress any change has a limited chance of becoming sustainable if the focus remains on the symptom and not on the cause, we run the risk of not actually solving the problem, but just temporarily bandaging / fixes the external symptom of the problem. Without this deeper focus, we may also miss the chance to
see the client enabled and empowered to handle similar issues in the future or ideally being able to avoid the issue happening in the first place.


Transformational Coaching

‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.’ Italian Proverb Transformation is defined in the dictionary as, “change form, appearance, condition, nature and character” considerably.”While transactional coaching takes the client from Point ‘A’ to Point “B”, transformational coaching takes a client from “Point “A” to Point “D’. As a thinking partner the transformational coach asks her client to go deeper, to work on the underlying issue and thinking to become future focused rather than focused on the past issue. The client is asked to consider their values, strengths, assumptions and to adjust focus to aligning deeply with who they really are. It is about building a meaningful and solid foundation upon which the client can build their future upon by focusing on changing the way that they think and therefore feel rather than just on the way that they act. Because the process of transformational coaching focuses on changing thinking and perspective as the best predict or of future behavior of the client, perhaps the ultimate impact of the coaching may not always be instantaneous in a complete sense and by embracing this we get to really see the embodiment of the journey of change and of an individual meeting their greatest potential.


In summary:

A coach empowers clients to strengthen their commitments to their vision in a way that produces powerful results. A transformational coach assists in revealing the very core interpretations and beliefs that hold the client back from fulfillment in all aspects of life.


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