Coaching: Transactional or Transformational?

As coaches, do we really have to aspire to allow the individual to achieve transformational change?


Part of what we do as coaches is to support an individual achieve their goals and bettering themselves by bring life-long, transformational change. However, I have found myself debating this question with other coaches, either when undergoing my own supervision or in informal settings.  

So the question is… as coaches, do we really have to aspire to allow the individual to achieve transformational change?

Transformational coaching requires the individual to take full control of their life, understand where they are going and implement changes that will impact them holistically and long term. This can be a rather tough and daunting challenge!

On the other hand transactional coaching focuses more on the day-to-day issues and challenges that the individual is experiencing.  Perhaps we could say that the results from transactional coaching will be less-profound and more short-term. So bearing that in mind should we always strive for our clients to achieve transformational change?

Personally I believe that this (as a lot of coaching itself) should fully revolve around what the client wants to achieve. As coaches we need to make sure that we find that balance otherwise, if we constantly strive and push for the client to achieve transformational change then are we not essentially pushing our own agenda?  

With my own clients I enquire and find out if transformational change is what they want to achieve. I might test an idea or two with the questions that I ask in order to understand, and help the client understand, what it is that they want. Most clients react positively to this and become very committed to working towards more integrative goals. However, it does happen at times, that a client wants to stay in that transactional place focusing on shorter goals. These are typically clients that feel that they have issues to resolve, or ‘things to fix’ before they can move on and working towards transformational goals.

Either way, I believe that it is important to let the client explore what type of coaching they would like to receive since ultimately it is about them. We should be extremely careful not to impose our own agenda and if the client wants to work within the transactional sphere then that is where we should stay. ​

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