Whenever I ask this question to executives, early on in a coaching programme, a lot of them respond by acting baffled, confused and even disconcerted. 

I can see them think and ask themselves… “Why is he asking me questions about life outside of work?” Sometimes, I have even got the “I thought you were going to ask questions about my job?” as a response in return. 

From my experience as an executive coach working with organisations it is surprising how many individuals still do not see the importance of integrating work and personal objectives in a coaching journey. Of course, sometimes there is no synergy between the two and the sessions then naturally focus on specific work challenges, however I believe this is rare. In addition, and more importantly, coaching that only examines just one perspective of an individual’s current experience is limited and more often results in transactional, rather than transformational goals.

To clarify, a transactional goal is one that typically focuses on increasing performance in one specific actionable area. On the other hand, transformational coaching supports people bring long-term, sustainable change across different areas of their life. This is because transformational coaching helps people develop by focusing on the way they see themselves rather than achieving a specific action. This might involve a change in confidence, change in perception about themselves or the uncovering of limiting beliefs.

Of course, if what your client wants is a transactional coaching programme, then it is our role to support them in that process. However, I believe it is also our responsibility to challenge the client to ensure that that is what they need and that they truly would not benefit from exploring different aspects of their life.

That is why in the first session I always support the client in appraising him or herself, not only in relation to their work goals but in relation to how fulfilled they are in their relationships, their families, or their health and fitness. I firmly believe that if coaching is conducted in this holistic, integrated approach then it sets a better foundation for bringing about the biggest shifts within the individual.

For example, I was recently working with a client who was having difficulty in delegating tasks. She was unsure of how to do it properly, felt that she needed feedback from her peers and wanted to learn the theory behind delegating effectively. Reviewing this, from a transactional coaching perspective the client had her goal set, however through further powerful questions, that cumulatively integrated different parts of her life, a different picture emerged. The individual came to the conclusion that the challenge was not that of not knowing how to delegate but rather not being able to let go and trusting others; something that emerged from her discussion outlining the relationship with her family.

So how can you (as a coach or an organisation) ensure that you are unlocking the best in your employees so that they can perform more effectively in the future? Here’s our top 3 tips:

  1. Prepare your coachees so that they expect personal questions. In the consultation meeting with the coachee let them know that the way that you coach will be holistic and briefly explain the rationale supporting this.

  2. Let the employer know. Inform the organisation know that in order for the individual to develop and for the coaching session to be truly beneficial there will be instances where both work and person challenges will be considered. Nearly every single client of mine was happy with this. 

  3. Be clear where confidentialities lie. When working with a third party sponsor (e.g. the organisation) I still make it clear to all involved that the conversation between the coachee and myself is completely confidential and that it is up to the coachee to report back to the organisation. This way the client will feel more comfortable in disclosing information to you.

That said, always remember the person’s specific situation and that sometimes, action-based coaching is what the individual wants. Don’t force it, but at the same time, don’t ignore it!