What is transformational coaching?

14 January 2022

It is easy to think that any kind of coaching, if done moderately well, is transformational. That’s because you start at point A and end at point B. The journey from A to B requires that changes are made to the person at point A to become the person at point B. However, there are two ways to get from A to B: one is linear and the other is exponential. Linear takes far longer and you may give up before reaching your destination.

Transformational coaching is all about exponential growth.

The difference between linear and transformational

Linear graphs are essentially straight lines. If I attend a lecture on a subject each week for a year, I will have more knowledge at the end of the year than I did at the beginning. But the acquisition of that knowledge is likely to be achieved in a linear fashion. Physical training often follows a similar pattern if you can avoid the plateaus.

An exponential graph looks very different to a linear graph. Standing on an exponential graph and looking backwards it can seem quite flat and the perception is that limited progress is being made. Looking forward it can seem steep and it can seem that you have a mountain to climb. That’s one reason why engaging in transformational change can be difficult because our brains can’t comprehend how we can get to where we need to go.

How to recognise transformational change

In my experience, transformational change can occur in one of two ways. The easiest way to recognise is when it happens in an instant. I often refer to these moments as ‘penny drop’ moments – there is suddenly an understanding where before there was none. For both the coach and the athlete, these can be the most satisfying, usually because they are preceded by periods of struggle. These moments represent an inflection point on the exponential curve.

However, I have also seen exponential growth happen over time. This is when the athlete is so focused on scaling their mountain, that it is only when they look back and see the distance travelled that they appreciate the growth achieved.

The important point about exponential or transformational change, is that you are achieving growth at a faster rate than liner growth (even though it may not seem like it at times).

How to achieve transformational change

Whilst I suspect it is possible to achieve transformational change on your own, it is very difficult. That’s because you can’t ‘think’ your way to transformational change, and you won’t find the answers in a book or on the internet. If that were the case, more people would be successful. Transformational change requires a lot of self-reflection, engaging both the intellectual (IQ) and emotional brains (EQ). Most human beings aren’t willing to do the self-reflection required for transformational change because it requires going to places within ourselves, which may be uncomfortable. That’s where the coach comes in. A transformational coach will guide you to the areas where self-reflection is required and help you draw the lessons to enable you to move forward with confidence and at pace.

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