The Future of Coaching by Shane Pearson

Coaching may be a relatively new field, but it is a hugely dynamic one with new models and approaches emerging all the time. One of the most exciting evolutions in the field is ‘Transformational Coaching’.

Transformational Coaching, based on new research in the field of neuroscience, moves away from the more traditional performance focused coaching into deeper exploration of a client’s cognitive, emotional and sensory relationship with themselves and the world around them to help increase their understanding of their core values, beliefs and behaviours. This awareness allows for more profound transformational shifts, breaking down of negative thought patterns and opening up of new opportunities, potential and wellbeing.

Why the Shift?

The last few years have been full of uncertainty and unrest for many. As we move through these changes and the global population start settling into a ‘new normal’ many industries, and individuals, are taking stock and exploring what the future might look like for them. Coaches have also needed to adapt and evolve with the constant changes and challenges that so many were faced with. We can already look back on the Covid years and see them as a major catalyst for change. But what changed for the coaching industry and how will it shape its future?

Performance Coaching

Whilst no-one has a crystal ball to accurately predict what the future of coaching holds, there are clear shifts away from reliance on more traditional performance or behavioural focused coaching. In these goal oriented coaching models the job of the coach was to help their client achieve specific goals. Clients would be coached to get clear on where they are now, where they wanted to get to and how to close that gap. A logical and rational plan could be made and the coach could help their client change behaviours or become more skilled to create better outcomes. You could say that traditional coaching was largely based on the assumption that a client knew what they wanted and the coaches job was to help them get there.

Whilst there is distinct merit in this style of coaching it does have it’s limitations. Human beings are not always as logical and rational as this model requires. They do not always make decisions entirely based on logic, with other (often stronger) forces at work including habits, temptations, addictions, fears, inner conflicts, limiting beliefs and so on. It is not enough to know what to do or even how to do it! Another weakness of traditional coaching was that not everybody who wants (or needs) change know what they want. Without a goal how do you coach the gap?

It was clear to many coaches that coaching had value in more areas than improving human performance, which led to a more exploratory and expansive style of coaching known as Developmental Coaching. According to research commissioned by Roffery Park (compiled by Julie Wellbelove) there is “a trend in the focus of coaching moving away from remedial interventions” and “towards developmental coaching that aims to achieve lasting change.”

Developmental Coaching

Developmental coaching shifts focus away from shorter term goals. Instead, the developmental coach ‘widens the lens’ and focuses on the bigger picture of the client within the context of their situation or challenge and exploring what competencies, traits, strengths and beliefs that the client can build to improve their competence in an area of their life. As the client develops these traits they become more effective, not just in the context of what brought them to coaching, but in their life as a whole. Through this broader coaching lens the client’s goal is considered in the context of the development of the client. The goal may also be challenged and explored to ensure it really is in the best interest of the client and for those around them.

Coaching in this field requires a more diverse set of skills and knowledge to be able to work effectively and to facilitate the more profound changes that their clients were now seeking. This ‘whole person’ approach goes beyond the cognitive aspect of coaching and the rational mind. Research on neuroscience, emotional intelligence and embodiment are finding their way into coaching programs to help coaches go beyond the rational mind and coach the ‘whole’ person.

Transformational Coaching

Perhaps as a consequence of the last few years or natural progressions in the coaching and wellbeing fields, there is now a much greater demand for more holistic coaching. Clients may not have clear goals or be looking to develop one specific area of their life. However, they do know they want to change something. They may want their life to have more meaning or purpose or may no longer be willing to sacrifice their wellbeing for their job. Perhaps, they want increased life satisfaction or to contribute more to their family, community or even the planet.

Transformational coaching excels in this area. Coach and author Michael Neill describes it as “a meaningful conversation about the nature of human experience’ and calls it a “higher level of coaching”. It is not simply about helping their client with the pursuit of a goal but is more about skilfully exploring and challenging a client’s ‘map of the world’ to uncover what assumptions, beliefs and conditioning are shaping how they experience their life. Ultimately the breakthrough comes when they see themselves more clearly and, to quote Michael Neill, “wake up to themselves at a deeper level”. Simply put it is focused on enabling self-actualisation.

In reality a transformational coach should be trained to coach with all three styles of coaching and be able to shift elegantly from one to another depending on what is most appropriate for the client at the time. For me, this makes transformational coaching the future of coaching and a hugely exciting industry to be a part of.

For more information on the IHS Diploma in Transformational Coaching, including next start dates, click here and for the Combined Diploma in Nutrition, Lifestyle and Transformational Coaching, click here

See also, Shane’s article about the Neuroscience of Transformational Coaching