Development and transformation as coaching outcomes
Clients change their lives
‘You touched my life and you changed it’.
When clients give me this kind of feedback, it’s flattering – although actually it’s not me who’s changed their lives, but them. What they’ve experienced is that I’ve created an environment in which they find they can release insights, clarify something that had been unexpressed, or lift a barrier of some sort so that they find themselves tapping in to their true capabilities and discover the liberating feeling of clarity, purpose and direction that self-awareness can bring.
Many of us go through our adult lives with an old-established belief or two hobbling our thinking, or some kind of unfinished business getting in the way of smooth relationships and effective working. I notice that when clients tell me I’ve changed their lives, they don’t say ‘You’ve changed my work (or my job, or my career)’: and that’s because their experience is that their whole lives have been changed, including their work or job or career. Some sort of shift has happened for them – they’ve gone through a one-way gate of learning which they can’t un-learn. Something fundamental has changed for them.
Weaving insights with awareness of capabilities
It might be about engaging with the sense that they have a choice and capacity to act in a situation in which they’ve unconsciously assumed they’re trapped or in which they’ve experienced inertia: a leader can transform his or her relationship with a team member by confronting difficulty instead of avoiding it, a female executive might find she can fully claim her own position at the Board table, a Director can take responsibility for conflict with a peer instead of waiting for someone else to resolve it. When the leader weaves those insights in to clarity about what they’re truly capable of (which might come from others’ feedback, an acceptance that they’re skilled or talented in an area they hadn’t realised or admitted, or a realisation that they can stretch further than they realised) they often experience a level of energy and focus they have never or rarely before experienced.
Development and transformation
What’s happened is development (the release of more of their potential) and transformation (a fundamental shift in thinking, feeling or behaving). In my experience the shift is often around an issue that an individual has kept carefully guarded for a very long time. When clients refer to me as ‘tough and supportive’ it’s often because they’ve felt safe enough with me to go to some difficult emotional places and question the interpretation they’ve been carrying around with them all their lives. It may not be easy, but they make their peace with that old issue. The impact often astonishes them – and it can affect all aspects of their lives as they become calmer, more resilient, less emotional about issues that previously would have provoked them, and better at managing relationships. They often discover a new sense of purpose and meaning.
Change that sticks
The fact that the shift sticks is a sign too that some sort of transformation has taken place: I keep in touch with clients, and I’ve had conversations up to 6 years after the coaching has finished in which clients tell me that they’ve maintained – with no effort but rather in a state of flow – the changes they made during their coaching programmes.
It’s remarkable too that these leaders who have experienced development and transformation often become transformational leaders – leaders who enable and inspire their people to re-think and re-shape an organisation or a division of it, and who can personalise the process of transformation by relating to the meaning that it has for individuals. They engage at a personal level: having achieved a degree of self-awareness, they become much better at awareness of others, and they’re able to convey who they are authentically, which those around them experience as compelling and empowering. It’s powerful stuff.