Pragmatic advice for coaches, managers & leaders

Get greater coaching results: get below the surface

Stephanie (a fictional character for the purposes of this post) approached me and asked me her to help her with some coaching around a major presentation she has to give to the Exec Board of her global financial institution. After some initial fact finding questions, it appears that there are several important elements at play:

a. Stephanie has never given a presentation to this level of senior management before

b. Stephanie “hates the thought” (her words) of standing in front of a group of Board Members and presenting her ideas

c. Stephanie has previously had some mixed performances when she has had to present to senior staff before. Some went “Ok” others were a “complete disaster”

As a coach there are many ways to progress and help Stephanie achieve her goal of a successful presentation.

If Stephanie works on the following …

1. How to put a slideshow together that is impactful

2. How to construct a presentation that flows and covers all the requisite points

3. How to present effectively, project voice etc

4. How to prepare for question she might receive

… it is possible that she will be able to pull off a great performance and succeed. As a coach we will have helped her in a transactional way: i.e. Stephanie was at point A, wanted to get to point B and we helped her create a plan, timescales etc to get there and she achieved it.

But (you knew there was going to be one didn’t you?) listening to her description of the beliefs that she had about the chances of success and her previous experiences which were informing her current state, it is possible that such an approach is a bit like a sticking plaster: just helping the symptoms, not the underlying cause.

If, as a coach we can, with Stephanie’s agreement, help her become sustainably more confident when it comes to giving presentations she may well not be in the same uncertain position again.

As such, our coaching questions would, with Stephanie always in control of the depth of questions she was willing to answer, begin to explore her expectations about the performance, beliefs about likelihood of success and even her view of her Self. We have entered the realm of Transformational coaching.

The difference between Transactional and Transformational (or Developmental) coaching is neatly summed up (by Jung) as “Do different vs Be Different”. Freud (1923) created the analogy that human beings have much of their personality hidden, even from themselves, and in that way were like an iceberg, where on is only able to see the surface, and yet much more may be below that surface.

There is no judgement here as to one approach being intrinsically better than the other: if you have someone who is confident with plenty of past experience of success, as defined by them, then working in a Transactional way may be all that is required. Similarly, going into Transformational spaces when the client does not want to, does not need you to or if your skills are not refined enough to manage this sensitively, then going there may be unhelpful in the long term. The key to successful coaching lies in a couple of areas: being able to judge which area to work in with the particular client in front of you, and secondly, increasing one’s knowledge and skills in order to work in a Transformational way when to do so would be best for the client.

Thank you to: winkyintheuk for the photo

Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to  raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.