(Michael is away on holiday, so this week’s tip is an excerpt from his bestselling book Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life.)
Traditional coaching takes place primarily on a horizontal dimension – coaches assist their clients in getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. Yet lasting, sustainable change nearly always happens in the vertical dimension – a deepening of the ground of being of the client and greater access to inspiration and spiritual wisdom. While this has generally led to an either/or approach to success and personal growth and a sharp division between therapy and coaching, transformative coaching – or, as I like to call it, ‘supercoaching’ – uses the vertical dimensions to create change on the inside while you continue to move forward towards your goals on the outside.
The kinds of ‘vertical’ changes that transformative coaching leads to can be usefully viewed on three levels…
Level I: Change in a Specific Situation
Often people will hire a coach (or go to a counselor or therapist or friend) to get help with a specific situation they are struggling with. They may want to deal with a difficult person at work, succeed at an important negotiation or job interview, or stay motivated as they train to beat their personal best at a sporting event.
This kind of ‘performance coaching’ has long been a staple of the industry, and long before ‘life coaching’ and ‘executive coaching’ became common terms, people were using coaches in this capacity to help change their point of view, state of mind or actions. At this level, people go from fear to confidence, from unease to comfort, or from inaction to action.
The impact of this kind of coaching is generally project specific. Once the difficult person has been handled, the interview completed and the race run, the person gets on with the rest of their life in much the same way as they did before.
Level II: Change in a Specific Life Area
Sometimes, we’re less concerned with a specific event than we are with a whole category of events. This is why you will find coaches specializing in any number of life areas: relationship coaches, sales coaches, parenting coaches, confidence coaches, presentation coaches – the list goes on and on. People hire these coaches to help them develop their confidence and increase their skills in whatever area they may be having difficulty. Like a performance coach, these coaches will help with specific situations, but they tend to measure their impact not just by how one situation changes but by how their whole category of situation changes.
Level III: Global Change
The ultimate level of change is transformation, or what I sometimes call ‘global change’ – a pervasive shift in our way of being in the world. At this level, it is not enough for us to develop a skill or change a feeling. It is our intangible ‘selves’ we want to change, and in so doing we change our experience of everything.
Each of the three levels maps across to a certain kind of intervention. When we want to make a change in the moment or in a specific situation, we apply a technique. When we want to make a change in a broader context, we work with installing new strategies. But when we want to actually change lives, we need more than just strategies or techniques, we need a whole new paradigm or perspective – a new way of seeing.
So which level of change is best?
It depends. While level III changes will ultimately make the biggest difference in people’s lives, sometimes a smaller difference is all that’s called for. For example, people heavily into the personal development movement sometimes get fixated on finding level III solutions for level I problems – they’ve got a headache, but instead of taking an aspirin they want to analyze the beliefs and lifestyle changes they need to make to become the kind of person who doesn’t get headaches. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s a lot easier to do when your head’s not hurting!