There are two basic kinds of coaching: transactional and transformational.

Transactional coaches give ‘how-to’ advice on performing more effectively. Transformational coaching, on the other hand, is based on transformational learning.

Rather than focusing on providing ‘how-to’ information, the transformational coach helps the coachee learn how and why she’s not getting the outcomes and making the permanent changes she wants. By looking at her ‘way of being,’ as manifested in language, moods, emotions and body disposition, a transformational coach can show what shifts would enable her to see and interpret a situation differently, and learn how her ‘way of being’ is getting in the way of new possibilities. This approach to transformational coaching is based on ontology, or the study of being human.

Transformational coaching also helps create a space where one can observe oneself objectively, and see other ways of being that enable change. New language, new mood and emotions, new body disposition = new results.

For example, we are all susceptible to being stuck in ways of being that are rooted in childhood. Transformational learning may focus on our language and transforming from the ‘language of complaint’ to the ‘language of commitment’ or from the ‘language of blame’ to the ‘language of responsibility.’ Coaching can also help one navigate from a mood of resentment to a mood of acceptance, and then to ambition and enthusiasm.

Coaching as a success strategy

Coaching has emerged as a profession to provide support and help people manage change—and make changes in their own lives. Professionals, managers and executives are adding a coach to their personal ‘teams’ as part of their professional and personal success strategies.

Noted Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan once said that we struggle because our mental software, or our way of thinking, doesn’t match the complexity of modern life. We mostly experience ‘informational learning’—the kind of learning that we get from self-help books and seminars. While sometimes useful, this type of learning usually falls short when it comes to making the lifelong changes we want to make.

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” says the old Chinese proverb. Transformational coaching, unlike transactional coaching, teaches the skill and art of moving from reaction to response by changing our way of ‘being,’ creating lifelong changes that in turn lead to happier, healthier and more successful lives.