Transactional vs Transformational Coaching

To help explain the difference and meaning of transactional vs transformational coaching, let’s look at the following metaphor.

Imagine you were having problems with your car’s petrol tank, e.g. the tank was slowly leaking petrol. In a transactional coaching session, the coach may ask the client, “How can you prevent the tank from leaking. The client may say, “Only fill the tank to just below the leak.” Sure enough, that would prevent the tank from physically leaking the liquid fuel. (I am not getting into the fuel gas or vapor here.)

Transactional vs Transformational Coaching

In transformational coaching session, the coach may ask the client, “What could you do to not have this problem in the future?” The client may then come up with the idea of actually plugging the hole or getting a new tank.

The transactional coach has helped the client to solve the symptom, but not the underlying problem. The underlying problem is still there and can lead to future problems.
In the transformational coaching session, the client goes deeper to deal with the underlying problem and as such can deal with similar issue in the future.

Transactional coaching helps the client to achieve their short term goal and with the clients’ improved performance in relationship to that goal. This is great in as much as it is a starting point for the client in achieving that particular goal. Transactional coaching is dealing with what is going on, on the outside for the client.

Transformational coaching goes further in that it helps the client with personal growth, so that the client acquires skills that will empower them to deal with such or related issues in the future. Or even better prevent them from happening in the first place. Developing as a whole and dealing with what is going on, on the inside for the client. This also empowers the client to deal with more complex thinking in the future. This is actually also evident in our values evolution as described by Dr Clare Graves. We look at the work of Dr Graves during the master practitioner training.

To come back to the leaking petrol tank metaphor, each situation is different just like every client. Let’s say that the client did not have any money to fix the tank, or they were driving on a very long highway, where there was not a place to fix the tank. Then, just filling to below the leak would be the option that was available to them. Similarly if the client has the money, time and means to have the tank replaced, then that may be the best solution for them. Not every client is ready for transformational coaching. Some clients are only looking for transactional coaching and not ready to work on themselves in the personal growth capacity. This may be for various reasons. Similarly, not every situation allows for it either. An example could be if you were to coach in an organization who had a very specific outcome they wanted to achieve. So they hire a business coach to coach their staff. The coaching session in that event may be very outcome driven as is required by the sponsor. (Person paying for the coaching. In this example, the company.)

Transactional vs transformational coaching another way.

T. Harv Eker says in his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, “In every forest, on every farm, in every orchard on earth, it’s what’s under the ground that creates what’s above the ground. That’s why placing your attention on the fruits that you have already grown is futile. You cannot change the fruits that are already hanging on the tree. You can, however, change tomorrow’s fruits. But to do so, you will have to dig below the ground and strengthen the roots.” So are you solving the symptom or the underlying problem?

There is a time and place for both transactional and transformational coaching, depending on the circumstances and where the client might be finding themselves.
I hope you found this description of transactional vs transformational coaching useful. It may be described, explained or even mean something different to other coaches and organization. This is simply my way of explaining it.

Please feel free to ask any questions as I am always happy to help.
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  1. […] Farrell, W. (2016, May 30). Transactional vs transformational coaching. [Coaching with NLP]. Retrieved from […]

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