One of the topics this year is how we generate a culture change that is long lasting and not just sitting in the external domain of process and skills. Over the 2 years that I have been involved in the culture shift I have noticed that without changing mindsets and behaviours, nothing really changes – we make the same choices, take the same action only now in a new Lean or Agile way. Which got me thinking about coaching and the different types of coaching.

What I started to realise is where the focus is seems to matter. Performance coaching seems to focus on skills and knowledge, outside things – you are working out how to go faster by becoming a better horse rider. The focus is on WHAT you are doing. Transformation coaching focuses how you use what you know – you go faster because you make different choices with your horse and even better, discover that  cars are an option. When you are in transformation coaching your potential becomes reality.

An example of how this translates to training within the corporate environment is the Servant Leadership 3 day course the bank is currently presenting. Rather than a skills dump, it is designed to be a behaviour workshop that offers attendees the opportunity to see themselves in action and so see the impact that action has on the performance of the team.

The process can uncover the beliefs individuals sit with about time pressure, about what leaders do (and don’t do) and about the value they add. It can also exposes performance anxiety and what happens when decisions are made from that mood. The results can be quite mind blowing with individuals having deep AHA moments that create fundamental shifts in how they feel and so act when they get back to the office. All of which translate back to performance, in a way that outreaches and outlasts and transcends the process that is being advocated.

Could the difference between performance coaching and transformation coaching be where the focus is ? The former (performance) feels to be externally focused, looking at the execution of a skill or the knowing of facts. These are then integrated into your current way of being which then translates it and it comes out in a way that is familiar for you. In essence you now create the same results in a different way – your mindsets and behaviours merely have a new way of executing and performing. Improvement in performance may exist, but it is marginal at best and not self sustainable (awesome for a coach, always get repeat clients 🙂 ).

Transformation coaching feels different, it feels more internally focused and less bothered about the what you are doing and more concerned about how you are using your knowledge. This is where I start to get excited, imagine making process and training of skills redundant because the way people think has changed ?

18 months in the Ontological framework (Alan Sieler, Newfield Institute) has really shown me what is possible when you focus on transformation. I have been exploring how language shapes my world, how my language is coupled to how I am feeling (and I am always feeling, even if I am unaware of it) and how these then shape my decisions and actions. I have become a different observer and lived what it means to shift from the story of what is happening to the how my thinking is creating my experience.

Annoyingly I have discovered that when I start to observe how I am seeing my life, when I become aware of the assessments I am carrying that I am using to  generate those stories and that create the framework from my choices and actions, then I have an opportunity to let go of old limiting patterns and new possibilities for action are suddenly, right there. I say annoyingly because the power is now mine and isn’t because of my icky boss (actually I have the best boss ever so I can’t even use that) or my lousy job (once again, not an excuse I can use, but one I get a lot as a coach) or anyone of the host of acceptable reasons why it isn’t my fault and means I don’t have to do anything about it. It is quite liberating in a way – I never have to rely on an external force or person again for my success! Now imagine living like that!

Transformation is the difference between not wanting to spend time or even work with a specific person because it is effort and I hate it and feel drained and nothing seems to change, to observing that I have a hidden assessment that who they are and how they are being isn’t right and needs to be fixed and corrected and then, going even deeper, and discovering that the anxiety and hardness that comes with my reaction is based on an even more insidious and damaging assessment and learning that I am going to be held accountable and blamed and punished so to stay safe I MUST control the situation and enforce my point of view. I must bully and force and correct and create what is right! The moment that story line came into my consciousness my choices, my feelings and dread lightened and suddenly it isn’t an issue any more. I can see a way forward that is constructive, light and has a strong base of joy and gentleness in it.

Another example is the one where you can take the person out of Springs, but you can’t take Springs out of the person! Well you can, but not without conscious action. For me it explains why individuals who come from high performing families tend to be high performing with ease. Why individuals who come from private schools seem to fly up the ladder and those of us who don’t, can’t work out why. It is because they think and feel differently and they don’t think about it, they just do the things that create success with ease, it is who they are – or rather how they have learnt to react and choose.

If I look back to my diving, one of the moments that generated my shift from dreaming about being deepest, to being deepest was a question, was wondering why it seemed to be so hard for me and why it was so easy for people like Nuno Gomes (2 Deepest Records and still the Deepest Cave Diver) ? Did he feel differently ? Did he think about it differently ? What was a natural way for him to feel and think and act ? And then I did that! If I had stayed in the thinking that was natural for me ( and acceptable for the people I dived with), I would never have become deepest (16 years for the cave record and 13 for the all-time).

Imagine if all it took for you to be one of those people you envy is a shift from observing your skills to observing your feelings and thinking ?

What would your life be like if it was easy to succeed ?

What if …. who you are isn’t set in stone ? What if it is a choice you get to make ?