Transformative Coaching and Higher Ed…

As a member of the Academic Coaching and Advising Listserv through the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) – and since the Academic Coaching listserv is focused on coaching, I thought I would share with the group an interesting insight regarding “transformative coaching.”  Michael Neill, author of the book, “Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life” identifies three levels of transformative coaching:

“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.  The kinds of vertical changes that transformative coaching leads can be usefully viewed on three levels:

Level 1: Change in a Specific Situation.

Often people will hire a coach to get help with a specific situation they’re 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 points of view, states 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, or the race run, people get on with the rest of their lives in much the same way they did before.

Level 2: 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 we find coaches specializing in any number of life areas: relationships, sales, parenting, confidence, presentations…the list goes on and on.  People hire these experts to help them develop their confidence and increase their skills in whatever area they may be having difficulty.  Like performance coaches, 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 situations change.

Level 3: Global Change.

The ultimate level of change is transformation, or what I sometimes call “global change” – a persuasive shift in our way of being in the world.  At this level, it’s not enough for us to develop a skill or change a feeling.  It’s 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 instill new strategies.  But when we want to actually change our lives, we need more than just strategies or techniques.  We need a whole new paradigm or perspective – a new way of seeing.”

It’s my sense that most “coaching” in higher education is at Levels 1 and 2; however, to really impact change – in our students and in ourselves – we need to implement coaching at Level 3.  And this is where purpose and dreams come into play – and where I spend most of my days.  Even though most student don’t seem ready for Level 3 change, I find that most are not exposed to thinking at that level.  So, as a way to get them started on Level 3 change, I constructed a series of questions (“Kick-Ass Questions About Life”) that I ask students to answer – either on the first day of class or before our first “coaching” meeting.  Since it’s something I just started doing the past week, it’s been fun reading their answers to the questions.

So, here’s the list of questions – as well as additional thoughts surrounding this idea:

Kick-Ass Questions about Life (otherwise know as “Find Your Why”)

This exercise is a free-write activity.  Write whatever thoughts pop into your head.   If your answers are the same for several questions, that’s okay.  Why is it important to answer these questions?  A quote from the great Skip Downing (author of On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life), came up with this phrase: “The quality of your questions determines the quality of your answers and the quality of your answers determines the quality of your life.”  Is that a great quote or what? Have fun with this exercise!

  • What’s always on your mind?  What do you think about a lot?
  • What angers your most about the world today?  What issues really piss you off?
  • What positive things do people say about you? What do people thank you for most often?
  • Who inspires you?  Who would you most like to be like?  Who are your heroes, your role models?  Who do you envy?
  • What do you help with that seems natural or easy for you?  What do people come to you for?
  • What are you amazing at doing (can be work- or life-related)?  What are you great at?  When you’re at your best, what does it look like?
  • When do you feel powerful, passionate, free, incredibly useful, excited, and/or inspired?
  • Who do you want to help?  Who would you like to inspire?
  • If you had a chance to be known for something special or unique, what would it be?
  • How would you like to be seen, recognized, acknowledged, awarded, praised – now and/or in the future?

Take this time to reflect on your life.  Use your answers to “find your why” and get a better sense of where you want to go with your life.

I would love to hear others’ thoughts regarding coaching and change and higher education, since I read/hear reports every day on the demise/dysfunction of the educational system. Maybe something needs to change – even in the way we do advising…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.