Robert Hargrove, the author of Masterful Coaching, states that "coaching is about interacting with people in a way that teaches them to produce often spectacular results in their businesses". He also sees it as a highly moral endeavour, requiring coaches to take a stand for the future of people, communities, societies and the world. Thus, for Hargrove, coaching is about creating business enterprises that are both outstandingly productive and that nurture the human spirit and allow people to learn and grow.
Creating these kinds of changes in the world is not going to be achieved by doing what we're currently doing, or even doing it more efficiently (single-loop learning). At the very least we may need to change the way we think about the problems we face and alter our frames of reference (double-loop learning). But if we're going to make the changes that will lead to personal and planetary sustainability, then we need to transform our very way of being in the world (triple-loop learning).
The methodology at the core of his approach is Transformational Coaching. Transformational Coaching seeks to go beyond helping people perform better (single-loop learning) to getting to the source of people's behaviour and altering their frames of reference (double-loop learning) and ways of being (triple-loop learning). The diagram, which is based on Hargrove's Transformational Coaching model on page 28 of Masterful Coaching, shows the relationship between these three learning loops.
Thus the three aspects of Transformational Coaching are:
- Coaching for incremental improvement (single-loop learning). Coaching people to continuously improve their current practices or do what they are already doing better so that they can achieve their goals more efficiently. This is adaptation at the level of behaviour or tactics - ie, if what the coachee is doing doesn't work, you help them explore other behaviours or tactics. If this doesn't deliver the results they need, then they may need to move to double-loop learning.
- Coaching people to think differently (double-loop learning). Enabling people to fundamentally reshape their patterns of thinking by changing their goals and/or strategies with the intent of helping them break through impasses, become more effective, and learn to do different things. This is adaptation at the level of thinking or strategy, and involves helping the coachee examine their assumptions about the situation. By exploring different ways of thinking about the problem or situation, a whole new set of possible behaviours can emerge. If this enables the coachee to solve the problem they're facing, fine. If not you can help them look for another way of thinking about the problem. If the coachee is still not successful, then you may want to move to triple-loop learning
- Transforming who people are (triple-loop learning). Enabling people to create a shift in their context or point of view about themselves with the intent of helping them behave with integrity even in difficult, conflictual situations, and produce the results they truly desire. This is adaptation at the level of your way of being and of seeing the world, and your self in it. The question you are helping the coachee explore is "How can I shift myself to a different way of being in this situation?". This shift in being or seeing can lead to a shift in thinking, goals and strategies, which in turns opens up new possibilities for behaving.
One core activity in transformational coaching is helping people surface, question and reframe the stories they tell about who they are. These stories shape, limit, and define our way of being. There are two basic kinds of story - rut stories and river stories.
Rut stories keep people in old ways of being and thinking patterns and result in inaction. River stories are generally those of personal growth, self-renewal and transformation. The coach seeks to transform rut stories into river stories by helping people realise that they are the authors of their stories and that they can choose to tell stories that open up new possibilities for themselves and support them in fulfilling their potential.