Which gets better results: Behavioral or transformational approaches?

Some executive coaches bill themselves as behavioral coaches. They focus on making observable behavioral changes in their clients, generally through 360-degree assessments and ongoing training and reinforcement. They argue that their approach is superior because they focus on measurable behaviors.

A second category of coaches are more inclined towards transformational approaches. Change the being of a person, and effective behaviors naturally follow. This class of coach often have either psychological backgrounds or come from some newer-age training programs like Landmark Education.

Here at the Center for Executive Coaching, we believe in a balanced place for both types of coaching.

First, let’s consider behavioral coaching. Most people know effective and ineffective behaviors. For instance, we all know we should eat healthy foods. It is easy to lay out a healthy eating plan for different body types and goals. But the majority of us don’t practice those behaviors. Why not? Probably because of internal values, ideas, beliefs, and patterns that hold us back. Those need to be addressed in order to get results. So behavioral coaching has limits.

Transformational coaching also has limits. Let’s say we somehow “transform” someone with anger issues into a content, peaceful person on the inside. He or she still may not have the language skills required to interact with others without seeming coercive of overly aggressive. Behavioral training is a valuable intervention to demonstrate and reinforce new ways of speaking to express one’s changed internal state.

So it is not a question or one or the other. Both are important. To get results, you have to get below the surface to beliefs, attitudes, and habitual patterns. AND you also have to provide new models for effective behaviors.

A complete executive coach brings both perspectives to his or her clients.

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