Formation or Transformation? Exploring the Meaning of Coaching

A Talk by Dr Simon Western

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About this talk

This key-note explores two different propositions for the meaning of coaching.

The first meaning is that ‘Coaching is a transformational practice’ i.e. the coach identifies as a change-agent bringing expertise to help the client undergo a transformational personal experience.

The second meaning is that ‘Coaching is a formational practice’ i.e. the coach identifies as a facilitating-agent to support the client whilst they undergo a formation process within their wider context and ecosystem.

Transformational coaching is the most dominant approach in the field (especially in the USA) and arose following the rise in the transformational leadership literature in the 1990s.

These meanings are not binary or opposites and they often overlap, yet they do begin from different assumptions.

If the meaning of coaching is to help an individual undergo personal transformation, it leads coaches to think and act in a particular way, that from the outset of the coaching relationship sets certain norms and expectations which leads their clients in pre-conditioned directions.

Problematically, coaches often over-identify (and oversell) being ‘transformational’ as it sounds more ‘sexy’ and marketable, and the coach's own ego is drawn to being a transformational expert with the super-powers to make life-changes possible.

In this keynote.

Dr Simon Western brings a critical lens to the field, discussing how the Messiah leadership discourse (Western 2019) has shaped the meaning of coaching. He offers insights from his coaching practice across the globe, where he uses his Analytic-Network Coaching framework to open new possibilities that change the meaning of coaching from being a transformational to formational practice.

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Dr Simon Western

Simon is the Director of Analytic-Network Coaching Ltd, offering a researched and innovative coaching process, that aims to transform the way coaching impacts on both individuals and organizations.

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