Advancing Human Potential: Transformative Coaching

'Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.' ~ Pete CarrollClick To Tweet

The human brain is a complex and noisy place. It is filled with the knowledge we have learned, the emotions that we feel, the memories we have made and the values and beliefs that we hold. This complex web of ‘thinking’ is what constitutes the human experience. And while we all have a mind rich with this ‘thinking’ – no two are quite the same. Everybody’s experience is different…

Advancing Human Potential

And this collage of experiences and memories and knowledge and values and beliefs is what makes us human. And fallible. Knowledge can be incorrect as well as correct. Memories can be false as well as accurate. Emotions can be destructive as well as empowering and values and beliefs can hold us back as well as propelling us forward.

Unfortunately, nobody teaches you how to make sense of the noise. Nobody shows you how to peel away the onion to uncover what really matters most. Nobody gives you the user-guide that shows you exactly how to troubleshoot when things aren’t working the way you expected them to.

This is where professional coaching can help.

Positive Psychology & Advancing Human Potential

'Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.' ~ Winston ChurchillClick To Tweet

Beginning from the idea of “our neglected mission”[1], positive psychology helps us understand that everyone has within them all the pieces they need to achieve their full potential. And while it is true that external events can impact us in many ways, we are all ‘whole’ and we are all capable of finding the answers to these challenges within us. Professional coaching draws upon the latest research in positive psychology and emotional intelligence to support transformative growth and vertical learning – empowering clients to create sustainable change by developing new understandings of existing situations and circumstances, enabling them to step outside their own story, and propelling them forward to realise their full potential.

Advancing Human Potential

A professional coaching conversation does this in five steps[2]:

  • By creating space for the client to understand the matter at hand;
  • By helping the client to develop a very clear focus for their attention;
  • By enabling the client to articulate and explore the gap between the way things are and the way they would like them to be;
  • By supporting them to learn something new and enabling about that gap; and
  • By empowering the client to take action based on this new understanding, coupled with authenticity and accountability

Creating Space

Often when something is bothering us or frustrating us, we see the symptoms of the problem, not the causes. Professional coaching enables us to go deeper by layering our understanding so that we develop a more nuanced and sophisticated view of ‘what is’ – our current reality.

Determining Focus

Once we have built this understanding of the issue we want to explore, professional coaching supports us to get crystal clear about what we need to focus on to be able to move forward – the problem we want to solve.

Uncovering the Gap

When we have an issue, we tend to see the current state as unchangeable and the desired state as unattainable – with little or no specificity or logical steps in between. Professional coaching challenges us to get specific about the differences between our current state and where we want to be in fine-grained detail, including starting to imagine the positive impact of achieving that future state. It involves a granularity that supports us coming to realise that the gap maybe isn’t so daunting after all.

Discovering New Understanding

As we become more specific about the gap, we also become aware of what might be preventing us from achieving our desired outcome. We may hold a belief that is limiting us, or we may be focusing on actions that aren’t serving us well. We may even be gaining a great deal of positive benefit from our current state and not really want to make any change. It is only when this new understanding emerges during the conversation that we are able to design a course of action to achieve our desired outcome.

Designing Authentic and Accountable Action

Change can be scary. Even when we have realised what is holding us back and what we need to do about it, our brains resist change – preferring instead to keep us safe within the territory of the well-known and well-trodden. It is common at this stage for a client to slip back into excusing or rationalising the current state as ‘acceptable’ or ‘inevitable’. The role of the professional coach is to hold the client accountable to their new understanding… and to themselves.

'To me, a leader is someone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes. And so what I think is really important is sustainability.' ~ Brene BrownClick To Tweet

Professional coaching helps in advancing human potential because it focuses on positive forward action. It doesn’t dwell on the current situation any more than is necessary to understand it. And it doesn’t dredge through the past with a view to ‘fixing’ it. It simply draws from the client’s past experiences to identify and find those elements that will form a necessary part of the solution, most notably in the form of a new understanding or interpretation of the current situation.

Advancing Human Potential


Professional coaching contributes to advancing human potential because it fundamentally begins from a deep-seated belief and understanding that humans have potential, and that this potential is able to be advanced.

In the words of Phil Sahdahl: “coaching is the process of imagining, clarifying and choosing. It helps you draw the map, select the mode of transportation and, in the process, learn a new way to ‘travel’.”[3]

[1]Snyder C. R. & Lopez, S. J, Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths; Sage Publications, 2008

[2]Coach Masters Academy, Transformative Coaching: Core Training for Professional Coaching v10.0, 2012

[3]Sandahl, P. “Coaching: An Empowering Choice” in Choice, Fall 2003 Premier Issue


Hear me chatting with Hayley Collins

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In Episode 25 she chats with me about what it means to be a Chief Executive – some of the things that people tell you but you don’t really understand until you’re alone in the hot-seat.

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