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  • Writer's pictureMarion Pidgeon

Transforming Lives through Transformational Coaching

Ken Ideus, a Delta Partnership consultant, shares some of his views on transformational coaching, and gives us a peek into his soon-to-be-published book on the subject, co-authored with Bob Barner:

“Several years ago, while doing some reading on alchemy, I came across an interesting notion. Not being that familiar with the history of alchemy, I was surprised to find that the primary transformation within alchemy was not so much the transformation of one form of matter into another – lead into gold for example – but the transformation of the alchemist him- or her-self. By seeking a true understanding of the relationship between self and the universe, and the truth (or secret) behind the formation of matter, one would be able to transform that matter. The ability to transform matter, therefore, would be a natural outcome of the primary journey, that is, transformation of self. It is likely true that not all alchemists were on a journey of self-discovery, some were pure scientists and their contributions to science and scientific method have been significant.

It struck me at the time that, as change practitioners, we could also make a choice. We could apply the tools of our trade to make change more manageable and workable, or, in transforming ourselves, we could apply insights gained from our own journeys to generate transformational change in organisations. Inspired, I wrote an article called “Corporate Alchemy” and challenged those of us in the fields of change and organisation development to consider whether we would choose the path of the technologist or the alchemist. Being a romantic, I leaned to the latter. That was nearly 30 years ago.

That same question holds true whether we are working with organisations, teams or individuals. The individual nature of that work falls into the domain of coaching. In the coaching arena, we can operate as technologists applying tools to solve problems, trusted advisors and guides to the generation of insight, or co-travellers seeking transformational experience. In many cases, it may well be appropriate to work at all three of these levels, applying different processes, knowledge and tools as we do so.

In our book “Working Deeply: Transforming Lives through Transformational Coaching”, Bob Barner and I describe three levels of the coaching experience available to our clients as we swim with them through an “ocean of meaning”. How deeply we go below the surface of this ocean is dependent upon a range of factors, including our own readiness for doing so, and the tools at our disposal. We describe these depths at three levels:

Level One: We work with the client to address specific problems that are often external to the individual. These problems might be related to people issues, new business processes or even those first days in a new role. Our objectives are often clear and our work is focused on helping the client think through their approach to a given circumstance or circumstances. We often have clear coaching plans and follow them in service of the objectives we have set.

Level Two: We reach a little deeper and help the client gain insights into how they normally approach problems, be they technical, commercial or working with certain types of individuals. We help enhance self-awareness in relation to their role as a manager or a leader. We will allow a divergence to occur if it appears it will bring about a new awareness and insight that might change the client’s approach to the problem or problems faced.

Level Three: We join the client in a journey of understanding more deeply how they see themselves and how their identity helps shape their vision and aspirations. We probe into insights to gain deeper understanding of how they create meaning and begin helping the individual shape their life through their own, authentic narrative.

Each of these levels calls on approaches, methods and tools that are appropriate to where the client is headed. As we head toward deeper levels of work, the initial plans we may have set become more fluid. If we started working on an “A” to “B” plan, the route becomes more fluid, and “B” begins to emerge as the client emerges.

In the book, we use numerous examples to describe work at these various levels. In providing methodologies, we provide references to the research that underpins them. Importantly, we also focus on use of self in coaching. In the days of the alchemist, there was seldom much else to work with.”

Working Deeply: Transforming Lives through Transformational Coaching, Emerald Publishing, authored by Bob Barner and Ken Ideus, is available for pre-purchase on and

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