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Posted on February 10, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021

Executive Coaching and the Change Process


What makes coaching using TA different from other approaches?

The traditional forms of coaching have a tendency to worship at the temple of evangelical counselling approaches. These approaches focus on supporting, reflecting and clarifying what the client is saying. The danger in this is that we can collude, focus on the irrelevant and support narcissism.

Collusion can occur when we are asking “supportive” questions and “hearing” the client to the exclusion of looking for contaminated thinking, discounting, limiting beliefs, frames of reference.

Irrelevance might occur if we always hold to the client’s agenda. We need to ask ourselves the question about how the content at any particular time relates to the original multi-handed contract and to the organisation,  i.e. what are we being paid for?

Narcissism is apparently on the increase and some clients may want to focus on them and their needs and not bear the organisational needs in mind. This can be a me, me, me rather than a we, we, we agenda (Day and Blakey, 2012).

We need a mix of support and challenge, which is something TA has been offering for many years now. We need to be able to develop trust with the client so that we can offer genuine recognition but at the same time that trust means that they are open to being challenged. Challenge without support can just lead to stress.

By challenging we can support the client to face reality and go for stretch goals rather than complacency.

The Contract

Before we get off the starting blocks we need to ensure that the contract is clearly defined. All stakeholders need to be involved - and even before that we need to get the work! This will be covered in more detail in the May workshop entitled Getting to Yes - from contact to contract.

The contracting process is one of the bedrocks when considering coaching the TA way. We can consider the psychological contract, the psychological distance, whether the coaching session is within the organisational contract for coaching and how it aids the organisation.

Given that the focus is on development is it important to work with overall contracts with both the organisation and the client. When there is clarity of contracting there will be greater progress. The sessional contract will also have focus. When the session also leads to goals to be achieved between sessions this enables the client to have focus. In this way, powerful insights within the session will be built on and options for change established. This enables those who are passive to become active and develop a sense of achievement. It is important to focus on goals that are measurable, manageable, and motivational, rather than large overwhelming goals that the client feels daunted by.

We also need to consider how the organisation and the client will know when they have achieve the objectives of coaching.  Without covering this at the start then evaluation will not be possible later. This needs to be undertaken in detail such as, how will you know when you have achieved this (or to the stakeholders “How will you know when this has been achieved), what will it look like, sound like, feel like etc.

Contracting for development and change needs to be reflected in our own professional lives, as well as in those we coach.  If we believe that we have nothing left to learn then we are inviting the client to believe the same. This is then likely to be paralleled down through the organisation.

In TA we are using the concept of physis to develop organisations through the development of the individual. Once skilled, we can be a co-creative partner for the client enabling transformational coaching.


Before beginning the coaching role it is important to be able evaluate the outcome. TA is in a good position to be able to do this as the contracting process is specific and measurable. It is important to keep the focus on contracting as over complication with scientific evaluation can prevent effective working in the here and now. We are able to measure:

Individual and management satisfaction with coaching

Improved appraisal and performance

Impact on business performance indicators

Comparison pre and post-coaching

360 degree feedback ratings

Achievement of objectives set at the start of the coaching commission

Feedback from the coach and coachee

Staff turnover rates

Employee attitude and climate surveys

Comparisons between coached and non-coached staff with regard to:

o Clarity

o Focus

o Confidence

o Problem solving skills

o Relationship with others

o Behaviour change – specific

Carrying out 180 or 360 degree assessments at the outset of coaching, and regularly during and after, can be used to flag up any improvements in areas such as communication.

Working with people who want what we offer

If we have ideas and concepts which we believe will be of benefit to the client then we need so share them.  This might be about what is being discounted but might also be about where they are coming from in terms of OKness or in terms of the OK Modes model. All of which can aid understanding, leading to mindfulness, and professional and personal development.

When non-directive approaches are pursued to the exclusion of sharing knowledge, undertaking a range of different interventions (i.e Berne’s Interventions, see below) we are in danger of collusion with the client, being outside the organisational contract. We can also be supporting the client with their frame of reference which may be “me, me, me rather than we, we, we”. (Day and Blakey, 2012).

In order to offer a way forward to clients we have developed a structure for the process which is outlined below.

Mountain Coaching Model

This SCAFFOLD model is not necessarily linear we might have to revisit beliefs again when another issue arises. There are likely to be contaminations etc. so these may also emerge again at other times.

Scaffold supports buildings whilst work is being undertaken.  This is a good way to think about what coaching can be for the person. In addition we need to have this support for ourselves as well. This is where supervision is so important. It helps to maintain boundaries and professionalism whilst keeping us on track.

Transactional Analysts are able to notice processes that get in the way for the client, such as transactions, discounting, existential positions, ability to give and receive strokes, etc. We are therefore in an excellent position to work with the person to increase their Mindful Process and to address issues which lead to self-limiting behaviour and, dependent upon their position in the organisation, to limits on other people’s behaviour. This will have an effect on the organisation as creativity will be stymied and problem-solving limited.

Escape Hatch Closure

An “escape hatch” is the route out of taking responsibility. People may do this by committing suicide, going crazy or killing someone else. The term “escape hatch” was coined by Holloway (1973).

Closing the “escape hatches” is about making a decision to change and to be free of the tragic script option. Therefore, if someone still has one of these three ways out of responsibility open it will make contracts for change and hard contracts unworkable. Whilst coaching is not therapy it is important to be aware of the need for a redecision, in terms of escape hatch closure, on the part of the coachee before coaching is likely to be effective.

With a global economy and diverse communities consultants and organisational leaders need to understand those with whom they are working, particularly if they come from a different ethnic origin. Escape hatch closure is a white western concept and we first need to respect other cultures.

Redecision in the Work Place

When people use their energy to resist change, they discount their ability to use their strength in constructive ways.  

Redecision work is also about people empowering themselves.

How people distribute or attribute their power is a function of early decisions.

We can encourage coachees and employees to work out how much power they give themselves and how much they give to those in authority e.g. self 25% and boss 75%. This distribution is disempowering. According to Campos people have three power options:

give their power away, and discount self

keep own power, and solve problem

share it with others and mutually solve problems

Here’s an example:

Coachee: I don’t like my job; it makes me uptight.

Coach: Will you say,” I make myself uptight”?

Coachee: Okay, so I am giving my job power over me.

Coach: On a scale of 0 – 100 how much power do you give the job in determining how relaxed you are?

Coachee :  About 85% to job; 15% to self.

Coach: How do you want to change it?

Coachee: I want to give myself more power, say 80% and 20% to job.

Coach: Okay so how will you go about changing that?

(Then you are into the work enabling the person to look at options and changes in behaviour, how they are stuck, their beliefs and so on).

We can get impasses in the work place. For example, a type three impasse might occur when an organisation re-structures and takes on new employees. Those new in are likely to be motivated, have new ideas and accept the new structure, whilst those who have been in the organisation for some time may be resistant, scared and want things to remain as they were.

How might the other types of impasses occur?  What other ways might a type three impasse occur?

Coaching, Counselling or Therapy

CIPD note that coaching assumes that the individual is psychologically healthy and does not require a clinical intervention and addresses organisational and individual goals.  They also state that personal issues may be discussed but the emphasis is on performance at work.

Coaching is seen to have high business content whereas counselling can be low on business content. Also Coaching can be multi-handed contract between a number of representatives of the organisation, the coach and the person being coached, with the exception of group therapy, counselling and psychotherapy tend to be an individual contracting process.


Berne E (1966), Principles of Group Treatment, (Chapter 11), Grove Press

Campos L. (1976), Empowering, TAJ 6:4

CIPD, (2004), Coaching & Buying Coaching Services.  A Guide

CIPD, (2006) Coaching at Work, Vol. 1:2

CIPD, (2006) Coaching at Work, Vol. 1:3

Day I & Blakey J (2012), Challenging Coaching: Going Beyond Traditional Coaching to Face the FACTS, NB Publishing

Goulding B & M (1979), Changing Lives Through Redecision Therapy, Grove Press

Hargrove R (2003), Masterful Coaching, Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer

Holloway W. (1973), S hut the escape hatch, Monograph IV, Wm. H. Holloway, M.D

Mellor K (1980) , Impasses: A Developmental and Structural Understanding, TAJ 10:3

Mountain A (2000), The Relevance of Culture and Relationship Dynamics for Closing Escape Hatches in Therapy, TAJ 30:2