Transactional vs. Transformational Coaching
By Mark Hull

The two most powerful words in the English language are, “Coach says.” This however comes with a warning: Great power requires great character for that to be a blessing and not a curse. Words under the control of a transformational coach will build. The careless words of a transactional coach can do deep wounding.

Transactional coaching is focused on actions. It’s about performance. It basically says, “You do this for me, I’ll do that for you.” Transformational coaching is focused on the person. It communicates, “I am here as a coach to help you grow not just as an athlete but as a whole person.” We call that being a 3Dimensional Coach.

In his powerful book “InSideOut Coaching,” author Joe Ehrmann poses four essential questions every coach at every level must contemplatively answer if they desire to take the journey from the transactional to the transformational approach. They are called the Mindsight Questions:

  1. Why do you coach?
    • Do you have a clear statement for your coaching that acts as a filter for every decision?
  2. Why do you coach the way that you do?
    • What triggers your behavior? Is your coaching based on best practices or do you just coach the way you were coached?
  3. What does it feel like to be coached by you?
    • This may be the most valuable and overlooked question for coaches. What does it feel like to be on the other side of you?
  4. How do you define success?
    • If you are not crystal clear on this then the scoreboard determines the answer. (note: the answer to this question should be the fulfillment of the answer to question 1)

The answers to these questions are foundational to transformation in your own life and in lives of the athletes you coach. The good news is we can change if we are willing to work at it. Coach, research shows that you are the most influential person in the life of today’s American adolescent. Develop a 3Dimensional Coaching strategy to fulfill your transformational purpose, and use the influence for good. We’re here to help.

If you have never taken the 3D journey, you can sample the 3D Coaching training for free at

4 thoughts on “Transactional vs. Transformational Coaching”

  1. Love the thought about ‘putting yourself on the other side of YOUR coaching’!…It does make me think: ‘Would I listen to me if I was receiving this instruction?’, AND ‘How would I respond to my own coaching?’, OR FOR THAT MATTER: ‘How would I respond to my own instruction in anything, whether it be ‘on the court’, or ‘in the classroom’, or even in any area of life, such as being a father and/or grandpa?!…..


    Let us all be faithful in using the GIFTS HE HAS GIVEN US as we strive to POSITIVELY INFLUENCE and HELP GROW OTHERS!….

  2. For the first time I looked at the word “transactional”. What is being transacted by a transactional coach? What is being given? What is being returned in exchange. It seems that a transactional coach says to an athlete, “I give you my coaching, you give me your best performance.” But I think it goes deeper. I think a transactional coach says, “I give you my coaching, you give me my sense of worth by your performance.” “I coach you to perform; you perform to give me worth.” That’s why anger is such an issue. It was for me. I looked to athletes, even my own son, to give me worth through their performance. And when they didn’t perform, I had no worth. And I was angry. It was their fault I felt lousy about myself.

  3. I appreciate the clear manner in which your present the tension between the transactional and transformational point of view for coaching. I have presented at conferences on this subject and teach on it regularly and do my best to practice it with my coaching.


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