Transactional to Transformational: The Power of Championing in Leadership Coaching

Championing in the realm of leadership coaching is more than just a technique; it’s an approach that goes beyond setting goals – it focuses on the individual’s journey of becoming. This article explores why this aspect of coaching is an essential component, how it positively shifts the dynamic between client and coach, and its enduring benefits. We’ll also take a look at some different “flavors” of championing and how to personalize them for even greater impact.


Leadership coaching can sometimes become limited to a transactional approach.—focussing on the ‘what’ instead of the ‘who.’ And while successfully achieving goals is important, the true power of coaching is in the transformational journey, celebrating who the client is and who they are becoming. This is where championing comes into play, acting as a solid foundation for an impactful coach-client relationship.

The Pitfall of a Goal Only-Oriented Approach

In a coaching relationship devoid of championing, the focus becomes disproportionately tilted toward accomplishing tasks and achieving objectives. Clients might tick off goals from their list, and it’s progress, but for the sake of what? To reach then next goal? Then the next? Without the due recognition of who they are being and becoming along the way, the relationship can feel shallow, more like a business transaction than a growth-oriented partnership. The emphasis is primarily on ‘what’ they are doing, overshadowing ‘who’ they are becoming in the process.

Different ‘Flavors’ of Championing

Championing is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It can take on different flavors, depending on the individual’s needs, the context they find themselves in, and the milestones achieved. Here are some examples:

  1. Affirmative Championing: Offering specific, positive feedback that is contextual and derived from direct observation is incredibly empowering for the client.
  2. Constructive Championing: Providing real-time feedback that isn’t just a pat on the back but serves to constructively shape the client’s growth journey can be an incredible resource and motivation for the client.
  3. Reflective Championing: Bringing past conversations and milestones into current discussions to showcase the client’s growth trajectory is probably the most powerful application of championing. Very rarely do we take the time to reflect on just how far we’ve come but when we do, it’s always eye opening and empowering!

As an example, instead of handing out generic praise such as “Well done,” try something more specific and tailored to your client: “I remember how you struggled with delegating important tasks when we first started. Seeing you now effectively manage your team while also focusing on your own high-level tasks is an incredible achievement.”

Why Championing Matters

Deepens Trust

Genuine championing fosters an environment where our clients feel safe to express themselves freely and fully and this flourishes and expands over time – a true gift.

Fuels Exploration

A connection where the client feels truly seen encourages exploration beyond their previous comfort zones, making the coaching journey a growth experience.

Amplifies Commitment

Being seen and acknowledged fuels clients’ commitment to their personal and professional growth, when we feel like somebody has our back, we feel more capable and able.

A Lasting Positive Impact

Instills Self-Confidence

By receiving specific, heartfelt championing, clients amplify their self-confidence and self-worth long-term.

Encourages Resilience

Clients develop a resilient mindset, equipped to handle challenges with poise, knowing they have a supportive coach and more importantly, a sense of self-authorship and self-awareness.

Cultivates Lifelong Learning

Modelling an authentically supportive relationship encourages clients to view growth as an exciting journey, extending way beyond the coaching period.

Three Ways to Practice Championing

  1. Individualized Praise: Offer specific commendations that reflect your client’s unique strengths and challenges, dare to name it for them and be a mirror!
  2. Holistic Recognition: Acknowledge not just the result but the journey, effort, and personal growth that went into achieving it.
  3. Milestone Reflections: Regularly revisit past challenges and accomplishments to highlight how far the client has come.

Reflecting on the Impact

After trying some of these things out, take some time to observe their effects.

  • Is your client more engaged and excited to jump into your sessions?
  • Do they demonstrate greater self-awareness?
  • How’s their confidence now?
  • Are they taking more considered risks?

Often, simply setting an intention to bring more championing into your sessions will point your awareness to this muscle and you’ll be actively doing it more and seeing more opportunities to do so, lighting your clients up and giving them a mirror onto their magnificence!

If you curious about training to become a fully certified leadership coach with one of the most respected coach training schools in the world, read more about our ACT Leadership LPCC course here.

ACT is an internationally recognized coaching, leadership development and consulting company known for its commitment to leadership and performance coaching, valuing its long term partnerships with Brown University, the intelligence communities and its loyal and devoted diverse community.