May 16, 2024

Consultant or Hippie Coach? Understanding the Nuances and Depth of Your Coaching Relationship

Clinician Leadership | Leadership Development

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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Coaching relationships can vary significantly, and so do the results you experience with differing coaching approaches. I often like to think of it as a spectrum connecting two extremes: On one extreme, we have a Consultant, and on the other we have what I like to lovingly call a “Hippie Coach.” I’ll explain.

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Early in my career, I was a Consultant for a global consultancy firm. In that world, it was my responsibility to have the answers and do the work. We were answer providers, plus the arms and legs to execute the work. As you’ve guessed, that’s the Consultant extreme of the coaching spectrum: Someone who knows the answer to your problem, tells you exactly what to do, and helps you execute that solution. 

The Hippie Coach, on the other hand, is closer to a self-mastery guide, encouraging self discovery, helping you activate your innate gifts and uncover solutions that best fit who you are and where you want to go. “You have the answer within you,” he says: “We’ll walk arm in arm in a journey of discovery.” He won’t give you advice, but will ask brilliant questions. Most coaching certification programs produce Hippie Coaches.

To be clear, we have great respect for both Consultants and Hippie Coaches: Each has unique strengths and can deliver great value, depending on what you’re looking for. 

In our work helping thousands of healthcare leaders grow their influence and impact, we’ve found the most effective coaching posture blends the two approaches, leaning closer to the Hippie Coach. MEDI Leadership coaches are thought partners, asking insightful questions, helping you think differently and uncover aspects of yourself that might have remained hidden otherwise. At the same time, you need your coach to steer you toward proven solutions. Sometimes you need your coach to stop asking questions and say, “I’ve been there. Here’s your best step forward.” 

Finding that balance — asking deep questions and creating conditions for self discovery versus prescribing a solution prematurely —  is an art born out of experience. Notably, MEDI Leadership coaches have phenomenal experience and expertise in healthcare. We’ve walked in your shoes, perhaps in the same role where you are today, or the role you aspire to grow into. 

What to expect from a MEDI Leadership coaching engagement

Any lasting, meaningful transformation requires behavioral change. That takes time, and it’s where the MEDI Leadership Method shines. We invite you to walk with us through a year-long coaching engagement with MEDI, understanding the transformation MEDI coaching clients experience at six, 12 and 18 months — and why the depth and duration of our coaching relationship is so vital for sustaining change.

Why knowledge alone can’t sustain change

Allow me to illustrate it like this: My body fat percentage is far higher than my doctor would like. It’s not from a medical condition, nor because I don’t know what to do. Knowledge and training aren’t the problem. The problem is acting on the knowledge I have. When I apply what I know, I can actually lose weight very quickly. Consistent application is the key, not the know-how.

That’s the parallel to our coaching work. As I start to lose weight, the first time I can take my belt one notch tighter, others might not notice but my coach and I know I’m making progress. In the first six months of coaching, you’re developing new habits and beginning to reap the benefits. It might not be enough to turn heads yet, but you’re feeling the change and getting a taste of what’s possible.

If I keep losing weight, others will eventually notice there’s something different about me. In coaching, if we sustain new behaviors long enough, others start to notice. That’s huge in corporate life because everyone around you is intensely busy and focused on their own work and lives. As you sustain new behaviors for a few months, people around you begin to notice that the ways you lead, communicate, relate to others and navigate problems are markedly different.

At approximately 12-18 months, the changes you’ve made in yourself, in how you lead and the results you’re able to produce are undeniable. Those changes become your new brand as a leader.

We often refer to this yearlong journey as the “backbone” or our coaching engagements, blending in-person meetings and work sessions with periodical coaching calls, sponsor alignment calls, and ad-hoc troubleshooting as new challenges arise. In all, the MEDI approach is designed to translate theory into application and then muscle memory, ensuring the transformation our coaching clients desire is permanent.

Transaction vs Transformational coaching

Generally speaking, most leadership coaches do a transactional style of coaching. It’s the equivalent of “follow these steps to lose 10 lbs by summer.” In a more corporate context, that might translate as “5 steps to slash costs and boost productivity by 20%.”

Transformational coaching, on the other hand, is designed to build a new set of leadership “muscles” to the point of you being transformed as a leader. Often, leaders in healthcare grapple with scenarios where there’s no clear right-or-wrong answers, or where they have to juggle competing priorities, nurture relationships, earn respect, or salvage a damaged reputation. No amount of knowledge or prescriptive checklists can help you without growing new leadership competencies and practicing them consistently.

Transformational coaching is not about how you think through a problem in front of you, but how you become a new leader adapted to the changing needs of a complex environment. For transactional coaching, a virtual touch or phone call now and then suffices. But if you want to become a new leader, that’s going to take something different. MEDI Leadership clients often tell us they can’t find a deeper-dive coaching method elsewhere, and it’s how they’re able to sustain behavioral change and the results that follow. At MEDI, we master transformations and help you do the same.

Looking to build your transformational leadership competencies? Talk with a MEDI Leadership expert to explore your options and gain clarity on next steps. You’ll receive helpful guidance, even if we don’t end up working together.

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About the author

Lee Angus

Lee Angus is the president of MEDI Leadership, an executive coaching firm which focuses solely on leadership development in the healthcare industry. Lee has nearly twenty-five years of consulting and coaching experience, with sixteen of those years being work with Healthcare Administrative and Physician Executives.

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