Coaching Tips: Discovering a Reason to Change

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Coaching Tips: Discovering a Reason to Change

One of the most common difficulties encountered by workplace coaches is finding something that will serve as a lever to trigger different, more positive behavior by the individual being coached. Too often, when reaching for a reason or rationale to justify change, we lean on organizational impacts…   “Your tardiness in arriving late to scheduled meetings means that we start late and finish late.” In an era when so many of us are walking around wrapped a little too tightly, self-absorbed, and organizational engagement is extremely weak, these impacts lack potency. They seldom move the needle. So what might work better ?

In reaching for a reason that will cause someone to change, bear in mind that what you’re trying to do is help them see a reason that makes sense to them (not you) to change. So get personal, look for ways to establish a connection between the condition you’re trying to help them change, and something that is personally important to them.

Ask questions, even ones with a sharp point on the end of them. “You’ve told me that you want to build a reputation as a talent magnet. Do you think that chronically wasting people’s time by showing up a few minutes late to every meeting helps or hurts that purpose?” Or, try an analogy. “I know you’ve got a teenage daughter who has begun dating. When your daughter has promised that she will return home from her date by 10PM, how do you feel when she strolls in at 10:20? (Pause to listen, really listen.) Might the people on your team feel the same way about your tardiness to meetings?

Generally, only when we see a reason that makes sense to us to change does it become likely that we will actually take steps to do so. Because we’re all different, with different goals, values, and sensitivities, it often takes two or three attempts before we strike paydirt, but it’s worth it. Change initiatives that are well-founded, with some personal interest at their bedrock are more likely to stick. Try it, and let us know how it worked.

If you want to learn more:

  1. For self-help, read, “The Coach” by Starcevich and Stowell
  2. For private or small group coaching, contact the author.
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