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Can we effect intentional change?

Often, our interest in being coached is sparked when we are being told we need to improve in one or the other area to be successful in our job. When this happens, we are motivated to change but that motivation comes with a negative undertone or even desperation and we are strained by and laden with stress. Is this the ideal starting point to make lasting changes?


The answer is a clear “no”. In their coaching handbook titled “Helping People Change: Coaching With Compassion For Lifelong Learning And Growth”, Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith and Ellen Van Osten explain that people really only change their behavior when they want to change and in the ways they want to change. Instead of “telling” people what to fix and how to fix it resulting in short-lived changes, if any, lasting change only happens if coaches can broaden the horizon of their coachees and help them explore their ideal self in all aspects of life, and what they really want, not what they think they ought to want or what others think they should be or do.


According to Boyatzis’ Theory of Intentional Change, to truly change, people need to progress through five 5 steps. The first step is about the exploration and articulation of the coachee’s ideal self, answering such questions as “Who do I really want to be?” and “What do I really want to do with my life?”


In a second step, the coachees will identify their strengths and weaknesses, i.e., the area of their lives where their ideal self and real self are already aligned (strengths), and any areas where their real self is not currently aligned with their ideal self (weaknesses). To bring about the energy for change, coachees should focus two or three times more attention on strengths than weaknesses.


In a third step, the coachees will focus on their learning agenda. What are the coachees most excited to try and align with their purpose and vision rather than someone else’s notion of what they should do?


In a fourth step, coachees will experiment and practice new behaviors. To experiment allows to fail and learn from that experience to move yet closer to their ideal self.


Finally, in a fifth step, the coachees will recognize that they’ll need continued assistance from a network of trusting, supporting relationships with others. Change efforts will be more successful when embedded within resonant relationships, based on genuine, authentic connection.


Effective coaches help their coachees experience and successfully move through all of these steps.



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