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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Successful Coaching? Awareness, Urgency, Willingness!

During a conversation with a new client early this morning, I explained the importance of three ingredients to be present before embarking on a coaching endeavor or any other change intervention. My client was all ears and appreciated this insight into what increases the chances of success for a coaching project. Too many managers and other buyers of coaching and training services take too little time to consider these three ingredients, and sadly, some of them don’t take accountability for their own role in establishing those three foundations. So what are they?

1. Awareness

There needs to be sufficient awareness of areas that need improvement. Everyone knows this, right! However, I have conducted too many assessment sessions with coaching clients where the person was not or only minimally aware of what their boss or HR professional had told me they needed to improve. Now, regardless of who is right (if any one person ever is) something has gone wrong in the communication and feedback, and the coaching is off to a delayed or weak start, leaving me to work on the feedback-culture, candor, and accountability within the team or company. Thanks to the founders of gestalt psychology and, later, to Daniel Goleman, self-awareness and self-management have gained the attention that is required for people and teams to be collaborative and adaptable. Great ways to strengthen self-awareness are reflection and introspection combined with relevant, candid, specific, and trust-based feedback.

2. Urgency

Awareness alone doesn’t necessarily lead to a person’s motivation to learn and change his way of thinking and acting. For that leap to happen, the person needs to feel a sense of urgency. I am not talking about the boss’s sense of urgency but urgency within the person who is receiving the coaching. People are set in their ways, habits are strong and stubborn (read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg), our brains tend to be lazy and focused on short cuts and preservation, and self-denial is an attractive alternative to facing unpleasant truths, being out of your comfort zone, and having to do the hard stuff. Conclusion: Urgency because of what’s at stake, urgency born out of the (projected) loss and pain if you do nothing, is a crucial part of what motivates you to invest time, effort, and money into learning and showing yourself vulnerable.

3. Willingness

Even with awareness and urgency in place, I have encountered enough people in my practice who did not show a willingness (or not initially) to work on whatever they were aware was lacking, even if they new something had to happen now. Rather than look inward and decide to learn and grow, they choose to blame others or circumstances, take the victim role, and complain when things turned sour. I am happy to say that most people I have encountered in my 23 years in the field of human development only needed candor and directness from someone who professionally cared and who was capable of explaining dynamics. This was usually enough to add the remaining ingredient of willingness into the stew of cognitive and behavior change.

So, please remember, if you wish someone (or yourself) to be ready for significant growth and sustainable change, you need buy in and ownership, and for that, awareness, urgency, and willingness are crucial ingredients. If you are managing people, your leadership, your communication, and your caring candor play a lead role in this scenario.


  1. These are the great and revolutionary steps which must undergo for a professional and effective business coaching.


    1. Would love to hear your additional insights into what makes business coaching successful Alan.