Inspiring People to Change

Friday, March 2 2012

Can people change?

It’s an age old question, but there is plenty of current research that shows people can change if they have the right support. It is also clear that individuals resist being changed. An important aspect of a leader’s role is to know how to create the right environment for change, which is a key component of success. John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School, concluded that changing organizations depends on changing the emotions of the individual members.

In his book Change or Die, Alan Deutschman outlines how the three biggest misconceptions about change – our trust in facts, fear, and force get in the way of organizations seeking to change. He focuses on three steps that support behaviour change through the building of strong relationships. These are:

  • Relate
  • Repeat
  • Reframe


Deutschman’s research shows that when an individual forms a relationship in a business setting with a person or a team that includes a coach or mentor, it can help them believe that what may seem unreasonable can actually be accomplished. A coach uses persuasion, selling a person on themselves, to help the individual believe in their ability. When organizations develop strong coaching relationships that focus on the person and how they are doing, rather than just on the job, they will support this culture of self-confident employees who feel valued and appreciated for their results. At this stage teams can come together, achieving extraordinary results and change.


A great coach will provide support and guidance while an individual goes through the process of learning a new behaviour, and practicing it until they master the new skills. It takes a lot of repetition and conscious focus before new behaviours become reality. Coaching guides and supports the individual to:

  • Become aware that a change in behaviour is desired.
  • Set a mutually agreed upon goal and outline the necessary action steps.
  • Track daily progress toward the goal.
  • Keep focusing effort to achieve the desired change through regular feedback and encouragement.
  • Celebrate success when the results have been achieved.


Reframing changes the way an individual views a situation or their life. Good coaching helps individuals learn this skill. The reframing of perceptions takes place over time. People become able to think and see things in a way that would have been impossible before they received the guidance and support that a good coaching relationship can provide.

As Alan Deutschman concludes “relate, repeat, and reframe provides new hope, new skills, and new thinking.”