Processes of Change Management
Cognitive processes encompass a wide range of reflective learning processes in which people are sorting out their thoughts, feelings, and desires regarding a particular health-promoting change. These processes, which often take place over a period of several months or even years.
This blog explains the complete Change Management Process with examples. And also explores Change management Assessment, Challenges, and Strategies.
One goal of using the change management process is to increase a client’s sense of self-efficacy or belief that one has the capability to make a change in the desired area. Self-efficacy describes the circular relationship between belief and action;
The more you believe you can do something, the more likely you are to do it. The more you do something successfully, the more you believe that you will be able to do it again.
The opposite is also true; the more you believe that you cannot do something, the less likely you are to do it. The more you do something unsuccessfully, the less you believe that you will be able to do it again. In other words, to quote an old adage, “Nothing succeeds like success.”
Therefore, it is important that clients set appropriate goals— ones that correspond to a client’s stage of change and capability. The potential consequence of inappropriate goals is that the client may lapse, possibly setting up a series of relapses.
That’s also why it is so important to correctly determine a client’s stage of readiness to change (e.g., whether you are working with an “I may” or an “I will” person).
In other words, it can be risky for a client in the contemplation stage for behavior to set late-stage behavioral goals. Instead, a more appropriate goal type would be a thinking goal, which encourages the exploration of motivators and challenges.
When clients have experienced a challenging situation and have had a lapse, the coach can work to reframe the experience as a learning experience.
Another way to engage clients in the processes of change, especially in the behavioral processes, is to focus on the relationship of behavior and its consequences Known as operant conditioning or learning through positive and negative reinforcement.
It is a form of learning that takes place when an instance of spontaneous behavior is either reinforced or discouraged by its consequences.
Successful operant conditioning looks for the antecedent conditions that may trigger an undesired behavior. For example, missing breakfast may lead to overeating at lunch, which may lead to feelings of guilt, which may lead to irritability.
This irritability may lead to the abandonment of any improved eating habits for that day. The end result can be an ice cream binge after dinner. When a behavior chain is identified, assisting clients to alter a behavior earlier in the chain instead of later can generate significant shifts and benefits.
Readiness to Change management Assessment
The following readiness to Change management assessment can be used with clients to prioritize the behaviors they want to change and rate their confidence in their ability to Change management.
It’s not important that clients use the formal names of the stages themselves. It may be better to simply have clients choose the descriptive statement that best describes where they are with respect to changing a particular behavior:
I won’t do it.
I can’t do it.
I may do it.
I will do it.
I am doing it.
I am still doing it.
Once a client has become familiar with the stages of Change management, a coaching session may flow according to the following pattern:
Explore the client’s strengths, core values, and primary motivators or reasons for the change.
Co-identify the client’s stage of Change management and one or more appropriate cognitive or behavioral goals.
Co-design strategies will promote quick wins and self-efficacy with those cognitive or behavioral goals.
Discuss challenges, as appropriate, that may interfere with behavior change and stimulate generative thought about possible solutions.
Elicit the client’s commitments as to the steps he or she will take and the efforts he or she will make in the week ahead.
Reconfirm the client’s readiness to change and willingness to move forward.
An effective way to engage clients in the processes of Change management, especially the cognitive processes, is to encourage them to weigh the pros and cons of a particular behavior or behavioral change. Known as a decisional balance, such weighing increases the chance of successful behavior change by taking into consideration:
The pros or gains for self, gains for others, approval of others, and self-approval
The cons or losses for self, losses for others, disapproval of others, and self-disapproval
Readiness to Change management Assessment
Research has shown that self-change is a staged process. We move from not thinking about changing behavior to thinking about it, to planning to change, and then to test out ways to do it before we actually start.
When thinking about changing or adopting a behavior, ask yourself the following:
Why do I really want to change the behavior; what makes the change important to me (the benefits or pros)?
Why shouldn’t I try to change the behavior; what is in my way (the obstacles or cons)?
Do my pros outweigh my cons?
What would it take for me to change the behavior and overcome my cons? What’s my strategy?
Can I really do it?
To move forward, it is best if you believe in your ability to change; the pros outweigh the cons and you have realistic strategies to overcome the cons. Behavioral scientists recognize five stages of readiness to change behavior:
Pre-contemplation (“I won’t or I can’t in the next six months.”)
Contemplation (“I may in the next six months.”)
Preparation (“I will in the next month.”)
Action (“I’m doing it now.”)
Maintenance (“I’ve been doing it for at least six months.”)
A number of techniques can help you move from not thinking to think, to planning, to do, and to continue doing. Determining how ready you are to change behavior can assist your coach in helping you make that change.
The following questions can assist you and your coach with making that determination. Your answers will help your coach guide the conversation so that you can move through the stages of Change management and reach your goals.
The goal or behavior I want to work on first is:
My reasons for wanting to accomplish this goal or change this behavior are:
The strengths, aptitudes, values, and resources that I can draw upon include:
The main challenges I will face while changing this behavior are:
My strategies to move forward and meet those challenges are:
The efforts I made toward changing this behavior in the last week are:
My goal for next week with respect to this behavior is:
My readiness to change the behavior is (circle the level that best describes where you are):
I won’t do it.
I can’t do it.
I may do it.
I will do it.
I am doing it.
I am still doing it.
Pros, benefits, and motivators are the good things about doing a new healthy behavior. They are what the client will get if he or she behaves in this new healthy way. Through inquiry, the coach can support the client in moving from a general, nonspecific pro to a specific, personal, positive motivator.
Cons, barriers, and challenges are things that make it hard to do a new healthy behavior. By getting clients to sort through their barriers, the coach can assist them in discovering that some barriers are large and only time will change them, whereas some can be overcome by a strong enough pro or motivator.
For example, the young executive who was working 14 hours a day in his first job trying to make a name for himself had absolutely no time to exercise regularly until an attractive young woman who worked out regularly joined his firm.
He then somehow found the time to go to the gym because he wanted to get to know her. Some barriers can be overcome by a strong enough motivator.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, researchers have found that the pros have to outweigh the cons for someone to actually start and continue a new behavior successfully.
This means it is important to help clients in the early stages of change who have not yet started to do a behavior to find personally salient, specific, positive pros or motivators while they honestly sort out their cons.
When a client is thinking about changing a behavior, a coach may use the following inquiries:
What is leading you to want to try and change the behavior? (What are the pros?)
What are the reasons you shouldn’t try to change the behavior? (What are the cons?)
What would it take for you to change the behavior? (What’s your strategy to overcome your cons?)
Cognitive processes comprise the key work for clients in the early stages of change. By assisting such clients with articulating strong, personal, specific, and positive motivators and by assisting them in discovering not only their barriers to change but also possible solutions or workarounds, coaches help clients get ready for action.
If a client is in the “I can’t” stage and totally focused on barriers and all the reasons that they cannot make a change, acknowledge the value of their appreciating their barriers.
If the three tasks of a person in the early stages are finding a motivator, knowing their barriers, and coming up with some possible solutions, this person has one of the three tasks completed. He or she is acutely aware of the barriers. The work of coaching is to make sure the other two tasks get done.
The Mount Lasting Change Model
Well, coaches created a graphic metaphor for the coaching process: Mount Lasting Change. This behavior change pyramid provides a guide to what it takes to make lasting changes in mindset, behavior, self-awareness, and self-image.
The base level of the pyramid represents the vision and higher purpose for the change. First, the clients decide to take charge. Then, they define what it would like to be their best selves—what they value most about life and what they are striving for.
It is also important to identify the skills and knowledge to reach one’s “best self” as well as the strategies for using strengths to handle challenges.
The next level addresses how the vision is turned into a realistic plan, including behavioral goals, one’s support team, and how to increase confidence. Then a commitment is formalized. The third level depicts the doing process (specific behavioral goals) with early wins and constant fine-tuning.
The fourth level represents the approach to sustaining new behaviors. The top is the “best self.” This is what a client yearns to become or uncover through the change process.
Change isn’t a linear process along which one proceeds from the bottom directly to the top of the pyramid. Clients cycle up and down the five levels, sometimes for years.
When they don’t make lasting change, they typically have missing or weak building blocks. A coach works with a client to lay down the structure and assemble the building blocks to get to lasting change and the client’s best self.
The bottom “vision level” of the pyramid is the foundation for change. It is essential not to rush through this level. Devoting the time to generously exploring a client’s positive core—the vision-level building blocks—prior to moving into preparation and action is enlightening and valuable.
Revisiting and reinforcing the vision building blocks along the way breathes life and inspiration into the change process.
People choose to make specific changes at specific times and for specific reasons when they are ready, willing, and able.
Self-awareness and Responsibility
Developing mindfulness and self-awareness of where the client stands with all of the building blocks is an ever-present theme. Taking charge and personal responsibility for change is the call to action, activating autonomy and self-determination.
The change process is much more likely to succeed if clients identify and stay connected to the strengths and abilities that have proven successful in other parts of their lives. Building on what’s working now is a key coaching approach.
This building block is at the center of the foundation because it represents both the higher purpose and deeper meaning for the change. One’s values, when clearly articulated and kept in view, are what keep them going in the face of big and small challenges.
What people value or treasure about the benefits of change is highly personal, ranges widely, and changes over time. Some values include being a role model, having peace of mind, looking good or youthful, living in balance, and exercising self-control.
To discover client values, ask about who they want to be and why they want to be that way. Of course, one can’t become that person overnight, but one can start doing the things that a person would do.
Acting “as if” is a great way to get on track. Coaching discussions often center around a client giving himself or herself permission to live from his or her values, especially when that means saying “no” to others to practice self-care. Coaches can assist clients in recognizing that setting boundaries to support self-care undergirds being one’s best in life and work.
Other clients will want to develop specific strategies for dealing with challenges, especially if they have a long history of the derailment. Either way, the key to masterful coaching is to elevate a client’s confidence in his or her ability to move forward successfully.
At its core, coaching generates hope in a client’s ability to change as well as awareness of realistic strategies that work.
Before proceeding and while on the change path, it is vitally important to have a moderate to high level of confidence in one’s ability to be successful. If a client’s confidence level is less than a score of 7 out of 10, more work is needed to increase the level to at least a 7 or an 8.
One of the most important goals of the behavior change process is self-efficacy; one must have the confidence that one has the ability to initiate and sustain the desired behavior, even in the face of challenges.
Benefits and Information
One must identify, explore, prioritize, and emotionally connect with the list of potential benefits to be derived from making lasting change. When needed, providing just-in-time education and information on the new behavior(s) will be important for keeping a client interested in experimenting with new behaviors.
Challenges and Strategies
Identifying and exploring significant challenges, such as competing priorities, lack of time, lack of confidence, and the benefits of not changing are ongoing life processes. Raising awareness of how challenges might be both harmful and helpful is important thinking/feeling work for those in the early stages of change.
The thinking/feeling work around challenges then leads to the thinking/feeling work around realistic strategies for moving forward. Some clients will get so excited about a new interest that challenges
When an oral or written commitment is made to another person—a family member, friend, colleague, physician, or coach—to establish a new habit, the probability of success is increased.
Making changes can be tough and having support from family, friends, or colleagues, who can help us work through the change process, stay on track, and provide positive feedback, is extremely valuable.
It’s often helpful for clients to ask for support and be specific, explaining the kind of support that is working or not working. Clients appreciate and experience more success when they have support for their autonomously selected goals.
The details are crucial. Developing and updating a detailed plan describing scheduling and preparation, as well as clearly defining the behavioral goal (what, when, and how), is an important activity. Tracking performance is also important—using journals or logs, for example, to record how we eat, exercise, and relax.
Choosing, refining, and committing to specific behavioral goals which are realistic while challenging is the all-important “doing” part of behavior change. Committing to the mastery of new behavior in three months or so, and then maintaining it for a further three to six months, reaching high self-efficacy, is a good target for change.
The goal should be specific and measurable; for example, replace “exercising more” with “I will walk four days a week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.” Building up to a three-month behavioral goal should progress gradually each week in manageable steps.
Some weeks, more progress will be made than others. A good starting point would be “walking four days for 10 minutes” or “walking two days for 20 minutes.”
Although challenges and strategies are addressed on the vision level as part of the foundation for change, clients inevitably encounter challenges and setbacks along the way to reaching and mastering their behavioral goals. Coaches can assist clients in viewing such times in a positive light as opportunities to learn and grow.
An effective problem-solving process, including brainstorming, enables rapid self-awareness, increased desire to stay on track, and prompt corrective actions, which may include brainstorming and experimenting with new action strategies or even tweaking the behavioral goals themselves.
The secret is to normalize and appreciate such experiences for the gifts they have to offer rather than to fret or catastrophize and begin a downward spiral.
Extrinsic rewards, and to savor the intrinsic value of behavioral changes. Clients generally start to feel better, stronger, lighter, or more energetic, for example, when they start to exercise more, eat better, relax more, be more engaged with life, or have more fun. They need to mindfully observe, enjoy, and celebrate such rewards to fully engage with and sustain the change process.
The diligent effort to build up to a behavioral goal and embrace the challenges along the way has a big payoff when clients are successful. The key is to move from extrinsic incentives to intrinsic motivation and contentment. That is the work of masterful coaching.
Even after one has mastered a new behavior, there is still potential to get sidetracked. Shift happens. New challenges emerge as environments and motivations change. Developing strategies to prevent relapses is the thinking/feeling work required when a client has reached the maintenance stage of change.
One of the big bonuses of lasting change is the expansion of one’s sense of self. Often, one’s best self is buried under extra physical and emotional weight and stress and is revealed when a change has been experienced, even mastered. A coach encourages a client to take the time to notice, embrace, enjoy his or her best self, and celebrate!
To reinforce a client’s motivation and confidence, it is important to experience quick “wins,” to enjoy Ambivalence, the existence of coexisting and conflicting feelings that create a decisional balance that doesn’t lean toward pros or cons can be a major factor inhibiting clients’ commitment to change.
Feeling ambivalent is a common and perfectly normal state of mind. Guide clients to accept their ambivalence rather than to fight it in order to better work their way through it. It may always be present to some extent, and that’s OK. Ambivalence doesn’t need to be completely resolved for clients to get started and be successful with change.
For example, some people may always be ambivalent toward getting up early to exercise, but they continue anyway because the intrinsic rewards make it worth doing.
If ambivalence jeopardizes your clients’ commitment, then it is a problem. If it simply makes them question their commitment and does little more than lead to a temporary detour now and then, it can be a positive experience as they develop resilience and an ability to get back on track. Self-awareness of their positive core and goal setting through lapses and relapse are powerful tools for dealing with ambivalence.
Clients may underestimate the power of a personal coaching program at the beginning. With your help, they will make changes they didn’t realize were possible. As their confidence in changing grows, their readiness to change will spill over to other areas of their health and fitness and even other areas of their lives.
Change in one area of life can have a mobilizing effect on changing another area. Coaches will find that when clients have success in areas where their readiness to change is more advanced, they may progress past contemplation in the more difficult areas, powered by new self-efficacy.
Assist clients infrequently connecting with their positive core, especially their strengths, aptitudes, values, and resources for learning and growth. This will assist them in maintaining a hopeful and positive relationship to the prospect of behavior change.
Remind your clients that change can be uncomfortable and difficult in the beginning. This is normal when people are stepping out of their comfort zones and seeking to make conscious changes.
Reassure clients that lapses are common during the early stages of change; that is why they will need a lot of encouragement and support when they first get started.
If clients are struggling with change, the coach can reassure them that what they are experiencing is a normal part of the change process and let them know that they are doing something that is difficult for most people.
It is a good time to remind them of progress they have made to date—such as hiring a coach! Most people underestimate their ability to change and lack the tools and process to facilitate change. A coach can help clients raise their level of confidence by never losing sight of their positive cores. “You CAN do it!” is a key framework of masterful coaching.
Coaches help clients develop internal motivation and focus less on external motivators by having them look inside and focus on changing behaviors for themselves and not for anyone else.
If a client’s motivation originates externally (i.e., “I’m doing this for my spouse/children/employer/etc.”), it can wobble and then lead to guilt, frustration, anger, and often quitting.
When clients can honestly say “I’m doing this because it will make me feel good and feel good about myself,” then they have internal or intrinsic motivation. The guilt-inducing, self-esteem–based “I should do this” is usually counter-productive because it fosters inner criticism which is depleting.
The client should focus on their internal and positive motivation and not on externally induced pressure and validation.
Open-ended Inquiry Creative Brainstorming
When it comes to generative moments, an inquiry that evokes stories and images has far more power to generate an upward spiral than does inquiry that leads
Brainstorming is an essential skill of coaching, especially when it comes to generative moments. With the increased motivation to change comes increased interest in specific change strategies. Such strategies are not handed to clients by coaches; rather, they are co-constructed with clients through the creative brainstorming of ideas, questions, approaches, and frameworks.
Coaches and clients can generate an enormous number of possibilities without evaluating the relative merits until later. The mood can be alternately playful, insightful, courageous, and realistic. Taking turns in coming up with possibilities is a good way to build and maintain momentum through the brainstorming process.
Unfailing affirmation is about steadfastly acknowledging the client’s capacities, characteristics, and strengths for a change. In this way, coaches positively impact both client efficacy and self-compassion. “My certainty is greater than your doubt” expresses the framework that coaches come from in working with generative moments.
When clients know that coaches believe in their capacities to change and achieve desired outcomes, they are more likely to get out of their own ways and try new strategies. Such an endorsement enables clients not only to get excited about the possibilities generated through brainstorming but also to move forward with one or more of them.
Generative moments grow out of the connection that coaches make with clients at the beginning of each coaching conversation. By establishing a “no-fault zone” where clients can blamelessly and shamelessly open up and share, coaches make it possible for clients to learn from their experiences and to move forward.
Early and effective use of empathy, inquiry, and reflections in reviewing client goals (both weekly and three-month goals) helps to uncover the topics clients want to explore in greater depth.
Facilitating Generative Moments
When creating a specific placeholder for the generative moment within the coaching session, the process includes eight primary stages:
Collaborates with the client to identify the topic on which to work, where he or she has aroused emotional energy and interest
Asks for permission to explore and work on the topic now
Encourages the client to describe what he or she really wants now in relation to the topic
Explores the strengths or values the client can leverage to move forward
Explores the environments the client can leverage to move forward
Explores decisional balance and develops discrepancy (when the client demonstrates ambivalence)
Engages the client in creative brainstorming of pathways forward
Expresses and facilitates confidence in the client’s ability to move forward
Collaborate with the Client to Identify the Topic on Which to Work Where He or She Has Aroused Emotional Energy and Interest
To identify the topic on which the client would like to focus, pay attention to the emotions, needs, desires, and values that the client has expressed throughout the session. Listen for:
What the client is feeling
What the client is attracted to
What the client wants less of
What the client is celebrating
What needs are alive in the client
What the client is resisting
How ready the client is to change
What gives the client energy
What moves the client to action
What the client highlights and remembers from the previous sessions
Sometimes, several topics emerge that are inter-twined or are ambiguously defined. Inquiry in advance of coaching sessions (e.g., through e-mail) and the use of reflections—particularly simple reflections—are necessary to drill down to a topic underlying others or clarify a clear topic definition.
Ideally, the topic of a generative moment will be self-evident to the client and coach alike. It will shine, like a light in the darkness. When that happens, it will be easy to name the topic and move on to the next step.
More often, coaches and clients will float different topics for consideration until one clearly rises to the surface. Coaches may name a topic and ask if it is an area the client would like to explore.
When clients agree, it may be useful to use a motivational interviewing style ruler to measure how much energy they have around that topic. If energy is low, there may be another topic worth pursuing. Or, it may be possible to invigorate a client’s energy by discussing his or her energy rating.
Alternating between open-ended inquiries and reflections is a way to clarify the topic. For example:
From our discussion, it sounds as though there are three potential topics which we could explore today. Here is what I have heard so far . . . (describe them succinctly)
We have time to work on one topic. On which one would you like to work?
What makes this topic the most important for our coaching today?
What outcome would you like at the end of today’s session?
The point is not to be “right” about the best topic to pursue but rather to invite clients to look more deeply at what is alive in them. Regardless of whether the coach or client first names the topic, the key is to hold that topic as an opportunity for deeper connection and learning.
The generative moment is the heart of the coaching session, and the client’s heart determines the focus of the generative moment.
Ask for Permission to Explore and Work on the Topic Now
Once a topic has been identified and clarified, the coach and client agree on the appropriateness of working on it now. Coaching always protects the freedom and choice of clients, which increases both the motivation for change and the probability of success.
The client’s stage of change significantly impacts both his/her readiness to address the topic as well as the approach that should be taken.
If clients are in the earliest stages of change regarding a particular topic, it may be difficult for them to mount the energy necessary for a generative moment that would move them forward to action.
However, in these stages, clients can do valuable thinking and feeling about possibilities, working the decisional balance for change, and exploring new supportive relationships or environments. A generative moment which builds hope can be a catalyst for increasing readiness that will eventually lead to transformational action.
Encourage the Client to Describe What He or She Really Wants Now in Relation to the Topic
The work of the generative moment starts with drilling down to the heart of the matter. It is a dance of self-discovery for clients, which challenges them to view and think differently about the topic and themselves.
“Ah-ha!” experiences are common. Begin by tapping into or creating hope and optimism by inquiring about the client’s ideal vision or optimal outcome related to the topic at hand.
Next, AI and MI models offer different paths to get to the heart of the matter. In general, it’s valuable to first start with AI to build and harvest as much positive energy and emotion as can be elicited at a given moment. Reconnection to a client’s strengths and capacities may be sufficient to move forward into brainstorming and planning.
I also offer many tools to understand the roots of ambivalence, to play with ambivalence, and, even better, to resolve it. Often, coaches find themselves using a mix of both models.
Explore the Strengths or Values the Client Can Leverage to Move Forward
It is important to approach each topic as a possibility to be explored rather than as a problem to be solved. Working from a deficit-based framework, focusing on what is wrong and what needs to be “fixed,” can negatively influence how coaches view client potential and can
Instead, masterful coaches explore a topic from a strengths-based perspective, even when clients are experiencing resistance to change. Strengths-based inquiries focus on what is meaningful and compelling to clients more than on what they do not want. In addition, they invite clients to recall and reconnect with past successful experiences.
The benefits of using strength-based inquiries are plentiful. They include generating hope, optimism, and other kinds of positivity; reminding clients of their capabilities; and encouraging more of the behaviors that generated previous success.
Remember the AI principle: that which we appreciate appreciates. Using the AI interview protocol, the following represents a sample of questions that can generate positive shifts in thoughts and behaviors:
Tell me about a time when you experienced a similar challenge and navigated your way through it.
What did success feel like?
What are the values reflected in and how you have handled this situation?
How does this connect with your vision?
What are the needs that would be met if this vision were realized for you?
What are the structures (people, places, things, tools, routines) that would enable you to be successful with this goal?
What are your hopes for how you would like to handle this issue in the future?
Name your main wish.
The primary objective of using the AI approach first is to engage clients in conversations that reconnect to their vitality—that place of deep longing that brought them to coaching in the first place. Such questions and requests shine a light on the hope and enthusiasm clients have for their visions and realign the situations with their visions.
Explore the Environments the Client Can Leverage to Move Forward
As Peterson and Seligman found in studying the prevalence of universal strengths and values, self-regulation is one of the least valued and used strengths. Self-regulation is vital in the change process.
It manifests in diligently planning, preparing, and executing behavioral experiments; unpacking learning; followed by adjusting the what, how, and when of practicing new behaviors, over and over again.
Given that clients make behavioral decisions and choices all day long under strong influences of their environments, how then can clients adjust their environments to bolster their success, including boosting of much-needed self-regulation?
First, of course, the coaching process provides valuable support in enhancing self-regulation in and of itself. Coaches can then help clients appreciate how their environments affect their self-regulation and encourage clients to consider “what might happen when it might happen, and how it might affect” their progress. “Coaching the environment” is a proactive strategy that supports goal achievement.
Clients can design environments that enable them to be more competent, a key psychological need and resource as we learned in exploring self-determination theory.
The coach and client can together find the environments that enhance the completion of new experiments, and they can design structures (people, places, things) that increase the likelihood of mastery experiences.