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The oldest joke in Psychology is: “How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?” The answer, of course, is “only one but the lightbulb needs to really want to change.”

Do you, really, at a visceral level, believe that people can change? If you don’t, we have a problem…

If you are a coach, you will set limits on your clients; if you are a client, you will probably sabotage yourself. And, if you are a sponsor, you will go through the motions and be blind to the evidence.

So where do you start? You, no matter what your role is, must at least entertain the possibility of deep and permanent change.

Can you think of a single example – public or private? Many of us can recognise the example of Nelson Mandela. Next, I want you to reflect on the concept of Nature versus Nurture. Babies aren’t meant to walk. They put in a lot of effort, a lot of frustration, a lot of commitment and experience a lot of setbacks before they can stand and walk. But then, at some point, we lose the energy and the commitment to develop and grow. What’s interesting is that all of our blockages, particularly in a corporate context, are pure nurture, which means that they can be re-programmed in the other direction.

So if you are a coach, here is a strategy:

  1. Spend a lot of time testing the desire for change as well as the proposed strategies for change. Unless this is totally clean, the probability for deep change is quite low.
  1. Set up some behavioural experiments. You won’t find out if change is real until you actually do it.
  1. Don’t go for the big goal. Instead, go for some approximation to the eventual goal. In other words, if someone wants to run a marathon, coach them to jog first.

What you want is set your clients up for success and then build it incrementally and, eventually, you will develop the ultimate goal with them.

Finally, both the coach and the client must consistently collect all the evidence and examples of change. There are plenty of psychological barriers that prevent us from seeing change;  from selective perception, to confirmation bias to cognitive dissonance: these are all words that we’ve heard before but they all conspire to make us blind to the evidence.

Showing the evidence is sometimes as important as the progress itself.

Thank you.

François Moscovici

Executive Coach & Director

White Water Group


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