This article is written for coaches and people involved in managing change.
We have all adapted to change
Humans are oddly ambiguous creatures. On the one hand, we are among the most adaptable of creatures. Before we had developed writing, humans had settled in almost every corner of the globe. We were living in harsh deserts, in tropical rain forests, in the icy and treeless plains of the frozen north, on high mountains and idyllic islands in the deep blue sea. More recently people have adapted to living in low earth orbit and have their sight set on permanent outposts on the moon and Mars. We have all adapted to change, and done so in most spectacular ways.
A dim view
But on the other hand, most people don’t like change. I’m not going to give you the academic references (you can find them yourself), but consider some of these terms found in the literature: tolerance for change, fear of the unknown, striving for security, and concerns about personal failure. Look at those words – change is something to be tolerated, the unknown is something to be afraid of, change makes us feel insecure and that puts us in a struggle for security, change raises concerns about personal failure and what that might mean for us. This is a rather dim view of change, especially for a species that has been so adaptable and creates so much change.
A mixed story
So, what does the human story sound like? On one hand, it speaks of venturing into new territory, of reaching for new heights, of growth and expansion. Most of your clients might have stories like that. They want to build a profitable and expanding business, they have highly ambitious career goals, or they may have lofty aspirations for personal achievement. But at the same time, they may find it hard to accept things they must do to achieve their goals. They may fear venturing down new pathways and trying new things. They may hate feelings of insecurity that arise when they step outside their comfort zone. And failure is not an easy pill for anyone to swallow.
Human stories reflect this sweet and sour flavour of life. So how can we, as coaches, best help our clients? We can get some help here from the academic literature. In the positive psychology literature there is an idea called ‘psychological capital’, or ‘PsyCap’ for short. According to Luthans, Avey, Avolio, and Peterson (2010), PsyCap is characterised by:
- Having the confidence to take on and invest the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks
- Making a positive attribution about succeeding now and in the future
- Persevering toward goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals in order to succeed
- When beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond to attain success
So, what can we do? We could help our clients become more confident to take on challenging tasks, and help them invest the necessary effort. We could help them adopt a positive attitude about succeeding and to persevere when the going gets tough. To change pathways when that’s needed and to bounce back when things go wrong.
An integrated framework
These are helpful ideas, but they’re not always easy to do effectively, especially if you don’t have a system to help you. My own research into change fitness tells me there’s even more to be done. More than PsyCap is needed. Not only is there more psychological capital needed, what is also needed is a structure and framework that enables a coach to put it all into practice. Evidence-based ideas are a great starting place, but you need more than ideas to make it work. You need an integrated coaching framework.
To get from stories about dreams to actually living those dreams requires passion and the capacity to handle the challenges of the change process. Building your clients’ change fitness will help them deal with what is difficult and challenging about change.
If you would like to learn more about what change fitness is and about a coaching framework and structure that will help you develop it, please reach out to me.
Written by Steve Barlow