Coaching and the People Side of Change – Part II

02 November 2017 | By Mary Beth Lepkowsky

Coaching to embed person-centered practices requires MORE than coaching on skill development alone! Skill building is just one piece of the change journey. People often ask, “How do I get my team on board?” or “How do I get their buy-in?” These questions have more to do with enlistment, engagement, and shared values and vision, than they have to do with skill and habit.

resistanceWhen you think of person-centered organizational change, you hope for a more person-centered work culture, which really is the sum of lots of individual people changing the way they work together. And one thing we know about changing the way we work, it’s that change is hard!

So, to reach your person-centered change goal, you’ll need a two-prong approach, one to build capacity for person-centered practices (skill and knowledge), and one to manage the people side of change (build awareness, desire, and continued reinforcement).  We already know how to teach person-centered thinking skills really well. And most organizations know how to create training opportunities for staff.  So I want to focus on the piece that’s often missing…the change management piece.

Change and resistance go hand in hand. Every change effort will likely experience “resistance,” at some point. Staff who avoid, deny, actively resist going about business in a different way, hoping that “this too shall pass.”

Managers and team leaders are often concerned about team members who are “resistant” to using Person Centered Thinking tools. Leaders seek an easy solution to overcome resistance, but they can struggle to first try to understand WHY some staff members are so resistant to using person-centered practices in their daily work.

And that’s where you find the intersection of coaching and change management. While you can force someone to comply with a new way of working, you can’t force anyone to commit to change. You can only help people discover the value of person-centered change within themselves. As change agents, our best results come through listening to what staff are trying to tell us through their “resistance.” Resistance to change is usually an expression of fear.  I love this quote by author Marilyn Ferguson,

“It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s the place in between that we fear…It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.”

Several years ago I was introduced to Prosci’s ADKAR©  model to manage the people side of change and earlier this year I was certified as a change management practitioner using their change management model.

The ADKAR© Framework for Change from Prosci, looks at building blocks of the change process and what is needed to help people through the transition.  People progress through each phase, not truly able to adopt and apply the skills learned in training until they have grappled with their own level of awareness of and desire for the change.  So take a look at these building blocks and ask yourself what you are doing to create an environment that will increase the likelihood that person-centered change will stick.

A – AWARENESS – do staff have an awareness of the need for change? Do they know why your organization is implementing person-centered change?  And why now?  Do they understand what is and what is not changing? Do they understand the risk of not changing? What are you doing to help your staff recognize the need for change?

D – DESIRE – does each staff person want to change? What are you doing to help the staff member understand the benefit to them personally? Can you help them identify their WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). We’ve heard service coordinators share that the time invested up front in getting the conversation right by using person centered thinking tools ultimately saves time in the long run and gets better outcomes…that is a significant benefit. Peer success stories are very effective to help people see benefits.

K – KNOWLEDGE – do staff know how to use person-centered thinking tools and other practices? Have they received adequate training? Do they have the skill and knowledge needed to be successful?

A – ABILITY – what happens after the training? How are staff supported to put what they’ve learned into practice? Do they have an opportunity to practice and get feedback? Are they supported to reflect upon and learn from that experience? Are they seeing the tools modeled by others? Are staff able to transfer what they learn in training to new and different situations? Do they have time and resources needed to work differently?  Ability is about feeling competent and confident, having a level of proficiency and the elimination of barriers to work in a more person-centered way.

R – REINFORCEMENT– are the desired practices reinforced by the organization?  Are staff recognized, appreciated, or incentivized to sustain their person-centered approaches over time? Are staff supported with follow up training and coaching opportunities to refresh and refine their skills? Is there evidence of person-centered practices being incorporated into all aspects of the organization, such as human resources practices of recruitment, selection and performance reviews, team problem-solving and decision-making, department policies and procedures, etc.

ADKAR© elements are sequential in that each one can help or hinder the next. If a team member is stuck at Awareness, meaning the person doesn’t understand the need for the change, you can’t expect great results by putting them through training, because they are not yet ready for it.  You first have to clear the obstacle around Awareness, possibly by start with a one on one conversation about reason for the change and your vision of the future.

If these elements of change are not openly discussed, then all staff have to hold onto is their fear! And that is where the resistance resides. So before getting too upset that your team is “resistant’ and not on the same page, give your team something to hold on to by using these ADKAR© questions to help change stick.

ADKAR© questions:

What are different ways you have created awareness around the need for person-centered change?

How have you helped individual team members connect with the benefits of person-centered change?

In what ways do you provide the skills and knowledge needed to implement person-centered change?

How have you supported people to achieve a level of competence and confidence when delivering person-centered approaches?

What have you done to reinforce a continued focus on person-centered practices over time?

Remember, person-centered change is a journey, not a destination… wishing you all the best on your journey!  If you need support around person-centered change you can contact me at

To learn more about ADKAR© and change management go to

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