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Many people make heartfelt comments about wanting to do things differently yet fall at the first hurdle. By gaining understanding of the key stages in the change process and their own capacity to adapt to changes, individuals can develop a personal change strategy. There are a number of models that describe the process of change. For the purposes of this chapter the model that I have adopted is the one shown in Figure 3.1.

The change process

Figure 3.1:  The change process

We will examine each stage in turn.

Overall Vision

In order to achieve a significant change it is important to be able to rise above the immediate situation and to see the potential benefits of changed circumstances or behaviour. Organizationally it is important to be able to articulate a clear vision of how the future could be and invite your employees to unite behind a common goal. Individually the ability to identify your own work/life goals, or shared goals with your life partner or work team, is an important part of your own personal development. There are a number of different approaches to setting a vision. You may prefer to take a practical approach, for example this statement may apply to you: 'I like to think through all the practical implications before I start something new or different', or alternatively you may prefer to spend time imagining how things could be: 'I like to dream of possibilities.' Whichever approach you use it is important eventually to identify what you're trying to achieve, ideally to write it down and to commit to achieving it within a time-frame.

Determination to Change

As well as having an overall vision it is important to have an underpinning desire and determination to change. With this desire there also needs to be an inner resilience to enable you to achieve the change. Organizationally this can be critical because those charged with managing and implementing change need to be able to keep going despite what may be an apparent lack of support and sometimes strong resistance to change from others, some of whom may be in positions of authority. At this stage it is important to be focused, to be able to identify your hopes, dreams and aspirations and express them in a series of focused objectives, which can form the basis of a real plan of action. As well as stating the overall goal, the objectives need to be able to be measured and to follow the principles of SMART (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Timed). This applies to life as well as work goals. Again there will be different approaches to being determined to change, particularly related to the speed of change. Some people take a more considered and future approach: 'Although I set myself goals, I sometimes find it hard to motivate myself to keep working towards them', while others have a more direct approach: 'If I want to do something differently I often want to start right away.' It is important to set goals that are realistic and achievable; otherwise you could be setting yourself up for failure. This can apply to individual goals or organizational targets.

Exploring Options, Developing Alternatives

Some people prefer to wait for change to happen to them while others want to be more in charge of their own destiny and sometimes can almost be guilty of instigating change for its own sake. In the exploration stage a coach can act as a very effective sounding board, enabling a learner to explore and chart the options. Some people are also better at harnessing their own creativity and generating options and choices. Often those who are looking for an opportunity to change will spend time thinking and planning a number of courses of action. Useful as you may be as a sounding board it is critically important that the individual takes ownership of the change, particularly if it has far-reaching consequences; without this ownership the individual cannot really move forward. For some people, finding solutions to difficult situations presents a real challenge: 'When I have a problem, I often find it difficult to see beyond the immediate situation' or 'When I have a problem or issue I tend to rely on past ways of trying to resolve it.' Others are more creative: 'What someone else might see as an impossible problem, I see as an opportunity' or 'I often have more ideas than I can actually implement.'

Personal Commitment and Drive to Make it Happen

Any change requires effort from the individual. Of course it is possible to sit back and let it happen, but those who have the personal commitment and drive to make it happen will often find that the change is more fulfilling because they have a level of control over the pace and pattern of change by being able to negotiate how it happens. 'When I believe in something I become passionate about it' or 'If I really want to do things differently I can make it happen.' In a coaching scenario this stage really helps to identify those who are prepared to take action compared to those who are unable to move their dream from theory to reality. As illustrated below there is a point that needs to be reached before an individual is really ready to take the first step. As a coach you can help them take that first step, but the individual must have the necessary momentum to carry on. Equally at this stage it is important to keep in touch, as some individuals may also lose confidence after they have taken the first step and, like babies learning to walk, may suddenly sit down and be unsure how to get going again. 'I sometimes give up too easily' or 'I often find it hard to give myself permission to do things differently.'

Gaining Support, Being Resourceful

This is another important stage. Handling change on their own can be a lonely and challenging experience for individuals. Building and using a support network can be a much more positive experience. A coach can be a valuable source of support at this stage by helping people network and identifying other resources. It is important to recognize where someone is coming from. Some creative people find it very difficult to relate to others: 'I often need personal space', 'I would rather not be responsible for other people' or 'I prefer not to share my feelings with others', while others are more collaborative in their approach: 'I have a network of professional people that I use to help me achieve my goals', 'I enjoy coaching other people to help them to find solutions' or 'I have a close group of friends to relax with.'

Responding to Challenges, Overcoming Setbacks

Throughout the whole change process there is an important difference between accepting and challenging the process. Challenging does not necessarily mean conflict, but what it can mean is the ability to take a proactive stance through either instigating the actual change or at least taking an active part in the activities and dialogue surrounding the change. 'If I commit to do something I will see it through to the end', 'I am prepared to take risks' or 'I really do see problems as an opportunity to find a solution.' For others, responding to challenges is much harder: 'If someone strongly challenges me I tend to back down' or 'When faced with a problem I often want someone else to solve it for me.' An interesting contrast between the two styles is what happens if something doesn't work out: 'I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by defeat' versus 'If I have tried every solution and it still doesn't work I am not afraid to give up on an idea and look for other opportunities.' For a coach, helping people to take control in difficult situations is an important part of the personal growth process.

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