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March 20, 2017

Change Management 101: Communication Skills That Help People Change

It was a moment of brilliance. I was moderating an employee focus group about change, and during the discussion an educator in the group shared this Buddhist quote:

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”


I could see the concept resonated with everyone. It was almost as if I was privy to a collective “ah-ha” moment. Those nine words captured the spirit, tone, and reality of helping people move through change, and the essence of many of the frustrations attendees were feeling and expressing.

tweet-button-2015.png“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” —Buddhist proverb

The wisdom can apply broadly to any number of situations beyond the classroom:

  • A leader coaching an employee
  • A leader managing-up with his or her boss
  • A communications professional counseling a leader
  • An executive coach working with a client
  • Almost any situation where there’s an opportunity to teach or coach
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From a communications perspective, here’s what you can do to try and create an openness to learning or change:

  • Select the right time for a coaching conversation, when the listener’s “mood elevator” is at least neutral to positive
  • Ensure your communication is receiver-focused and conveys clear benefits to the receiver
  • Speak in terms of a specific behavior and consequence so your coaching is not perceived to be personal but rather about a situation
  • Highlight the discomfort or a “pain point” that your alternative behavior will resolve

When someone isn’t ready to change, be cognizant about the amount of time and energy you spend on coaching since the payback will be minimal, if at all. Chances are, others will be much more receptive and you can focus your energies where you will get the best results.

What’s working for you to move people through change?

—David Grossman

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10 Tips for Guiding Culture Change Tip Sheet

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