Here is some guidance to those who coach to change behaviour. Besides coaching, the technique is also useful to managers who find that a particular behaviour of an employee is not acceptable to the organisation and hence action must be taken to counsel him.

In such cases, typically the coach/manager tends to seek an explanation and then proceeds to correct his action or the mindset leading to that action. This seldom works.

That is so because you see the action as wrong and think that you  can show him how he is wrong. But beware. He doesn’t see his action as ‘wrong’. He may know that it violates some norms but still he sees the action as ‘right’ for him. Do know that human beings act in their self-interest. Since he does it, he obviously sees the act as ‘useful’ for him, even if not ‘right’.

Your job is to find out how he justifies the act. Finding out how he justifies it to you is not useful since he will be defensive and lie. The important thing is how he justifies the act to himself. How does he see it to be in his self-interest. Once you get that, you are in a position to change his mind-set, but not before.

The first thing you need to do now is to make sure that the person fully understands that you understand his rationale for doing what he does. Not that you pardon it or accept it, but surely you know why he does what he does.

Let us dig deeper.

Depending on how the situation exactly is, such behaviour can be changed in two ways.

You may help him carry out appropriate behavioural adjustments to achieve what he trying to achieve. This is what is done mostly in coaching. You do not see his present behaviour as unacceptable, just ineffective. So you (the coach) help him change his behaviour, not his mind-set. In management however, when the behaviour is seen as unacceptable to the organisation, the mindset is be changed to cause that person to view the situation differently.

In both cases, however, do not act till you fully comprehend the mind-set of your people – their real mind-set, not how they present it to you.

This is the essence of coaching, leadership and management

I learnt this from the excellent book ‘Mind-set Management – The Heart of leadership’ by Samuel A. Culbert. I have tried this extensively in my leadership journey of some 26 years in the army and thereafter in my civil career in HR/OD and as a coach.

It works beautifully. What is more important is that nothing else works.

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