Coaching Leaders for Change – A Model

The Change Equation: a helpful aid to thinking about leading and achieving change

“Leadership produces change. That is its primary function”.

 - John Kotter

The importance of leadership has never been greater when we see disastrous examples on the news every day of the results of poor leadership.

One of the toughest challenges facing any leader is dealing with change. As we often say, the only constant in life is change. The fact that companies are still running managing change programmes (and I delivered quite a few even 30 years ago) tells us that this topic will never go away.

The Simple Change Equation

Here is a simple change equation that I use with individuals going through change that can be used with teams and organisations.

It is based on the paradoxical theory of change (Beisser 1970).

The paradoxical theory of change is based on the following ideas: -

  • that a person, group or organisation cannot move from

one stage or state to another until the present state is

fully experienced and accepted. 

  • that we must first fully experience what is before we can

recognise all the alternatives of what may be.

  • That change only occurs after we recognise and accept where we really are and what we really feel.

Now I was never very good at maths but this is a change equation I can really get my head around!

The Change Equation is fundamental to understanding the components and psychology of change and provides a helpful aid to thinking about leading and achieving change. Without the 'Drivers' in the Change Equation, change will not happen. Here it is:

DR x IV x ERS >= RC


Dissatisfaction with Current Reality


Inspiring Vision of how it could be


Easily Recognised Steps to improvement 


Resistance to Change


The product and perceived value of the items on the left of the equation, needs to exceed the resistance to change on the right, for change to happen.

It therefore follows that if any of the items on the left is absent, or zero, then the product of the three is zero, and therefore change will not happen.

If you have no dissatisfaction with the way things are, no picture of a better way, and no idea of how to move towards a better way, then you will make no meaningful change.

I have seen this operate when people have been forced out of their jobs either when they were fired or made redundant. A good way to help them to adjust to the change is to help them build a picture of all the things they never really liked about the job anyway. (Dissatisfaction with current reality).

One can build up a really long list if you try!

Tools and techniques for Coaches

Looking at the equation, clients then need to work out what their new future could be and paint an inspiring picture for themselves. This is where a good coach/supervisor can help with some tools and techniques to facilitate this. A coach can also help with the next stage which is to produce some easy recognisable steps as sometimes the change looks so enormous it creates fear and stagnation. The list on the other side of the equation i.e. resistors will now seem small in comparison.

This equation works equally well with groups/teams using a series of flipcharts on the wall with team members writing their thoughts under each heading.

For leaders trying to make change happen, a coach can remind them that the inspiring vision must also be the individual’s inspiring vision and not the “official” one espoused by the organisation – it needs to really come alive for employees so that it has meaning for them in their lives.

As leader, what you communicate is also key: 

  • Tell people the truth
  • Communicate even when there is nothing to communicate (or the rumour mill will do it for you)
  • Identify the implications of doing nothing
  • Be brutally honest
  • Communicate some more

Of course, this model can be used for any client who is seeking to make a change, big or small, and is not restricted to leaders.

Contact Julia to discuss this model or any other coaching issues you are facing