The Nuances of Coaching for Change vs. Coaching for Development

The Nuances of Coaching for Change vs. Coaching for Development

Most change-management ventures fail. Our research shows that coaching can play a key role in overcoming those odds. But it’s essential to differentiate the use of coaching for development from coaching for change.

Coaching for Change Has a Different Objective

What’s the difference between coaching for change versus coaching for development?

To answer that question, consider the difference in coaching objectives in the following examples:

  • Coaching for development: A successful leader is stepping up into a new role. In the context of their transition, the HR or Talent leader identifies needs for development for this executive related to strategic thinking, executive presence, and boundary spanning. The coach’s objective in this engagement is to support this leader; the executive will receive executive coaching for the identified development needs during a 6-month journey.
  • Coaching for change: An employee has been identified as having great networking abilities. This leader is seen as having the potential to bring different informal networks together, fostering collaboration and a more innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to enhancing the customer experience, a key priority for the CEO. The coach’s main mandate in this engagement is to support the employee in becoming a “change agent,” helping the leader to anticipate and overcome the hurdles that come as the company restructures its customer experience.

These differing objectives will considerably alter the way coaching is conducted.

Coaching for change starts with the understanding that most interventions related to the organizational change effort have failed at delivering sustainable results. Coaching for change raises the question, “How can we best identify the people who will exert a strong influence on the rest of the organization in the context of our change initiative, and how can we best leverage their influence and talents?”

The Difference Between Coaching for Development and Coaching for Change

There are 3 main differences between coaching for change and coaching for development to consider:

  • Audience;
  • Directional intensity; and
  • Strategic intent.


  • With coaching for development happening primarily through executive coaching, the audience is often primarily executives, as the name implies. Executive coaching can provide critical support and can be transformative for leaders, but the rest of the organization may not have the opportunity to benefit directly from this type of experience.
  • Coaching for change is different. Any individual within the organization can experience the impact from this type of coaching, especially the employees within an organization who are considered to be change agents.

Directional Intensity:

  • With coaching for development, the goal is personal development, and the coachee is self-directing the process. Executive coaching can drive performance.
  • When the goal is organizational change, then the coach and the coachee work in tandem to go in one single direction.

Strategic Intent:

  • Coaching for development is primarily focused on impacting the life of an individual, with organizational impacts following after through a ripple effect.
  • Coaching for change is primarily focused on directly impacting the organization, with a view to accelerate the implementation of organizational change efforts by helping individuals become more successful change leaders.

By keeping these 3 differences in mind, you can make sure that whether coaching for change or coaching for development, your organization’s coaching efforts will be more successful.

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Learn more about our high-impact virtual coaching solutions designed to ignite individual, team, and organizational effectiveness. We can provide transformational coaching for your leaders, whether your objective is coaching for development or coaching for change.

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September 16, 2020
Frederic Funck
About the Author(s)
Frederic Funck
Frédéric Funck leads our coaching business strategy, coaching products innovations, coaching client satisfaction and engagements in the EMEA region. He is a member of Forbes Coaching Council and has written numerous articles and white papers on the future of leadership coaching. Frédéric is also chair of a coaching think tank of 60 prestigious organizations in EMEA and serves a keynote speaker specializing in the topics of peak performance and flow.

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