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.

Consider the 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 talent leader identifies needs for development related to strategic thinking, executive presence, and boundary spanning. A coach is identified to support this leader addressing the development needs during a 6-month journey.

Coaching for change: An employee has been identified as having great networking abilities within the firm and could potentially bring different informal networks together. It would enable collaboration to take place more naturally and easily. The CEO has identified a need for a more innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to designing and delivering the customer experience.

The coach’s main mandate is to support the employee to anticipate and overcome the hurdles that come with changes that will occur as the company rethinks and restructures its customer experience. The employee in this case is serving as a “change agent.”

These varied objectives will considerably alter the way coaching is conducted. Coaching for change starts with the understanding that most interventions related to change 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?”


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

1. Audience

Executive coaching is predominantly allocated for the top, as the name implies. This can be transformative for senior leadership. But the rest of the organization usually doesn’t 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.

2. Directional Intensity

When the goal is personal development, the coachee is self-directing the process. When the goal is organizational change, then coaches and the coachees (change agents) work in tandem to go in one single direction.

3. Strategic Intent

Coaching for development is primarily focused on impacting the life of an individual, with a view to have organizational impact through a ripple effect. Coaching for change is primarily focused on impacting the organization, with a view to accelerate the implementation of change.

By keeping these 3 differences in mind, you can make sure that your coaching efforts will be more successful.

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