“You can’t change anything by fighting or resisting it. You change something by making it obsolete through superior methods.” – Buckminster Fuller
If coaching is about anything, it is about change. And if coaching is first and foremost about facilitating the dynamic process of change or transformation in the lives of people, then ultimately a coach is a change-agent par excellence. That’s why we coach, is it not? We coach to make a highly desired change in an area of life or personality that will allow us to maximize our talents, unleash our potentials, and take our skills to a new level of development. That’s also why we hire a personal coach, is it not? We want to make changes to take our talents and skills to a new and higher level for peak or optimal performance.
Kinds of Change
The problem is, most models for change are connected to therapy. Therapy is also about change, but it is about remedial change—fixing things, repairing what’s broken, getting a person through or over hurts and traumas, altering significant distortions in personality, thinking patterns, emotional distresses. In this context, most people find change challenging, difficult, and even hard. In this context, therapists and clients have to deal with a wide range of subjects connected to that kind of change, namely resistance, defense mechanisms, fighting change, fearing change, and relapse.
By way of contrast, coaching is about generative change. It’s about taking talent, knowledge, and skills to a new level of excellence. It’s about facilitating the highest development in a well-functioning person and about enabling new transformations to occur that empowers a person to excel his or her own visions and dreams about what’s possible. In this context, the people sign up for coaching embrace change, desire change, and are ready for change. And when you have change embracers asking for change, this makes much of the therapeutic understandings, premises, and model of change completely inappropriate.
The Need for a New Change Model
So what’s a coach to do? How does change work for change-embracers, that is for self-actualizing people who are not afraid of change and who do not resist it, but on the contrary, embrace it? As a model for describing how to bring about change, a change model needs to identify all of the mechanisms, processes, and variables and then present that variables in a step-by-step fashion so that we can move through the process and experience a change. Doesn’t that make sense?
If coaching is truly about generative and transformative change, then what model or template informs and guides us in facilitating the change process? The Axes of Change model is our answer.
Introducing the first purely Generative Change Model in the world – The Axes of Change
The Axes of Change is a model or template for working with the change process.
The Axis of Change model uses the key mechanisms or variables that are involved in change. These include:
- The negative and positive emotions that move us away from one thing and toward another.
- The reflective understanding of what needs to change and the decision or commitment to make it happen.
- The constructive planning and designing of what to change to and the beginning experimentation of the action plan to see how it works.‘
- The reinforcement of what works well to reward it and the ongoing testing, monitoring, and accountability that enables the change to solidify.
How can you use the Axes of Change?
If a person wants to change an aspect of themselves, these are the steps to go through to bring about that change. Think of each step as a series of questions to answer and roles to take on. Once the questions are answered successfully and congruently, move on to the subsequent Axis where new questions and roles await. If you are a coach, then these are the steps to facilitate with your client, however even without a coach one could move through these steps. The steps are as follows:
Axis I: MOTIVATION: The Push-Pull Dance
- Vision is the subject of the first dance. It’s thinking teleologically about what you want.
Questions to answer:
- What do you want? What do you really want? What is your highest and best dream?
- What will that give you? What values or experiences are you motivated toward?
- What have you had enough of? What’s not working? What do you not want?
- What are you motivated to move away from?
These questions create the push-pull energy, the propulsion system that plays off of attraction / aversion and pleasure / pain. The poles on the continuum between away from and toward relate to how much energy a person has in feeling pulled or pushed and where a person’s focus of attention naturally go.
This dance stirs up energy as it exposes consequences, awakens dreams and visions, and loosens the current frames. It covers the pre-contemplation and contemplation stages of change. As a coach you will dance between the poles of Awakener and Challenger.
- Awakener: inspiring, standing in awe of the magnificence of a client, inviting new possibilities, seducing to what’s possible, evoking dreams and wild imaginations.
- Challenger: evoking awareness of current reality and highlighting its pain and distress and where it will take one if continued. In this role you confront, get in the client’s face and challenge to create a felt gap.
Axis II: DECISION: The Decision Dance between Readiness and Action
This dance seeks to find and/or create the leverage point for change that leads to the decision to do it. Here you facilitate a client to identify the highest frames of intention, the key to his or her decision. Does he or she have permission to change? Does he believe that change is a possibility for him? Does he believe he deserves it?
- Prober: Exploring like a detective with total curiosity and persistence and tenacity until you find or create a clarity about the decision to change. First probe the existing decision to understand the pros and cons of the decision.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of making the change?
- How do they balance out? How do you think about each choice?
- What frames of mind do you bring to your decision?
- What do you think about yourself as a decision maker?
- Provoker: Teasing, provoking, and playfully challenge to get a client to see just how ready the client is for change, and if there’s sufficient clarity to actually make a decision. Provoke the commitment to the change. Once the person has clarified the factors within a decision, provoking provides the push for the person to make a commitment.
- Are you going to change?
- Are you bold enough? Man enough? Woman enough?
- Nah! You won’t do it! (Teasingly)
What inertia, fears, apprehensions, perfectionism is holding you back?
Axis III: CREATION: The Inner and Outer Games Dance
Everything is created twice—first inside, then outside. In this dance you move with the client to create the Inner Game, then together you translate it into the performance of the Outer Game. This enables the client to close the Knowing-Doing Gap as he or she puts into practice the know-how of the new game. Co-generate with the client a self-organizing frame that will become self-generative.
- Co-Creator: Co-create with the client the actual meanings of belief frames, decision frames, identity frames, etc. that make up a new game— the Inner Game.
- What will you create? Do you have a plan or strategy for the change?
- What elements will go into it? What resources? What other ideas do you have?
- Actualizer: To make the actions real (i.e., actualizing) and experiment to see how the actions work in real life.
- What will be the first step to make your new inner game real?
- What actions will come first? Second? When? Where? With whom?
Axis IV: INTEGRATION: The Solidification Dance of Reinforcement and Testing
In this final dance, you move with the client to solidify the game plan so that it not only is implemented in everyday life, but more and more integrated in the client’s life.
- Reinforcer: Provide reinforcements (rewards) to the actions through supporting, celebrating, nurturing, validating, cheer-leading, acknowledging, etc. This role can be gentle and nurturing or raucous and “partying on.” The reinforcing can occur through one’s person, through a supportive community, through accountability structures, or through the person’s own acknowledgments. The design: integrate the behaviors fully so they become lifestyle.
- What has worked even a little bit to actualize the plan?
- How do you want to celebrate that? Meta-High Fives!
- Tester: Test to see how strong, robust, real, workable, and ecological the new behavior. Feedback the changes and the results, evaluate what’s working well and how to make it work even better, set up accountability structures, look for problems, troubleshoot, and cycle back to the co-creating stage.
- What could work better? What didn’t work as well as you wished?
- When or where could it work better? What would you need to do?
- Do you want to celebrate that? Meta-High Fives!
The process of change, like any and every subjective experience has a structure, and as such, can be modeled. For years, therapists have studied change. Yet their studies have focused on how hurting people change—how traumatized, limited, wounded, and stuck people change. It makes sense that those models of change see change as painful, difficult, a struggle, and something clients will resist and relapse from.
But how do peak performers change? How do self-actualizing people change? What is the structure to that experience? The Axes of Change model is the first non-therapeutic change model in the world, a model based on how top performers, well-functioning people, people who are not hurting and who do not need to change, but who want to change, how change embracers change.
Co Author – L. Michael Hall, Ph.D
Michael is a developer, researcher, coach, NLP and NS trainer and prolific author in the Cognitive Sciences
having developed the most cutting-edge new concepts in NLP and Nuero-Semantics today, the Meta-States Model, Matrix Model, and co-developed the Axes of Change Model.
Michael co-founded the International Society of Neuro-Semantics and The Meta-Coach TM Foundation
(MCF). Michael is the Academic Director and Researcher for the Meta Coach Foundation and has authored and published more than 30 books on NLP to date. Michael can be reached at email@example.com. See www.neurosemantics.com.