Inspire the ‘shift’ by selling behavioural change like a product

By Muffy Churches

The achievement of lasting change as a result of performance coaching can be an illusive beast that requires ample levels of employee motivation.


Understandably, managers often shy away from coaching simply because of the enormous challenge of leading a discussion that will inspire employee willingness to change their modus operandi. Breaking down old default behavioural patterns to replace them with the ‘brand new and unfamiliar’ is a daunting task, and managers often tend to cross their fingers and hope their employee is up to the job.


The very purpose of coaching is to start a shift in conduct through conversation, so one could be forgiven for turning the transformation process itself over to the staff member at the end of session. But, in doing so, is a powerful motivating catalyst for a successful shift being missed?


Leadership coaching programs give managers useful models on learning cycles, adult change and roadmaps to guide the course of events during a session. But there is one, less cerebral element essential to behavioural change, and that is a staff member’s earnest impetus and drive to follow through on that change. Is it possible to get people more revved up?


Yes, indeed. What is required is a concentrated focus on providing the individual with the opportunity to engage their ‘passion and desire’ for a specific change-goal – in the same way that one would respond subconsciously to the attractiveness of certain products promoted in advertisements.


The degree to which an employee will implement and maintain a shift in behaviour will depend on the degree to which they recognise and appreciate its value to their future professional success. Their desire must outweigh their sense of how much it will ‘cost’ them. Managers who performance-coach can assist them in seeing the positive advantages of behavioural change in three ways:


  • Create a safe climate.
  • Generate a ‘buying’ cycle.
  • Co-facilitate enthusiasm.


Create a safe space

Employees enter a coaching meeting with protective walls to guard against potential exposure of poor performance or embarrassment. So an important component of the manager’s role is to work to build a relationship of trust, equanimity and safe haven for truth. Staff can then be supported in a relaxed acknowledgement and non-judgmental acceptance of the thought patterns, emotions and/or behaviours that cry out for change.


Generate a ‘buy-in’ environment

A staff member’s impetus to take on the ‘effort of change’ is internal, and occurs through conscious analysis and emotion-based thinking. To understand the move from internal processes to action, it’s helpful to refer to a classic marketing technique.


The timeless ‘AIDA model’ can be used to approach a performance-coaching session:


Attention: need 

Identify a need for change (generate consciousness of where competency is lacking).


Interest: features 

Explore new options as potential solutions to that change goal (generate curiosity and intrigue).


Desire: benefits

Hold a visionary discussion around the personal/professional value and gain derived from implementing a chosen solution (generate motivation to attain benefits).


Action: uptake

Stimulate their commitment to act and nail down a specific plan (generate strategic clarity, excitement and enhanced dedication to execution).


Using AIDA as a roadmap for questioning facilitates an employee’s motivation to summon up the ‘emotional budget’ required to buy and wear their change – the new thinking, behaviour or belief system that will lead to positive, exciting and productive outcomes for them in the future.


Facilitate spontaneous enthusiasm

Not everyone is a natural cheerleader, but stretching one’s comfort zone in this space is worth it. The expression ‘authentic enthusiasm’ is both powerful and contagious. It adds positive emotion to an employee’s effort to overcome their more negative, ineffective work habits. Confirming the value and importance of their attempt can drive them to reach even greater heights, and embrace uncertainty as a doorway to opportunity.


Inspiring staff to champion change is a synthesis requiring the integration of both head and heart. To embrace change with enthusiasm, they must ‘logically see’ and ‘viscerally feel’ the distinct advantage of the new behaviour over the current dissatisfaction of the old. Guiding staff through the beautiful dance between positive cause and exciting effect by engaging the heart can inspire a life-long dedication to growth and development.

Muffy Churches is an executive coach, keynote speaker and Director of Beyond Focal Point. She has extensive experience in inspiring and initiating positive behavioural change in clients around the world. For more information visit

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