The Most Powerful Leverage for Change is Within You

Change is a funny thing. We all want change, but no one wants to change. Real transformation happens when we move the change conversation from “he, she, and they,” to “me, myself, and I.” The most powerful leverage for change is within you. 

I hear it coaching leaders when I ask them what they would like to work on. I often hear answers like these:

  • I need help with someone I supervise who is not performing well.
  • I want to talk about how to help my team to work together better when I’m traveling.
  • My son is having trouble finding a career that fits.

In each example, the person being coached wants someone else to change.

I have to remind myself that I’m coaching the person in front of me, not the other person they want to change.

The key to change is my client, though they usually don’t see it that way at first. Like the rest of us, they want others to change. This desire comes from the mistaken notion that the problem and the solution is “out there.”

If the problem is “out there” then I’m not to blame. I don’t need to change. And, subtly, I’m a victim. For these reasons it’s an incredibly disempowering perspective.

The fact is, we are part of the system and therefore part of the solution. Even the grandfather of factory automation, W. Edwards Deming, said, “Nothing changes without personal transformation.” If we think and behave differently, things will change. We are not victims, we have control over our own attitudes and actions.

Moving From “He, She, And They” To “Me, Myself, And I”

I’m going to continue to describe this from a coaching perspective, how to help someone make the conversation about changing themselves not others. You can have this same internal conversation to change yourself.

When the conversation talks about “him” or “them” changing, you’re coaching the wrong person. You only coach the person in front of you. That means the conversation will be mostly referencing “you” and “I.”

Move the conversation from talking about people and solutions “out there,” by bringing the conversation back to the person you’re coaching.

Use questions to redirect the conversation:

  • How do you want to be in this relationship?
  • What does this say about you?
  • In what ways might you be inadvertently contributing to the problem?
  • How do you need to change in your thinking and your behavior?

Sometimes I give a little background before asking these questions. I say things like,

  • It sounds like you don’t feel much control over the situation. What parts can you influence?
  • You are part of this system. How might you be inadvertently contributing to the problem?
  • Okay, let’s say that he is 90% of the problem. What’s your 10%?
  • If you continue to think and respond the same way, you’ll get the same results. What’s an alternative approach you could take?

Keeping The “I” in Action Steps

Use the same approach for generating action steps. If the person you’re coaching sets action steps for other people to do something, bring it back to the person you’re coaching. Like this,

  • So, that’s what you’ll ask her to do. What support do you need to give her so she’ll be successful?
  • So far you’ve mentioned how the team needs to act differently. In what ways do you need to act differently?
  • How will you demonstrate your new perspective to those around you this week?

By listening carefully to the conversation you can recognize if the person you are coaching is thinking “change is out there” or “change is in me.” Listen for the he, she, and they’s. Ask for me, myself, and I’s. That’s when real transformation takes place.

Question: Are you ready to change? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is an author, speaker and Professional Certified Coach. He helps on-the-go leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    • Joel

      this also diffuses gossip and slander. Great article.

    • Brenda

      Excellent post – making the effort to change internally is so empowering! Being a victim feels like prison.

    • Great points Keith. Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond.

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