ICE BOOK REVIEW – Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

By Rob Cooney (@EMEducation)

Helping People Change:
Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

By: Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith, and Ellen Van Oosten

“All Models are wrong but some are useful”           -GEORGE E.P. BOX  

By now, most educators are versed in learning theory. These “models” are never adequate to fully explain learning (or teaching) but are often useful in understanding how to improve our teaching, why feedback fails, and even how to best study particular phenomenon in medical education.

This book introduced me to a completely new theory, and one that will have profound effects on how I coach. Intentional Change Theory suggests that behavior change doesn’t occur in a smooth start to finish process, but instead in fits and starts. Components of this theory include a series of discoveries: ideal self, real self, learning agenda, experimentation and practice, and resonant relationships. Any individual wishing to make a sustained behavior change must engage with each of these discoveries (again, not linear). In addition to the discoveries, individuals will confront both negative and positive emotional attractors (NEA/PEA) that alter how they interact with information.

If you identify as a coach as part of your teaching persona, a thorough understanding of ICT will alter how you approach coaching. This may include lengthening the amount of time spent in early encounters in order to better tease out a learner’s perception of their ideal versus ought self, dedicating time to increasing a learners’ self-awareness, and understanding how our language can easily provide a PEA or NEA, thus altering a learner’s acceptance of coaching.

Overall, ICT informs a system of coaching that the authors refer to as Compassionate Coaching. As my role has evolved over the last 2 years to include more coaching, this book really made me sit back and reevaluate my approach. It is a book that I will return to again and again as I confront coaching successes and challenges. I’ve also found it helpful in deepening my understanding of feedback failures, especially through the lens of negative emotional attractors that invoke a stress response and likely inhibit feedback uptake.

This is a title that belongs on the shelf of any educator who teaches in a work-based environment and who’s work involves coaching and feedback. I hope that you will find it as useful as I have.

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