Review – Helping People Change

Excerpts:  Helping People Change:

coaching with compassion for lifelong learning and growth

Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith, Ellen Van Oosten


Keys to growing high capacity leaders – Larry

Kyle Schwartz, a third-grade teacher, suspected there was more to know about her students than their enrollment data or standardized test scores.  To be a truly effective teacher, she decided, she’d have to learn what her students were thinking about. What mattered to them?  She asked them to complete the following sentence: “I wish my teacher knew …”

Kyle tapped into the possibility of growth and transformation for her children.  She focused on the students, the learners.  This enabled her to build better and more meaningful relationships, and to build a community with a shared purpose of listening and caring for each other.

So begins, Helping People Change by Boyatzis, Smith and Van Oosten.  Here, in quotes and near quotes, are some of their research findings on helping people change.

Coach with Compassion

To help people change, according to the authors, we need to help others:

  • Find and articulate their vision, dreams, passion and purpose
  • Change behaviors, thoughts, feelings that will move them toward the vision
  • Develop resonant relationships that will encourage them along the way

Coaching with compassion … helps people discover the ways in which they would most like to grow and change. Compassionate coaches make us want to grow. Kyle asked her students what they wanted to tell her. 

Coaching for Compliance

Trying to fix people doesn’t work.  A problem centered approach will not create lasting change. 

Coaching Conversations

Resonant conversations trigger mindfulness, hope and compassion … and help us recover from chronic stress.  [Wow, that sounds like a winner for most of us in these challenging COVID times].  Great coaches ignite a deep sense of meaning and hope. They help us discover what is most important to us. 


People change their behavior when they want to change and in ways they want to change.  To do so, it helps to have coaches who are compassionate, understanding, and insightful.  Coaches help us find our ideal personal vision, our strengths and weaknesses, set a learning agenda, and experiment in new learning.  All of that works best when we:

  • Identify our ideal self before considering strengths and weaknesses
  • Work on what excites us, not our weaknesses
  • Have resonant relationships that support us in our learning.

Intentional Change Theory

Coaching with compassion starts with our “desired future state and focuses on strengths.”  That creates positive emotional attractors, lights up our brains, and motivates us to think creatively and hopefully.  In other words, we want to change.  When we coach for compliance, we point out what needs to be fixed, our weaknesses, and thereby trigger negative emotions which shut down learning by making us defensive or fearful. 

Resonant Coaching

Successful change requires two to five times more positive experiences than negative ones.   The interaction needs to be positive and center around a shared vision and shared compassion.  Change is a process. It takes time.  Believe that gold exists within every person. Your main job is to help move tons of dirt, to find treasure.  Stay focused on the other person and let them drive the agenda. 

Deep active listening is essential to build high-quality helping relationships.

Culture of Helping

High quality coaching amplifies both job engagement and career satisfaction.  It can help retain the best and brightest talent.  Coaches ask questions that spark joy, gratitude and curiosity. They awaken the desire to change. 

Start Today

Inspire and motivate others toward the best version of themselves.  Spend 15 minutes each day helping a colleague discover and connect with their values, dreams, desired work or personal vision.  This process will also help you feel inspired.  Compassion is contagious!


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Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
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