Organizational change requires effective training to embed new behaviors. According to the American Productivity & Quality Center’s 2014 best practice report on transformational change, “the single biggest reason [change] initiatives fail is that organizations often don’t spend the necessary time to influence and mold individual behavior.” Companies need to convert new behaviors into on-the-job habits. People naturally resist change, preferring the familiarity and predictability of existing habits. Old habits are like those well-worn shoes we can’t bring ourselves to replace because they are just too comfortable.

Research shows it takes an average of 66 days to create a new habit. The best training teaches and encourages the practice of new behaviors that are relevant and immediately applicable to learners’ jobs. However, numerous studies show that learners forget as much as 70 percent of what they learn within 24 hours of course completion. Sixty-six days is a long time for a learner to stay the course, applying and adapting the behaviors to varied situations, especially when they may not remember what to do. To create and sustain new habits, training must be reinforced by one-on-one coaching that guides learners to embed the behaviors in how they work.

High-impact coaching embodies five essential characteristics:

1. Personalized

Coaches need to meet people where they are in their jobs and skills development and provide a personalized improvement plan. When coaches know and care about individuals, they build trust – a keystone to effective coaching.

2. Activities-Based

The best coaches focus on behaviors and activities that can be managed and improved. Collaboration between coach and learner is essential to lasting transformation. Coaching to outcomes may appear punitive and doesn’t encourage open communication. Additionally, outcomes can’t change after the fact, which leaves little room for improvement and positive reinforcement.

3. Measurable

Coaching to desired, observable behaviors that are transparent to both the coach and learner enables objective conversations. In preparation for a coaching session, the learner can prepare an assessment of his or her behaviors and where the coach might help brainstorm different approaches. This characteristic is key to overcoming roadblocks and embedding new habits.

4. Momentum

Showcasing early wins and building a progressive learning path helps create a domino effect that converts desired behaviors into habits more quickly, with less resistance. Sequential successes build a learner’s confidence, too.

5. Accountability

Coaching provides a continual healthy avenue for accountability. Trust and rapport empower coaches to provide course correction, to which learners respond favorably. Ongoing reminders to commitments and goals desired help ensure that new habits become the way things are done.

Consistent coaching establishes the critical foundation for creating sustainable change. Personalized coaching focused on measurable activities creates momentum. Accountability carries this momentum until the new habit is the new normal.

Coaching alone doesn’t embed and sustain change. Organizational culture often creates an environment that undermines lasting transformation. How do informal company values inhibit long-term change? More on that in my next blog…