Coaching in Change Management: Some Lessons Learned (Part 2)

Randy Kesterson

By Randy Kesterson, Kesterson

Confusion About Coaching in the Change Management Community

During my ICF-sanctioned training, I learned that a coach “guides from the side”, and they do not give advice to theirclient. Instead, they ask open-ended questions, helping the client come to their own solutions. However, when I look up the word “coach” in the dictionary, Merriam-Webster defines it as “a private tutor” and “one who instructs or trains”.I remember reading the dictionary definition for the first time. A golf coach friend of mine, Chase, immediately came to mind. Chase is successful as a coach, because he has vast experience as a golfer (years of lessons learned) that heattempts to transfer to his client by watching, showing, and correcting. Given the two differing definitions ofcoaching, I can see why there is confusion about coaching in the change management world.

Coaching in Change Management

Some of the work I do is as a Senior Change Advisor. I typically get involved when a client is attempting to usechange management on a large project and things have gotten a bit off the rails. My assignment is to help the client getthe project back on track by identifying significant risks to the project and then by helping the client mitigate theserisks. For example, a risk I often see is the lack of meaningful engagement in the project by the executive sponsor. Inthese change advisory engagements, I’m typically advising the client around a specific change managementmethodology, approach, and set of tools. In this regard, some of what I do is more in line with the role of a golf coachthan that of a coach using the ICF definition.

Wearing Multiple Hats

For me personally, I now comfortably wear multiple hats while working on a client engagement. When in coachingmode, I “guide from the side”, ask open-ended questions, and I do not advise the client. But at times, the client (oftenan executive) grows weary of the open-ended questions, and they say, “Just tell me what to do. I have a meeting withmy boss in 15 minutes. You’ve been in a role just like mine.

What would you do in this situation?” When there is a need for me to leave coaching mode, I will tell the client, “OK,I’m taking my coaching hat off now and moving into advisor mode.” The thing that helps guide me in thesesituations are the following words: What will best serve the client?

Who is Randy Kesterson

Randy Kesterson early retired from executive roles in industry, and he now works as a senior change advisor at TheKesterson Group, founded in 2013. Randy helps organizations improve their critical business results by advising andcoaching the CEO and other members of the senior leadership team. Randy has written and published two books aboutstrategy deployment and change management.

Randy lives in Davidson, NC with his wife Susan, their thirteen-year-old son Chase, and Petey Smalz, their two-year-old French bulldog. For more information about Randy’s unique background, see


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