Shining a New Light on Organizational Change: Improving Self-Efficacy through Coaching

Article excerpt


Organizations do not change, people do! This is a commonly held belief among organizational researchers and practitioners in the behavioral sciences. We see over and over again that individual behavior change precedes all measurable improvements in organizational performance. Or put another way, organizational change fails without individual behavior change.

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) has demonstrated the importance of self-efficacy in behavior change. Individuals with high self-efficacy perform new tasks at much higher levels of success than do individuals with lower self-efficacy. Building self-- efficacy should, therefore, become a primary focus of management especially in the context of planned organizational change.

This article explains self-- efficacy and presents coaching techniques for improving it during the process of leading change. Coaching techniques are well suited for the management activities associated with improving self-efficacy. Coaching is suggested as the best way to enable the following five self-- efficacy strengthening approaches: self-thought, mastery experiences, modeling, social persuasion, and physiological states. The article then concludes with practice tips

that every practitioner should know.


Organizations do not change, people do! Organization Development (OD) and Human Resources (HR) professionals commonly repeat this refrain as part of selling the human dimension of planned change. Or more frequently, perhaps, when asked to explain the latest failed change program! Individual behavior change is a prerequisite for major improvements in organizational performance (Robinson, Roberts, & Porras, 1993). Effective models of planned organizational change account for this fact. However, pressures for low cost, high-speed change often force organizations to overlook the human and behavioral aspects of change, typically leading to disastrous results. This article not only advocates a behavioral model; it introduces new thinking on approaches to integrating more effective behavioral change techniques into the planned change process.

The behavior change techniques are based on social cognitive theory (SCT) and self-- efficacy (Bandura, 1997). Stajkovic and Luthans (1998a) highlighted the power of self-- efficacy in a meta-analysis applied to two decades of research. Their results demonstrate that self-- efficacy explains a 28% increase in performance. This compares to 10.39% for goal setting, 13.6% for feedback interventions and 17% for organizational behavior modification (O.B. Mod.) (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998a). Organization Development and HR practitioners should become very familiar with such a powerful concept and should support a coaching environment that enables management to bring about higher levels of self-efficacy - especially in the context of change!

The remainder of this article is structured to that end. First, self-- efficacy will be defined and its power in the organizational context will be further explained. This will be followed by recommended coaching techniques to bring about higher self-efficacy. Finally, a section called practice tips will highlight the do's and don'ts that no practitioner should be without.


Self-efficacy is a psychological construct advanced by the prominent Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura in his social cognitive theory. Briefly, SCT is built from a combined behaviorist and social learning framework and advances our understanding of psychology and organization behavior. It explains behavior as a triadic reciprocal causation operating through the bi-- directional relationship between 1) the employee's cognitive and other personality factors; 2) the employee's behavior (e.g. past successful or unsuccessful performances); and 3) the employee's environment (e.g. perceived consequences from the organization environment). …