The Cleveland Consulting Group



Hi folks,

In this issue we revisit change readiness of the individual coaching client. Borrowing from my native American heritage, I’ve integrated the Shawnee 4 Laws of Change with a basic survey to create insights into where the clients might want to focus their attention when change is not working. The focus can be toward understanding what needs to be done to create a permanent change and just as importantly what might be preventing successful change from occurring. I will apply it generally to only individual coaching clients even though the four laws can be applied to a team and/or to an organization.

The combination of the US presidential election, Brexit, safely flying in these difficult times and economic uncertainty has resulted in postponing the Montana Visioning workshop. Enrollment was climbing then suddenly cancellations began to appear. When we requested feedback, it was indicated by UK residents that Brexit and the recent bombings in Europe had created sufficient uncertainty to warrant waiting a year. People from the US indicated that the presidential election and the economic uncertainty permeating the Federal Reserve Bank’s potential for raising interest  rates raised enough red flags to cancel this year’s attendance. We look forward to rescheduling after the first of the year.

In October, the annual coaching workshop will be held at Punderson State Park. Details below. I am working towards ICF accreditation. Stay tuned.

May your year be filled with a unifying world towards peace and prosperity.


Herb Stevenson

Herb Stevenson, CEO/President
Cleveland Consulting Group

The Four Laws of Change
and the Readiness for Change

©Herb Stevenson
August , 2016

When working with clients that need to improve their leadership effectiveness, I tend to examine the larger picture. Leadership effectiveness is based on

  • a deeply personal awareness of the need for change,
  • a clear compelling picture of what is the change,
  • a breakthrough insight into what has to change within the leaders present mental models, and
  • a critical mass of people that share the first three perceptions

Kotter and other change authors support these tenets of change through their various models. However, when borrowing from insights thousands of years old, we can sometimes deepen our understanding as coaches (and leaders) of what it really means to create permanent change.

Shawnee Traditions

In the native American oral tradition, the Shawnee1 nation sought to understand what would enhance the effectiveness of the big decisions. Through study and observation of the people, they developed and applied the four laws of change.

Change comes from within. This means that permanent change will always come from within the individual. Change most importantly is a relationship with your self. Clients often misunderstand that the change is more than an intellectual exercise. My experience has been that unless you change the perception, the leader will simply find a new expression of the existing perception. Hence, supporting the client to delve deep into their mental models is critical. Peter Senge provided some insights into mental models via the Fifth Discipline (Senge, 1991, 2006) and Yoram Wind and Collin Crook provide a more thorough explanation in the Power of Impossible Thinking (Wind & Crook, 2005).

For example, when working with a client that was ordered by the board to complete a 360 assessment, the core issue was that the CEO had been highly successful as a command and control executive. In prior years, the organization had needed such directive from leadership to get through the difficult period in 2008-2010. As the organization (and economy) improved, the need for a different leadership style was imperative. The client had been informed that leadership styles changes were a requirement for continued employment. The executive was not known for reflective thinking or self awareness. He had learned his leadership style from a long line of command and control leaders he had reported to in a variety of crisis organizations. Instead of trying to change the individual’s leadership style, the focus was on the internal images of what excited him as a leader. He was clear that he enjoyed high octane adrenaline driven crisis situations. We placed these details on flipcharts. Next, we described the present organization. He began to see that the organization was no longer in crisis and, in fact, he was the only crisis in the organization. Shortly afterwards, he negotiated a severance for his departure because he had no desire to change his leadership style and realized he needed to find his next challenge.

Permanent change requires a vision.
This means that unless we hold a clear and/or compelling picture of what is the change that needs to occur, the initial insight or energy or reason for changing fades into the background until triggered by the next difficult reminder and/or painful event. Visioning is more than saying I want to become a better leader. It means creating a compelling picture of what is an effective leader. 360 assessments often provide a backdoor approach to becoming a better leader by piercing the client’s self perception with direct and often difficult feedback. When this occurs, I focus on a descriptive exercise that creates an image of what does effective leadership look like, feel like and most importantly how will the client know that they have succeeded in the desired changes. Unless a clear picture of what success looks like the person will return to some version of their original self (behavior).

For example, no matter what was done, the client was unable to come to an image of what a new vision of his leadership style might be. We examined competency models. We discussed great leaders in history. We tried imagination exercises. Finally, one day we were talking about sports and his eyes lit up. His favorite player had had a spectacular game. As I listened to him, I wondered if he held an image that leaders are heroes. I asked about great sportsmen and he rattled off a list of great individual players. As his excitement permeated the conversation, I asked who led the team: the manager/coach or the star players. At first, he indicated that the star players led by example. As we explored it further, I asked him to consider what the coach does that leads to the team winning, not just the star players excelling. The next session he acknowledged that he had believed that star players were leaders that led by example. Now, he had shifted his perception and had begun to ask what had made coaches great leaders, the ones that brought entire teams to championship play. At that point, he recognized his job was more akin to being a coach than to the star players. From that point further, we began to develop a new vision of his roles, responsibilities, use of authority and communication processes. As the image further developed, he began to lead.

A great healing/learning must occur. Healing and learning are closely aligned in indigenous cultures. Often, relationships with self or others are healed upon learning new information or by developing different perceptions or by taking the time to understand a situation differently. In short, change is often accompanied by a form of empathy that leads to a personal insight or awareness created by waiting in the silence. Hence, it could be an epiphany for the client that suddenly sheds light on a problem. It could be an insight that they are actually creating most of their problems by how they behave towards other. Generally, this is where the client can have the greatest difficulty because unless the existing mental models are examined and the client understands that they are responsible for being in relationship with direct reports, peers, and the boss (or direct reports and the board). In some cases, there can be a disconnect between the situation and the individual that ultimately leads the client to behave as if they are a victim instead of the leader they are. (See Kegan and Lahey’s excellent description of the Immunity to Change, which is another way to examine mental models, called big assumptions in their book.)

For example, a client had the impression that I was going to fix her. As a gestalt practitioner, I explained, I had no preconceptions of the leader being broke. Rather, I was interested in her internal image of what is a good leader and to explore how to round out some flat sides that could enhance her leadership effectiveness. We focused on: is there a need for change; what is the change that is needed; and what would the change look like? Generally, we were making inroads for her direct reports; however, there were still strident moments with peers. We looked at the composition of the peer team and discovered that there were two women and six men. It was observed that when she felt challenged by male peers, she would move into a more “in your face” defensiveness. As we explored these situations, she suddenly got clear that she held a big assumption concerning being perceived as weak if she did not take aggressive stances with her peers. We explored how she might experiment with different behavior by asking more questions and getting clear whether she was being challenged as a leader or her ideas were being challenged. Though a difficult shift, she was able to tone down her responses to peers and started developing an image of what it would look and feel like if she were able to fully engage with less aggressive behavior.

A healing force/forest must be present. So as to make any change permanent, the person needs to share it with others, who in turn will learn to support them in the change. Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching model portrays this law most clearly. As noted by Goldsmith, "The leader selects a handful of stakeholders mostly boss(es), direct reports and peers. Throughout the coaching program the leader involves these stakeholders on a monthly basis in the leadership growth process. This creates accountability for the leader to implement the change, as well as accountability for the stakeholders to support and to take part in the change process, which impacts and benefits the leader's team as a whole." (See Goldsmith’s “What Got you Here, Won’t Get you There” and

In native terms, it requires a community to support a change. As such, change requires a partnership between those initiating the change and those participating in the change. This means that any change to be permanent must have the support of the larger organization or community. This support is a partnership for life. For an individual, it could mean that the insight or vision is shared with family and friends and time is spent allowing them to understand and learn to see the value of the change. For an executive, it could be that the change is shared with people within and outside the functional group who can learn to support the changes versus unknowingly undermining it by not knowing that change has occurred. Regardless, the level of success will be directly proportional with the ability to communicate the change and to build support for it.

One of the greatest difficulties is to convince the client that first they must acknowledge the need for change and then to live the change that is needed. Frequently, the client will focus only on their personal insights without building any support for the change. For some, it is because acknowledging the need for change is embarrassing or portrays weakness. For others that realize that change is part of life, they tend to still think it is an individual activity surrounding leadership. In truth, sharing leadership style changes are welcomed by direct reports and peers, especially if its changes widely recognized as needed.

One client surprised me with his candor. He was a seasoned, senior executive and was very candid with his desire to face his blind-side behaviors. Beings that it was a new team formed from a global merger, I was surprised with his candor. Moreover, his candor supported the team to discuss the individual and team assessments that revealed likely problems the team would encounter due to personality types, conflict styles, and preferred interpersonal dynamics. After three intensive days, the team left with a better understand of what to watch for and what to do when potential problems erupted.

Using a Change Assessment

Over the years, the following change assessment was adapted from William Bridges work and integrated into the four laws of change. ( Clients can take the assessments, tally the score and then tally score according to each of the four laws. Interesting, though not validated, the survey results generally indicate the law that was not addressed during the change process. Through focusing on the one or two laws that have lower scores, the coaching can restore the client’s insights for how to effective change and therefore enhance there leadership effectiveness.


John Kotter, Leading Change, 1994; 2012

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, The Immunity to Change, 2009

Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, 2007

Peter Senge The Fifth Discipline 1991; 2006

Yoram (Jerry) Wind & Collin Cook, The Power of Impossible Thinking 2005

Williams Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change 2009

Personal Change Assessment

You should answer the questions from your own point of view. You should be honest and should resist the temptation to give an expected or the-way-it-ought-to-be answer. It is meant to give you a snapshot of how things are now, not how they'll be when everything falls into place.

Describe the change that you seek for yourself.

Answer each question with the following numbers:

4 = The statement is definitely true or accurate.

3 = The statement is largely accurate or mostly true.

2 = The statement is only partly true or accurate.

1 = This is only occasionally (but not very often) true

0 = The statement is utterly false.

1.___ I think that the change in question is a necessary one.

2.___ Given my situation, the change I seek represents how I can become more fully who I am.

3.___ I am committed to the change.

4.___ My family and friends are aware of the change I seek

5.___ ....and, generally, my family and friends support the change

6.___ The details of my change are being communicated to those who will be affected as quickly as it is practical to do so.

7.___ Family and friends are able to tell me about their concerns and questions about the change without my over-reacting.

8.___ And those concerns and questions have, thus far, been responded to in a pretty honest and timely way.

9.___ There aren’t a lot of old scars or unresolved issues around my change.

10.___ I have a history of handling change fairly well.

11.___ I have a history of doing what I say I will do.

12.___ ...and of saying what I am going to do before I do it.

13.___ I think that if this is what I want to do, that I can pull it off......... successfully.

14.___ Generally, my decisions are made in a timely fashion.

15.___ When I change, I support others with patience and understanding while they get used to the new way that I am.

16.___ When faced with new and challenging situations, I let go of the old way of doing things and apply how I am now.

17.___ It is safe to take an "intelligent" risk with me by saying what is so when it is so without blame or judgement.

18.___ There is a pretty widely understood vision or shared understanding of whom I am and what I am seeking to become and/or to accomplish.

19.___ Even though I am making the change, we (my family and friends) feel like we're all in this thing together.

20.___ My commitment to myself is as high and unwavering.

21.___ Although the pace and extent of change I am seeking may be great, it is also workable.
22.___ Generally, I practice what I preach.

23.___ Basically, there is no disagreement about my desire to change.

24.___ Generally, I show an awareness of and concern for how my change will affect others in my life.

25.___ and friends... generally understand how things will be different when the change is finished.


Evaluating the Results

The highest score is 100. The higher the score, the more you, your family and friends or colleagues are ready for the change in question. Specific questions that have low scores are areas that could use some additional thought and/or work.

To get an idea of the areas that might need more work, tally the scores for each of the following areas.

Change Comes from Within: ___1___2___3___20___22

Permanent Change Requires a Vision: ___13___14___16___18___21

A Great Healing/Learning Must Occur: ___7___8___9___10___12___15___23___24

A Healing Forest/Force Must be Present: ___4___5___6___11___17___18___19___25

Evaluating the Process

Which questions caused a tinge of surprise or discomfort? Describe the discomfort that occurred?

Generally, describe which of the laws of change requires more time and effort for your change to be successful?

Describe what you are Now willing to do to make the desired change?

Describe how you will know your change has been successful?


1. The four laws of change have been passed from Vick Ordaz, Shawnee elder, to me. I have been granted permission to use these laws to support others to make positive changes in the world. Herb Stevenson


Executive & Life Coaching:
A Journey into Advanced
Skill Building

October 9-14, 2016
Punderson State Park, Cleveland Ohio

Executive & Life Coaching: A Journey into Advanced Skill Building is a “coming- home” experience for those seeking to build upon their existing coaching skills. It is an indepth experience steeped in personal growth through self awareness and professional development through a refinement of your coaching/consulting skills. Though based in gestalt/ontological theory, the core concepts will be “use of self”, “presence” and “paradoxical theory of change” which permeate many coaching philosophies. In addition, we will include a form of peer coaching that is gaining momentum as a leader development process as well as a team development process.


Executive & Life Coaching: A Journey into Advanced Skill Building is an intensive experience that requires a commitment to expand your knowledge and practice. This translates into an extensive manual of original writings from my 30 years of executive coaching and consulting. In addition, supporting articles that influenced the writings will be available to further deepen your practice knowledge. In short, reading to deepen will support your process.

Learning Objectives

After completion of this workshop, you will be able to:

  • use assessments as a coaching tool
  • create individual development plans from assessments
  • understand the differences between coaching, therapy, consulting and supervision
  • apply various coaching models; e,g GOOD, Gestalt, Peer, U-Theory
  • apply the coaching contact model to highlight breakdowns in client development
  • confidently coach in most any situation within your field

Learn more...