Self-assessing what’s getting in the way

When we know we want a change in our lives, it can feel overwhelming to understand how to go about making that change. Depending on your personality or disposition, you may be the type of person who immediately goes to solutions and practical action. Someone else may go to big picture systems and try to understand the environmental factors that are helping or hindering change.

Many different change models exist that focus on various levels of personal, group, or  organizational change. Understanding that coaching is inherently about growth and change at the personal level, the development pipeline provides just one way of thinking about what impacts the change process.

David Peterson (2006) outlines five areas that can constrain growth and change.

Insight: How much an individual understands themselves, their needs, and the areas where they need to do work.
Motivation: How much an individual is willing to do what it takes to make the change they desire.
Capabilities: How much an individual has the necessary skills and knowledge to develop in the ways they want.
Real world practice: The amount of opportunity available to practice necessary skills and behaviors relevant to desired goals.
Accountability: The people or processes in place to provide appropriate challenge and support for acting on desired change.

Adapted from David Peterson in “People are complex and the world is messy: a behavior-based approach to executive coaching” in Evidence Based Coaching

The above image maps each of the five areas as different sections of a pipeline. Using the image of a pipe, any one of these five areas can act as a constraint that blocks flow.  For instance, insight might be constrained, meaning you may want to seek out more information about yourself or a situation through feedback and analysis. Or perhaps accountability might be constrained, meaning you may need additional support from a coach to check-in on action towards your goals. What’s particularly helpful about this model is that it serves as a quick and informal assessment to determine the best use of your time and resources. In a world where the way forward to real change can often feel nebulous and out of reach, this model provides some concrete reasons why change might be constrained in your life.
Helpful questions to ask yourself:
  • Insight: How aware are you of your blind spots, strengths, and areas of growth?
  • Motivation: On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your motivation for change?
  • Capabilities: What skill and knowledge gaps might you have that are related to your goals?
  • Real world practice: What opportunities exist in your day to day to practice the kinds of skills you may want to develop?
  • Accountability: What people or processes exist to hold you accountable?
  • Of these five areas, which ones feel the most constrained? Which ones would you rate the least the constrained?


Peterson, B. (2006). People are complex and the world is messy: a behavior-based approach to executive coaching in D.R. Stober & AM Grant (Eds.) Evidence Based Coaching: A Handbook (pp. 51-76). Hoboken, NJ: John Wily & Sons

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