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The Axes of Change: part 3

SUMMARY: While we can engage in long debates about how real something is if we can’t measure it, what senior management in business wants is some way to verify skill development and competency. That’s why we benchmark. We model the structure of a skill, set up behavioral equivalents, and then give feedback to that criteria.

This is the art of measuring skill competency and expressions what we have described in NLP for three decades, the de-nominalizing of abstract concepts. As such, this puts a powerful tool in the hands of anyone who wants to be on the cutting-edge of business, training, and coaching.

This is what we have done with the nine coaching change skills in the Axes of Change model to be able to thereby determine and document the presence of actual competency as a change agent.

You can continue reading Part Three below or download the full article here

The Art of Measuring Skill Competency

  • What is the Axes of Change?
  • How does the model work as a cutting-edge change model for self-actualizing people?
  • How did we model the change process to create this model?
  • What are the four meta-programs that make up the four axes?
  • How are these meta-programs involved in the process of change?
  • What coaching skills do these eight meta-programs initiate?

These are among the most common questions asked of us about this new Change Model and in the previous articles we have presented what it is, how we designed it, and its relationship to NLP and Neuro-Semantics. With this foundation we are now ready to explore some practical questions about the model in terms of using it for facilitating change and transformation. After all, if coaching is foremost a domain of change, and the coach a change agent, then it’s critical that coaches have two things: first, a clear and comprehensive understanding about change as a process and second, the ability to translate that knowledge into practical and effective change skills.(*End Note 1)

This is where benchmarking comes in. Once we have translated the theoretical understandings of a model (any model) into practical and learnable skills that we can train, we then need to have some way to measure the actual competency of someone who claims to have the skill. Claiming the ability to facilitate change and actually having that ability are two different things. P.R. and image management does not reality make. Talent, training, passion, commitment, and practice are needed to make it so. So in this article, we will first describe the Coaching Change skills in the Axes of Change and then we will describe how we have and can benchmark those skills to test their actuality.

The Competency of Facilitating Change Skills

In the Axes of Change, the four axes of motivation, decision, creation, and solidification lead to eight distinct coaching roles for coaching a client through the process of change. These make up the dance of change and the coach’s skill lies first in stepping into the eight states and then being able to skillfully facilitate the accessing of the experience in the client. What are these eight states, roles, and positions?

  1. Awakener to a vision
  2. Challenger to current reality
  3. Prober into the matrix of frames that hold the current inner game
  4. Provoker to the decision for change from the present state to the desired state
  5. Co-creator of the new inner game
  6. Actualizer for the client to translate to a new outer game
  7. Reinforcer of the client’s successes
  8. Tester of the results for further refinements and continual improvement

The ninth role in all of this is that of being a Facilitator—the heart of coaching. It is from this central position that the coach facilitates or makes easier the client’s movement through the change process. In the Axes of Change we have specified many different things which are involved that demonstrate each of these nine coaching skills.

Doing this provides an operational definition of what it means to facilitate, awaken, challenge, probe, provoke, co-create, actualize, reinforce, and test. It provides an understand of what it takes to fully express these skills.

Positioning these skills on four meta-program continua or axes awakens us to the fact that every coach will have a preference and natural aptitude in these skills. As we have a favored representation system, we also have favored poles regarding most meta-programs. For example, if you are more Towards oriented rather than Away From in your motivation meta-program, you will find Awakening easier and more natural than Challenging. So with Probing versus Provoking, Co-Creating versus Actualizing, Reinforcing versus Testing.

In Meta-Coaching, we use this insight to enable coaches-in-training to first play to their strength and to then develop the flexibility of consciousness to learn how to move to the other polar end of each axis. By using a Changing Meta-Programs pattern, we facilitate the developing of that flexibility so that the coach can more fluidly move through the dance of change with a client.

The Measuring or Benchmarking of the Skill Competency

  • Yet how do we know that any person is truly skilled?
  • What lets us know that one is truly competent to coach through these roles?
  • Once we have adequately described the skills involved in effectively coaching change, and especially the nine Coaching Change Skills in the Axes of Change, how can we measure these skills and determine any given coach’s actual competency in them?
  • How can a coach measure his or her own competency level?

The answer lies in setting a benchmark for the levels of degree of competency for the skill. If a skill is a process and can be distinguished at different stages of development, then we can identify the behaviors at each stage and plot a developmental pathway. We can specify the behaviors that give evidence of the degree of skill development from incompetent to competent and then on to the level of mastery. For that we use benchmarking.

Benchmarking has been around for three decades as a process for capturing the structure and essence of best practices in business. It began with the Xerox Corporation in 1979. Motorola then introduced benchmarking into its processes in 1985 as a way for bringing measurement into the learning, training, and development process.

What does benchmarking refer to in the context of business? It means taking a “best practice” and specifying its critical elements or components. As such, benchmarking is the continuous process of measuring products, services, and practices against the best competitors or industry leaders in order to close the performance gap and leapfrog over the competition. In this, Benchmarking is used to close the gap between what we are currently doing and to becoming the best-in-a-class.

If this reminds you of modeling, you’re right. Benchmarking describes a simple way to model the expertise of someone masterful in the performance of a high level skill. And while we can fairly easily benchmark tangible things like how to set up an assembly line and get the most proficiency and productivity from people, all of this becomes much more challenging when we turn our attention to benchmarking something less tangible or even intangible. So, how do we do that?(*End Note 2)

The Art of Measuring the Intangible

Measurements are comparisons. When we measure something we contrast and compare one thing with another. In benchmarking we take a skill, break it down into key behavioral components which we can actually see, hear, and feel. After we identify a development scale from simple to more complex to expert level, we give numerical values to the critical components to distinguish the degree of skill development as a skill moves from low to high competence. This sequence of numbers from low to high then enable us to see where a person is on the developmental scale, from 0 1 2 3 4 5.

By themselves, the raw numbers are of no value. To be meaningful and significant, we attach the numbers to a baseline or scale of some sort. Doing this enables us to then compare them against each other. By measuring we can know where we are, where we want to go, and identify the pathway for greater quality and improvement.

In scaling, we establish a sequence of marks at regular intervals which we use as a reference for making measurements. This allows us to rank attributes or characteristics. Every scale will have thresholds or boundaries at each end. The scaling that we have used in Meta-States for years (“From 0 to 10, how much are you in that state right now? How much more would you want to experience? What do you have to do to increase that state?”) now becomes more precise as we give each number on the numerical scale a specific meaning and attach to each specific behavior.

In doing this, our measurements become actionable, linked to the highest levels of a critical skill, and made as objective as possible. Actionable means that we can act on the measurement, we can do something about the scaled information. The measure informs us about two factors: first, where we are and second, what we can do to move to the next level. Objective is a relative term that calls upon us to make the measurements based on as few subjective feelings and opinions as possible. We do that by identifying sensory-based or behavioral indicators that give evidence of the experience. When we have a set of behaviors, then we have the behavioral equivalences.

This is where we use benchmarking to identify the behavioral equivalence of whatever state, skill or experience that you want to improve. Essentially we are asking:

  • How would I know you are accomplishing X?
  • What would I see or hear that would indicate such?
  • What are the critical factors for success with X?
  • What behaviors are critical in this experience?

In Benchmarking the coaching skills (and we have benchmarked 26 of them along with 41 training skills), we use the basic scaling that measures how a skill moves through the competency stages. Using a 0 to 5 scale, we arrange things as follows. Zero (0) on the scale stands for the absense of the skill and even for manifestations of opposite behaviors. The range goes from 0 indicating that there is no evidence of the desired behavior to 5 indicating the highest standard for the skill. At 3 we have a good expression of the skill. That means 4 and 5 will be indicating the highest levels of the skills, the levels of elegance and mastery.

Scaling the Levels of Competence in a Skill

5 – Mastery: level of expertise in the skill

4 – Elegant: smooth, seamless

3 – Competence: skill present and working

2 – Awkward: and clumsy stage, low level skill

1 – First signs: of the skill emerging in fragmented ways

0 – Incompetence: no presence of the skill

Once we have established a scale of the critical behaviors that reflect the developmental growth of a skill, we are then able to do something truly magical. We are able to give feedback to that criteria. That is, we can use our sensory awareness to identify the behavioral equivalents of the criteria and skill and feed this back as a mirror to the coach-in-training. This is what we do in benchmarking the coaching core skills and the coaching change skills which allows us to run a training that is truly competency based.

In the Axes of Change model, not only have we modeled and identified the stages that a self actualizing person goes through in the process of change, but we have also detailed actual the signs and cues that give evidence of the skills necessary to navigate each of those change stages. This fulfills the dream of operationalizing our terms, specifying the procedures, and de-nominalizing what otherwise would be vague and abstract terms. (*End Note 2)

Continue reading The Axes of Change: part 1
Continue reading The Axes of Change: part 2

End Notes:

1. The reader can find this in the two previous articles in Anchor Point and also in the book, Coaching Conversations for Transformational Change (2004). The next book is the first in a series, as a cutting-edge change model for self-actualizing people (in press, due November, 2004). 2.

2. In Meta-Coaching, Volume I, Changing Change we have an entire chapter on benchmarking and two chapters on specific behavioral benchmarks that we have set for the seven core coaching skills and the nine coaching change skills in the Axes of Change.


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. is a psychologist turned researcher and modeler, he is an international trainer, entrepreneur, and best-selling author, co-founder of Neuro-Semantics (, he has developed of several cognitive-behavioral models including Meta-Coaching and the Axes of Change model. Michelle Duval is a Master Coach, CEO of Equilibro, one of the fastest growing coaching organizations in Australia.

Michelle was nominated as Business Woman of the Year in 2003 and her website ( won the best website in the world in 2003, she codeveloped the Axes of Change model. You can find the Axes of Change model in the newly published book, Coaching Conversations (2004) by Hall and Duval. The central emphais in Meta-Coaching, Vol. I, Coaching Change is on the Axes of Change. For more about Meta-Coaching and the Meta-Coaching system, visit and click on Meta-Coaching. Meta-Coaching certification is now being presented in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Geneva, Paris, and in the USA.