Inspiring coaching that builds confidence and careers
I have been coaching senior leaders and Executive Sponsors in leading large-scale change initiatives for over 10 years. My change management coaching is practical and pragmatic. In fact, I think it is better described as mentoring, because the emphasis is on transferring my knowledge and experience of managing many change initiatives, giving a range of potential solutions for each of the problems raised.
Using this transfer of knowledge, my coachee and I can then debate the advantages and disadvantages of each and use this discussion to design an intervention relevant to the challenge faced by the sponsor, the style of leadership that they deploy in tackling it and the leadership behaviours valued by their organisation.
The most important thing that I do in my coaching sessions is listen. Every organisation has a different culture, and different challenges. Organisations can be mature in some aspects of their project, programme and change management work and immature in others. I do not arrive with pre-conceived ideas, and whilst I form a perspective during my work with you, I continue to challenge my own assumptions and those of my coachees.
My mantra for my work is “ask, don’t tell” as there is little benefit on either side of dictating to senior leaders how they should lead. I am regularly praised for my insightful questions and my willingness to ask thought provoking questions, so I believe I have a track record on delivering “ask, don’t tell”.
I have real-time experience of the pitfalls and pressures of encouraging often overworked and exhausted staff to work in new ways. I am happy to share the things that work and give very honest answers about why things haven’t worked and what to avoid to save making the same mistakes. In the coaching sessions we can explore the different sources of resistance to change, change fatigue and explore how other organisations in my extensive network are tackling similar issues.
Coaching an executive earlier this week, she told me how reassuring she found the examples I could share from other organisations, as this informal baselining of where she and her organisation were in terms of maturity was something that had been giving her a lot of stress. Hearing that they were not as far behind and in fact were succeeding in some areas that other organisations found difficult gave her a real boost in confidence.
My view is that if a senior leader is giving up their valuable time for a session with me, then they need to leave with new insight, new understanding of the problems that concern them, and ideas for how they can proceed. It is my role to help them to remove blocks from their progress, with a safe, confidential space for debating issues and examining potential solutions.
I have experience of so many different types of change programme that very few problems surprise me. I have seen things work and I have seen things go horribly wrong, so I am always ready to debate a range of possible solutions and examine the potential advantages and disadvantages.
I am a practical person, so during these sessions I help my coachees to plan how to implement the solution, who to involve, what activities to get started with, what can come later and how long things are likely to take.
Measuring the effectiveness of any coaching programme is fraught with difficulties because of the subjective nature of the engagement. Poorly planned programmes simply ask coachees to rate the relationship they have with their coach and the perceived quality of the advice they are receiving.
I encourage each of my coachees to establish measures of progress for the change programmes they are sponsoring, To keep thing simple I take my Sponsors through four stages of behavioural change, so that they can devise the questions they want to ask at each stage.
Stage 1 – Awareness
At the start of any change initiative, it is important that those who are impacted:
- Realise that they are impacted and that this is not something they can ignore
- Understand, at least at a high level, what aspects of their role will need to change
To achieve this awareness, the team responsible for the change and the Sponsor will need to communicate a lot, often repeating simple messages about the change. This is the start of the championing role for the Sponsor.
To assess if this first stage is underway, the Sponsor needs to decide if there is any ‘buzz’ about the change. Are people asking the Sponsor questions about the intended impact, the expected benefits, the scope or timing of the change? How many people are asking these questions? Is there involvement from across the community that is affected or just pockets of interest?
Awareness has to generate enough energy to take the change into the next stage. If there is an air of passivity, if the Sponsor gets the sense that those impacted think the change can safely be ignored, or have decided it is not important right now, then more needs to be done.
Stage 2 – Perception
Positive perception of the change is needed if people are to become involved in making it a reality. Everyone must find their own motivation for making the change a success, and this will not happen if they do not agree with the change. If they think it is harmful, that it doesn’t lead to an improvement in their current situation then they will sit on the side-lines (at best) or actively campaign against it (at worst).
Again, the Sponsor has to become sufficiently close to the situation to assess the level of support for the change and take responsibility for creating interest and excitement where none exists.
Stage 3 – Participation
When people support the change, they will be willing to get involved in creating it. The stage of participation is crucial, because until there is sufficient goodwill for the change, there will be too few people trying to make it a reality. There can never be a guaranteed level of sufficient participation, but experience tells us there has to be a significant majority in favour of making things happen before the change becomes an unstoppable force. Professor John Kotter suggested at least 75% of managers need to be on-board with new ways of working, and whilst I have never counted the exact number, I know that the more people who are looking towards a new destination, the easier it is to set a new course towards it.
Sponsors at this point need to ask questions about what people are finding out about the new ways of working, and really engage with the answers. Any scope that is immovable at this point means that there is no opportunity for those participating to shape the change. This means there is no motivation to pursue ideas and the change falls flat as people withdraw their goodwill. Effective sponsors continue to articulate the goals of the change but are willing to let those who are most directly affected establish all of the details so that the change is workable and practical.
Stage 4 – Adoption
This is the point at which the change is morphing into established practice. Sponsors need to alter their questions so that their attention is turned towards results rather than the level of involvement. These questions encourage people to realise how far they have moved from their old ways of working and to identify how the new approach is a better fit for customers.
In this environment of continuous change it is also important for Sponsors to ask for more suggestions of change, to generate an atmosphere where everyone is looking for the next improvement and the next big idea. By asking ‘what else can we improve?’ the Sponsor keeps alive the culture of involvement and participation that has achieved this change.
Using my extensive knowledge of the psychology of change and neuroscience for organisational transformation I help you design the communications that reassure staff and maintain their motivation and productivity during the transition to the new entity.
I provide advice and guidance for the executives leading the acquisition, in the acquired and acquiring organisations, using business readiness assessments to keep them appraised of the issues and suggesting solutions to overcome resistance to the change.
I work with those directly impacted to create new structures, new ways of working and a revised culture to reflect the ambitions of the merged entity.