When it comes to business, change is the only constant. Adapting to an always shifting landscape is foundational to a leader’s role.
The change that leadership deals with comes in a multitude of forms: mergers and acquisitions, restructures, turnover, pandemic lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, and new leadership, just to name a few. Every change, big or small, calls on people at every level of the organization to pivot. When you add changes outside of work to the equation (e.g., parenthood, marriage/separation, moving, national and world events), the degree of change we’re experiencing is relentless.
So if it’s so important, how do you effectively and confidently lead through change?
The answer is both simple and complex: create a coaching culture. We’ll break down six steps for developing a coaching culture below, but first it’s important to understand why it matters.
Why Is Change So Hard?
Leading through change in a sustainable manner is one of the biggest challenges of today’s corporate and community leaders. Despite growing investments in effective change management, there are both universal and personal factors that make change hard. For example, all of humanity suffers from a negativity bias, which leads us to react more strongly to perceived drawbacks than to perceived benefits.
Other human factors are tied to individual differences, such as personality and past experiences. Some people can’t accept change until they understand the reasoning for it; others can’t accept change until they see their role in it. Those who have been traumatized by change will need significant safety nets in place in oder to accept change.
Though our ability to lead the tactical and technical aspects of change may have expanded, these human factors linger as the primary reason that change is so exhausting. Given the abundance of change in our daily lives, it’s simply no longer sufficient, sustainable, or effective to ask a subset of individuals to lead others through change. As such, companies at scale are investing in a more sustainable and inclusive strategy to lead change: strengthening every individuals’ capacity for change by embedding a coaching mindset, skill set, and approach into everyday business conversations.
Create A Coaching Culture To Navigate Change
Coaching is an approach to conversations that empowers change by creating space for people to recognize and take ownership of the role they play in creating the future. There’s a reason coaches are employed to help leaders navigate change – coaching works. Moreover, leaders who coach make great “change agents.”
Unlike external coaches, leaders who coach have insight into the daily experiences of their people and the context of changes in which they are working. Leaders who coach can do more than lead their people through change – they can empower their people to lead themselves through change. In fact, teaching leaders to coach may be easier than teaching leaders the foundations of change management.
Our work and research have demonstrated that the great majority of leaders can demonstrate robust coaching skills within just a few months of learning to coach and putting coaching into practice.
Here are the six essential steps for developing a coaching culture:
1. Distinguish leaders who coach from professional coaches.
2. Tie coaching capabilities to specific, compelling business outcomes.
3. Provide a platform for everyone in the company to learn: what coaching is, how it works, how it’s different than everyday conversation, when to coach, how to coach, and how to leverage the coaching provided.
4. Support and structure coaching practice to provide the opportunity to coach, be coached, and observe great coaching.
5. Ensure that leaders are getting robust feedback on their coaching approach and impact.
6. Encourage leaders to continuously expand their initial coaching practice to include a wider variety of people (e.g., across levels of performance, tenure, motivation, etc.) and a wider variety of scenarios (e.g., feedback, career development, planning, etc.).
While creating a coaching culture doesn’t happen overnight, it is self-reinforcing; every time a person experiences the power of coaching, they are intrinsically motivated to draw on its unique approach.
Developing A Coaching Culture Cultivates New Leaders
Applying a coaching mindset has consistently cultivated new leaders and elevated the efforts of those already in leadership. Take the following examples shared by leaders who learned to coach:
— “[Coaching] has helped me to give space for team members to identify and work on their own solutions to problems.”
— “[I am] allowing my team members to better understand themselves, the risks, issues, and potential success that can be generated, and thus they are able to be more proactive, think about more options, and come up with the next steps on their own, which makes them feel proud and capable and of course more accountable for their actions.”
— “[Learning to coach] has reminded me that there are things that I can do differently – not just relying on what I know but understanding how to flex.”
— “By coaching my teammates and eliciting solutions and ideas from them, I have demonstrated the trust I have in them. In turn, this helps build their trust in me.”
— “[My team members] are becoming more confident as they are taking more ownership.”
— “[The coaching approach] gives me a lot more control over the direction of the conversation and gives my team members space and time to drive the conversation. I’ve found that this has increased trust while at the same time provided better accountability and ownership over the outcome.”
In a world where change is indeed the only constant, companies have an obligation to ensure that every person in the company is empowered to lead change. When the burden of “change management” and “leading change” fall too heavily on those with leadership titles and supervisory responsibility, the weight is crushing. No wonder so many leaders are stressed out, burned out, and moving out of their roles!
To escape the cycle of overload, leaders need to learn to share the load – and coaching connects the dots between the universal need to change and the universal capacity to navigate change. If you are uncertain about how to begin developing a coaching culture in your organization, or if you are interested in honing the skills necessary to guide the process, get in touch with us!
You can tell us about your challenges by scheduling a consultation today.
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