“Why Can’t They Think More Strategically?” – Power and Goal Orientation

Have you ever complained that your staff aren’t strategic enough? Have you ever wondered why those who report to you seem slow to see the bigger picture or unable to cut through the minutiae and constant operational demands?

People in positions of power tend to be goal oriented. Research confirms that people with high power demonstrate greater initiative than individuals with low power, attempting multiple courses of action to realise their goals. They persist in their efforts to achieve their goals even in the face of obstacles. Empowered individuals tend to address obstacles and challenges directly.

Observing this we might conclude that individuals who have more structural or social power, have earned their position and its associated power because they are more committed, intelligent or resourceful. Makes sense, right?

The gap between how executives approach an issue and how their staff think about the same issue can be anathema to many leaders. Managers can also find themselves frustrated. “Why can’t they get it?” they ask themselves.

Several recent psychological studies suggest that high power individuals demonstrate a strategic perspective and behaviours because they are empowered, rather than vice versa.

Typically these research studies test individuals’ performance on a specific task before randomly assigning them to positions of high and low power and then measuring differences in goal-oriented and other behaviours. Any differences in behaviour are deemed to be a reflection of the power randomly assigned to individuals rather than individual attributes.

In a review of contemporary research, Pamela Smith and her colleagues conclude that “low power fundamentally alters an individual’s mental world.”

Let’s think for a moment about the practical implications of having or not having power.

Having Control

Common sense tells us that leaders have greater control over their decisions. They have a level of authority that allows them to exercise discretion. They can largely determine their own priorities. If you’re in a position of high power you don’t have to seek the approval of your manager as often and are probably less susceptible to someone else’s changes in priorities. This helps leaders and those with high power or independent resources to focus their attention and pursue their goals relentlessly.

In contrast, individuals with lower power are usually expected to be more responsive, to multi-task and shift attention to any new tasks assigned to them. Subordinate employees need to bear in mind what others think of their work. This means more of their energy is committed to maintaining an active radar on the peripheral environment.

This is consistent with findings that people with low power demonstrate higher levels of vigilance. They have difficulty filtering out distracting information unrelated to their goal. Studies show they attend to specific details at the expense of the bigger picture. Hence an apparent failure to think strategically and get above the detail.

Power and The Consequence of Our Decisions

For staff who report to a superior, the consequences of making the right or wrong decision are greater than for those who experience comparative autonomy. While those in leadership positions can attribute their failures to learning experiences, staff with lower structural rank are likely to be held accountable for their mistakes.

It’s hardly surprising that studies now confirm that people with low power spend longer making decisions.

And the pressure doesn’t stop there. Even when they do make decisions, they tend to demonstrate more ambivalence and uncertainty.

Impacts of Brain Functioning

Having or not having power actually has an impact on the brain’s executive functions. Impaired working memory, difficulty managing distractions and worse performance during complex tasks have been linked to having low power. Serotonin levels are also linked to an individual’s perceptions of their own power.

Being less flexible

Findings that having low power leads to being less flexible cognitively are interesting. How are we to interpret this? Perhaps people with low power are required to be so flexible already that they’ve used their flexibility quotient up! With so many resources committed to screening all available data, managing risks and responding to changes in other people’s priorities, it’s plausible that people with low power just don’t have the mental energy left to be even more flexible.

Smith suggests that individuals with low power are more likely to believe they are at the mercy of “situational constraints and circumstances, rather than their own goals and values, and view themselves as the means for other people’s goals.” In other words they don’t feel empowered when it comes to thinking and acting strategically.

The Impact of Social Heirarchies

Of course these studies have implications beyond hierarchical power. They illustrate some of the pressures that members of low status social groups operate under.

Take for example the pressures of relating inter-racially. It’s been shown that interracial interactions elicit stress levels that result in diminished performance. Members of stigmatized groups have been shown to demonstrate worse self-control in testing.

Failure to focus on goals and achieve high results may be a consequence of social marginalisation, rather than lack of individual commitment or effort.

Take the comparatively poor representation of indigenous people in mainstream employment for example. Low social status has a major bearing on how empowered these individuals feel to solve problems, tackle impediments and meet organisational expectations (and that’s before we even contemplate the impact of stereotypes, harassment and bullying in the workpace).

As I engage with the research on power and its influence on performance, it makes me think about how much I take for granted. As a coach, these insights are invaluable in working with executives and teams or members of the mainstream population who don’t struggle in the same way others might.

An understanding of power and rank dynamics is important for any organisation committed to a truly diverse workplace. In addition to understanding barriers to employment in the first place, an understanding of comparative power goes a long way to creating the conditions in which individuals can perform at their best. When employers understand the barriers that individuals in low power roles or from socially marginalised populations experience they can actively work to counter the legacy of low power and create the conditions that allow individuals to focus on the task at hand.

Reflection:

How would you rate your own power in the workplace?

How does this influence your capacity to focus on and achieve your goals?

What steps can you take to address some of the challenges or barriers that individuals with low power experience in attempting to achieve their goals?

 

Want to Learn More About Our Process-Oriented Approach to Coaching?

GCI

Coaching With Emergence & A Systems Perspective

At GCI  we are all about working with emergence, but what exactly do we mean by that?

Emergence is a characteristic of nature

It’s about what is beginning to happen. Emergence is about new growth, as well as what has had its time and is beginning to die back.  Sometimes these tendencies are so subtle or unexpected, it’s easy to miss them.

To see this principle in action, take a few minutes to sit in a garden and watch nature going about her business.  Pay attention to the leaves and flowers and insects and birds.  Things are happening all around you, right?  They didn’t start only when you arrived, and they won’t stop when you leave.  Just as there’s no moment when a flower begins to bloom, there is no point you can name where an event begins to happen.

Within the activity in the garden is an incredible momentum toward growth and there is also die back; letting go of what’s no longer useful or cannot be sustained.

Coaching with emergence includes a commitment to support conscious leadership that harnesses these deep principles.

One challenge of this commitment is accepting that we, as individuals, are not the center of the universe.  We have important contributions to make, but we are part of a larger system.  When we see ourselves as either central to or separate from our organisational or social system, we are in trouble.  Looking at the world stage right now, we see the consequences of this myopia.  Leadership based on narcissism wreaks havoc.

We build the acuity of our coaches.

Our coaches take a systems view of leadership and organizations.  We work with leaders to better understand what is emerging in their organizations, what growth needs to be supported and what needs to be cut back.

These principles are so important to us they underpin our E1ME2RGE3 Model of Coaching.

Catching the early indicators and flickering signals of what is to come requires mindful attention.  At GCI  we train our coaching students to discover and track these signals.  They learn to follow not just the content of their clients’ narratives, but also these subtle signs of emerging change.  This awareness is akin to the clarity that comes when you sit in stillness in the garden, observing the life teeming within it.

Invaluable Skills for Leadership

For leaders, this skill set brings access to rich and current information.  Being alert to the earliest signposts of change is invaluable.  It enables leaders to support the natural initiative and momentum within their workforce.  In an time of disruption, it alerts them to new trends and helps avoid nasty surprises.

Of course to recognize what is emerging, we must learn to look in often-overlooked places and also confront our own blindspots on occasions.  The coach’s role is to guide and hold the client in this enquiry.

In the mean time, why not pop out into a garden and become a student of nature again …

 

For more information on our accredited training workshops and online group mentoring program, visit our upcoming events page.

 

History is Not in the Past

As coaches, being aware of the many influences that shape our clients’ lives is critical.  These influences include social and historical experiences that aren’t apparent at first glance.  Along with several of our graduates, Vicki and I are preparing for a trip to Greece for a process-oriented seminar called Worldwork.  These seminars are organized every couple of years in different parts of the world, and involve hundreds of participants working on global and historical issues.

As I prepare for the trip, I recall a piece I wrote at the last Worldwork I attended, in Poland, in 2014.  Here it is.

Warsaw, 2014

For the last week I’ve been in Warsaw, on the facilitation team for an event known as Worldwork.  Delegates from twenty-eight countries gathered to discuss, understand and address current and historic global conflicts.

Before I left home, many colleagues were curious about my commitment to this event. They asked me, why open the painful wounds of history? why put yourself through all that trauma?

For me the answer is simple. To address global conflict we need to study in depth  the lessons that both history and unfolding events reveal.

Few conflicts develop overnight.  Many ignite against a background of centuries of struggle.  The pain is buried as soldiers come home from war and civilians try to piece their lives together.  In the wake of unbearable trauma, when peace is tentative, it can be too much to talk about what has happened.  While we have new models for addressing the impact of atrocities, such as South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it also falls to later generations to pick up and continue the dialogue.  The hidden trauma of conflict and war carries on across generations.

The forces of conflict are intense.  Making smart decisions in the midst of turmoil is hard.  I suspect it’s impossible unless we understand – before we’re in a crisis situation – how rage and fear can collectively overcome us.  Behind these intense emotions is often the dream of something better, a deep yearning for change in our communities and the world.

Though we think of wars as part of history, the past is not only in the past.  The circumstances that shaped history continue to play out right now in our present world.  Oppressed communities dream of freedom and self-direction, while others experience the struggle for identity, for land or enough food to support themselves and their children.

Most of us not directly affected go about our ordinary lives believing we are immune to the pain of intense global conflict.   However, history has repeatedly shown that seemingly peaceful societies can find themselves in the midst of war or civil war at frightening speed.  Take the former Yugoslavia for example.

The Greek Delegates

History also shows us how dangerous it is when a group of people experiences being downed and unheard by the international community.  It creates a pressure cooker effect.  Greek delegates at Worldwork in Poland spoke about unemployment, hunger, and the worrying rise of neo-facism in their own country.  Rather than accepting growing violence as inevitable, their team will bring Worldwork to Greece in their continuing effort to engage and work out some of the tension and pain building in their country.

Of course conflict doesn’t just play out on the world stage.  It’s present in our individual lives.  We learn to persevere, despite tensions and conflicts in our communities, workplaces and families.  We get on with life.  One of the costs of not working these things out is we become desensitized to tensions or levels of suffering we’ve come to take for granted.

Yet it’s those tensions that are swept under the carpet, often in the name of momentary peace, that give rise to future conflict.  They smoulder, just waiting for the right moment to ignite.  Think about your own life.  What resentments are you carrying?  Who do you blame?  Who have you stopped speaking with?

If we’re to learn new ways of managing conflict, including the potential for violent conflict, we need to build that muscle in small ways.  I encourage you to be more like the Greek women from Worldwork.  Pay attention to the nagging or mounting tensions around you and address them if you can.

Reflections:

What nagging tensions do you ignore?

How does the past live on in your life?

Is there anything you need to re-visit in order to achieve greater peace in your world?

The Drive to Become a Coach: A Personal Story

Lately Vicki and I have had requests to share more about how we entered the world of coaching. Here’s the path I took, and Vicki’s story will follow shortly.

My own trajectory into coaching began as an occupational therapist specialising in psychological injury in the workplace. You could say fate positioned me at the intersection of therapeutic and organisational life.

My role was to rehabilitate individuals who had suffered serious psychological injuries and support their return to work.

In that role I engaged regularly with the workplace, which helped me to develop a strong systems perspective. I viewed the individual in context. I reflected not only on their personal psychology, but assessed the demands of their role and their environment. I understood that the needs and pressures of the workforce had to be encompassed, as well as the needs of the individual, in order to achieve robust outcomes.

Looking for a Preventive Model

Whilst I gained great insight into these systems, I felt like a paramedic, always responding after a crisis. Though I knew I’d done some great work with individuals, it would have been ideal if my services were no longer needed.  So, I was drawn to a preventive approach, but my brief did not authorize me to address underpinning dynamics – such as poor leadership and management practices or excessive workloads – that so often resulted in injury.

It was my desire to get ahead of the game, to prevent crises before they happened, that ultimately led me to coaching. The path was initially unclear, but I followed its scent. We all have moments like this; a knowing that arises within us, that there must be a better way.

With the understanding I now have as a coach, I see my commitment to the goal drew me forward into unfamiliar territory. Having travelled that path myself, I have a deep confidence that when an individual lets go and follows their deepest knowing or instinct, the information, support and resources they need will show up. I knew I could be having a greater impact and over time this proved itself to be true.

My journey saw me drawing on my knowledge of personal development to teach in leadership development programs. Through my clients I learned more and more about the challenges they faced. I developed an ear for the different patterns underlying common organisational challenges, diverse ways to respond and the consequences. These were skills I had learned in my early training as a therapist, and they transferred to this new field. I was also fortunate to work with some great Action Learning pioneers, on methods of enquiry that tap individuals’ tacit knowledge.

Supporting the Client to be Their Own Expert

However, it was when I discovered coaching that I truly learned to work beyond the limits of my own expertise. In coaching, I learned to resist the compulsion to be an expert. I learned to collaborate with my clients and facilitate their own enquiry.

Coaching opened new doors. These days as I coach executive teams in strategic planning and decision making contexts, coach individuals and groups embroiled in conflicts and pursue my fascination with leadership development, I am grateful for these expanded horizons.

I know I am supporting the creation of healthy workplace cultures, using my skills to their fullest.   As a bonus for myself, I also get to travel much more as a coach.  Since a lot of sessions can be done online, I can now do my work from the beach!

Reflections

What is the vision that draws you into unfamiliar territory?

What do you sense even before it has taken form?

The DNA of Organisations

Edgar Schein, author of the ground-breaking text Organisational Culture and Leadership is fondly known as the grandfather of organisational development. Over the years Schein has begun to think and speak in terms of the DNA of an organisation, or its cultural genome.

Schein argues that we can’t simply transplant notions of how to improve culture from one setting to another. Instead we need to engage deeply with the inherent nature of the organisation. Not only do we need to know the organization’s structure, but also how it works psychologically and relationally. Coaches and consultants need to understand the process of an organisation.

Schein’s view makes absolute sense to process-oriented coaches. Our art is to engage with leaders in the midst of their transformational journey. We know it is fundamental to coaching effectiveness that we find out a leader’s mental models and uncover what is taken for granted within the organization.

Schein asks, “What are the things that, when we try to change cultures, turn out to be huge barriers?”

The Organization’s Growing Edge

As process-oriented coaches and organisational development practitioners we think of this as a great point of potential and growth. We call it the edge. This is a place where many leaders and teams may falter, but process-oriented coaches are like rock climbers highly adept at scaling the edge.

The edge is where our coaches come alive. They are skilled at exploringe edges from every angle; from within the moment when a leader is gripped by fear or from the mindful distance that offers a new perspective and insight. We climb with our clients, helping them gain new insights, as they prepare their organisation to cross into new and uncharted territory.

It is through the exploration of edges and other dynamic phenomena that the unique DNA of an organisation is revealed.

Yet edges are easily missed. Avoiding what is over the edge is so much part of an organization’s culture, people are usually unaware the edge is even there. In their efforts to maintain the status quo, leaders and teams tend to avoid edges, in favour of better known behavior.

A coach’s skill lies in their capacity to recognize and work with edges. We must catch the typical signs, such as sudden changes of topic, deflecting humor, nervous laughter, or just plain drawing a blank.

Despite their well-practiced avoidance strategies, we must hold our clients at this point of growth and enquiry. At the edge there will be resistance, in one of its many forms.

In our forthcoming Coaching with the E1ME2RGE3 Model and GCI Coaching Roadmap programs we will explore these ideas in greater depth. but for now let me ask you …

  • What are the common edges you encounter in working with clients on cultural change initiatives?
  • What have you discovered as unique to different organisations?
  • How do you hold these moments of discovery and potential?

Process-Oriented Coaching

As coaches we are consistently called to debunk the trap of being an expert.  Of course being an expert is seductive; it strokes our egos.

But we are called to put our egos and expertise aside.  We are here to honor our clients’ inherent wisdom, as it’s revealed through their emerging process; a dynamic, changing and shifting event.

We notice what is already trying to happen; the momentum that is present but momentarily thwarted within an organisation.

When we’re caught by our expertise, we lose our capacity to pay attention.  We focus on past successes rather than what is happening under our very noses.

A process-oriented approach to coaching means learning to be at ease when we don’t know what will happen next.  As well as following our client, we pay attention to what is happening within ourselves and within the larger systems we are part of.  We begin to notice things that are new, that may be mysterious and unexpected.

In organisational dynamics terms, we are curious about the unfreezing of systems.  As we observe the fluid processes within organisations, we support stuck or rigid practices to re-enter a state of flow.

Focus on the Emerging Flow

Much has been written about resistance to change within organisations and systems, but we are fascinated by the organic flow already at work.  Sometimes if that flow is suppressed, potential and initiative can break out in forms that look problematic.  Obstructed initiative is reflected in high staff attrition. Poor use of power results in conflict and protest.

Our ability to study these phenomena and understand what is happening in the background is fundamental to realizing organisational and social potential.

Process oriented coaches help leaders and teams to understand these dynamics.  This equips our clients to support those processes already emerging or trying to emerge within their organization.  When leaders are alert to their dynamic environment, transformation becomes possible.

Some questions to ask yourself:

    • What is dynamic and alive at the moment in your organisation?
    • What is dynamic in your own life?
    • How does this affect you?
    • Where is the flow frozen or stuck?
    • What do you notice about the quality of the stuckness?
    • Look closer … What is happening even within apparent stuckness?

Ready to learn more?  Join us in Melbourne, April 6-7.

Taking Coaching to the Streets

Since the Women’s Marches in cities across the USA and around the world I have been heartened and inspired by all the women and men taking to the streets to advocate for their vision of a just and inclusive world.  The images on social media brought me to tears.  The spirit and resilience of those who came out despite rain and freezing conditions gives me hope.  Above all I was reminded of how important it is to reach out in times of adversity.

The latest estimate is that 1 in 100 people in the US joined the marches (http://www.popsugar.com/news/How-Many-People-Attended-Women-March-43032901#photo-43032901).  I feel solidarity with them all.

The incredible organizing, fundraising and networking behind these protests began with one woman inviting her friends to protest.  It has grown to become a stunning global movement.

While I wasn’t able to join the marches here in Australia the photos of friends and strangers boarding planes and taking to the streets, reminded me of times I’ve gone out with other coaches to speak with complete strangers about their hopes for the world.

Coaches as Social Change Agents

The first time I did that was in a Fran Peavey workshop in 1990, when she sent 20 of us coaching students out into the local mall.  Fran instructed us to go up to people we’d never met, who were just going about their business, and ask them coaching questions.  We got their permission, and just started  asking their views on world events.  The first Gulf War had just begun.  There was a lot happening on the world stage to talk about.

Firstly I was blown away by how willing people – total strangers – are to speak about these things.  I suspect people want to talk more than they do, and all they need is for someone to be interested in them.  Two young men I remember in particular began their answers saying, “I don’t know.”  For many, that would be an end to the conversation, but I asked them more questions.

·         What matters to you right now?  

·         What have you noticed about world events?  

·         What is it you don’t know about?  

·         What would you like to know more about?”  

… then back to those critical questions ….

·         ”What do you really care about?”  

·         “How can you help make that a reality, even in a small way?

When I hit on the right way to ask about their world, those young men suddenly lit up, saying “Hey, we do know something!”

Those simple coaching questions had momentarily changed their image of themselves.  Suddenly they had understanding and input to give.  This is a key aspect to a functioning democracy.  If the people on the street feel they don’t understand and no one cares what they think, they are easier to manipulate.  When people realize they are capable and important as citizens, they begin to be empowered.

How about it coaches?  Let’s start developing the role we play in social change.

What Lens are You Looking Through?

Have you ever considered your origins and the way they’ve influenced your approach to life and your work?

I began my professional life as an Occupational Therapist, so when I connected this morning with a group of OTs who have all become coaches it was like coming home. We spoke a language we all immediately recognised.

Eventually the conversation came around to something OTs are famous for, problem solving. My colleagues work in a range of contexts: executive coaching, business development, health care delivery and designing new models of service delivery. They all recognise the benefits of their “can do” attitude, whatever setting they find themselves in.

My own training no doubt enhanced the pragmatic approach I’d developed growing up on a farm. Working then with people who were taking up their roles in life after having major accidents or strokes taught me about unimaginable change and resilience. For OTs nothing is impossible; challenges are merely a provocation to go in search of solutions.

While this problem solving capacity is a real asset, it also has its limitations. Problem solving is a lens, but like all lenses, it operates at a specific focal length.

A problem solving mindset comes with certain assumptions….most obviously that life experiences are problems to be managed, rather than simply experienced or perhaps viewed with curiosity.

Unpack the problem before trying to solve it

At the Global Coaching Institute we think a little differently about the challenges clients sometimes bring to coaching.   As I’ve written previously, events that initially seem like disturbances can be a valuable stimulus for our growth.  Restlessness prompts us to think about what’s important to us in life and to look further afield for new career prospects.   The inability to win support for an idea can signal that we’re missing something important.  Even body symptoms and illness can tell us its time to readjust our lifestyle. When caught early enough these cues prove invaluable.  That’s why we welcome and become curious about them.

Rather than trying to immediately solve personal and organisational challenges it’s important to unpack them and to fully understand the feedback and meaning they hold for us.

Einstein famously said you cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them. Yet that’s exactly what we are doing when we jump into a problem solving mindset without getting upstream of an issue to understand what causes and contributes to it.  But more often than not the immediate and presenting problem is not the core issue.

In conversations with leaders I notice that they too can fall into this trap. They sometimes think about the challenges facing their organisations in ways that are immediate and reactionary.  When they do this, it’s a little like trying to drive a car with your nose pressed up against the windscreen.  They miss the bigger picture.  Having a strategic perspective that is a hallmark of effective leadership.

Coaches too risk getting bogged down in detail and adopting a problem oriented perspective.  When training people to become coaches I encourage them to ask questions from the perspective of someone in a helicopter.  Anyone who has worked with me will recognise the terms:

  • Hover above the issue.
  • Don’t get caught in the detail.
  • Look for the patterns.
  • Understand the landscape.
  • Map the territory.
  • Avoid getting caught in the mud.

Step back before you respond
When we take a few moments to step back before we respond, we can discover the core issue or even the benefits of the situation we find ourselves in.  And then, if problem solving is required we can apply these skills knowing we are tackling the real problem, not just the the surface issue that presents itself.

Of course all professions lend themselves to a particular way of viewing the world.  Surgeons develop precision, insurers learn to analyse risk, marketers learn how to differentiate themselves and their products, sales people learn to turn relationship into a sale.

My colleagues this morning had learnt the value of a coaching mindset. It allows them to explore issues from a strategic perspective. They have an ability to adjust the lens through which they view the world.

Questions to ask yourself

  • What mindsets and paradigms did your early training cultivate in you?
  • What are the strengths and potential limitations of your professional practice?
  • How have you buillt on and extended your initial skillset?

The Coaching Roadmap

Coaches are miners who go to work each day armed with acute observation skills and powerful questions. We are privy to our clients’ aspirations. Coaches work with respect with their clients to reveal their interior worlds; the thoughts, feelings, mindsets and motivations that underpin their decisions and inspire their capabilities. We learn about the worlds they live and work in. With our clients, we investigate the situational demands that call for their growth and strive to help them understand the cultural considerations, resourcing, political and environmental dynamics of the landscapes they traverse.

As coaches we encounter a rich array of information, offering a window into our client’s inner experience and the organisations they work in. Our role as a coach is to help clients to pick through all of this data, to wade through the white noise of their lives, in an effort to find new insights and meaning. We know that our clients hold the secrets to their own development and ultimate success in their endeavours. We also understand that some of this information may be more important and useful than other pieces.

The question for novice and experienced coaches alike is: Where to begin?

Where do we shine the torch? This is not just a question of how to focus our own attention as we listen to the client’s narrative, but of how and where to deepen the client’s investigation and enquiry. These should not be random choices made by each coach depending on their own interests and curiosities.

Coaches may be miners, but they are often well paid miners, reflecting the precision with which they are expected to track the learning and change process in each client.

A deep understanding of the dynamics of cognitive, emotional and behavioural change informs the GCI coaching practice. Our understanding of individual and systemic change is captured in the GCI Coaching RoadmapTM.

We will introduce coaching practitioners to the GCI Coaching RoadmapTM  in our forthcoming program of the same name.

The GCI Coaching RoadmapTM  helps coaches understand how to best support their client’s development and the achievement of their goals. It informs our choice of coaching interventions.

Coaching For Change

Building coaching cultures in organisations is increasingly being recognised as a way to optimise staff engagement and buy-in. Over the past few years we’ve been training leaders and managers to use a coaching approach to help their staff adjust and navigate rapidly changing environments.

Rather than endlessly explaining organisational change or blindly reassuring staff, program participants find it more effective to pose questions that help to surface what’s important for each staff member. Once that’s clarified, managers can help employees to explore the potential impacts and benefits of the organisational change. They engage staff as active stakeholders as they collaboratively work through their concerns. In general, the solutions that staff members develop themselves are far more effective than anything the manager themselves might offer.

Coaching helps to empower individuals in an environment of uncertainty. Coaching conversations build their understanding of the drivers of change and support confidence in the skills needed to operate in the new landscape.

From a management perspective it surfaces the common concerns and sticking points for staff adjusting to new reporting structures, policies, priorities or radically new ways of envisioning business. As one participant recently reported, “I now feel better prepared for challenging conversations and I am able to empower others through open questions and conversations.”

Here are a few of our favourite questions. Try them out and see how they work for you.

  • What do you understand about the proposed changes?
  • What is driving these changes? Why are they important?
  • What do they mean for you?
  • What will you be doing differently?
  • What will remain unchanged?
  • What aspect of the change do you welcome?
  • What aspects concern you? (What specifically?)
  • Who or what can help you deal with these worries/ fears/ beliefs?
  • What assumptions are you making?
  • Are there any ways you’re clinging to the status quo?
  • What do you need to let go of?
  • What is this situation asking you to master or do differently?
  • What prevents you from moving forward?
  • What options are available to you?
  • What are your next step? 

Coaching conversations are powerful and dynamic.  They support change at the individual and cultural level.

If you want to explore your individual context, give us a call to see how we can support your organisational change initiative.

And in the meantime, experiment, have fun!  Do let us know how you go.

Reflections

How do you usually approach change conversations?

What aspect of them do you find most challenging?

Have you ever adopted a coaching approach in a change environment?

If so, what difference did you notice?