Leadership coaching as a concept usually provokes thoughts of newly appointed C-level executives who want to maximize their effectiveness without the trial and error that may take place in the absence of coaching.
But leadership coaching is often sought by companies undergoing major changes, whether or not the occupants of the executive suite remain the same. Change management is important so that employees, motivation, and the positive aspects of a business remain in place or are strengthened while important changes take place to regular operations.
Sometimes change management is directed at major technological upgrades, or it may be employed when a company enters a new market. What companies look for when they employ the services of a coach for change management is practical guidance.
It’s not the same as what consultants provide – plans and suggestions for maximizing profitability, for example. Rather, it is the kind of shepherding that can only be provided by a coach who knows the value of leadership coaching in the context of organizational change. Here are five leadership coaching tips for times of change.
1. Coaches Should Work with Identified Change Agents, Not Just CEOs
Leadership coaching during times of change may not be the one-on-one relationship that typical executive coaching provides. Instead, the coach may work with multiple change agents in the organization, including mid-level and frontline managers, shift supervisors, and others. For change to proceed at the right pace and to achieve the right goals, it must be supported by all levels of the organization, and the right coach knows how to bring out the natural leadership qualities of all change agents.
2. Coaches Must Ensure Everyone Understands Goal of Accelerated, Positive Change
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that the new equipment one department is installing only affects that department. In fact, change in any self-contained department will spill over to other departments, and possibly to the entire organization. Therefore, it’s important that everyone is kept apprised of what is going on, why it’s happening, and what benefits they can expect once the change has been completed.
3. Coaches Should Emphasize Listening Skills and Empathy
Even the most planned-for, carefully executed organizational change can be tough. That’s why it’s important for the leadership coaching professional called in during a time of change to help clients develop listening skills and empathy. Many prejudices and assumptions can be destroyed by the simple act of listening and putting oneself in another’s shoes. Not all complaints will be significant or make much difference, but everyone affected needs to know that they are heard.
4. Coaches and Coachees Must Hone Skills for Thriving Amid Uncertainty
Individuals and teams get used to a “normal” level of ambiguity and uncertainty in their work. In some organizations, predictability is the norm, and anything out of the ordinary is noticed by all. In others (such as hospital emergency departments) “normal” is anything but predictable. Yet whatever baseline level of predictability an organization is used to, the addition of further change will shake things up. Effective leadership coaching helps people develop their ability to get things done when uncertainty is at a higher level than usual.
5. Encourage Focus on Big Picture as Well as Details
If a new piece of equipment is installed in a manufacturing line, the people who use that equipment are the most obviously affected by the change. They may feel the pressure more than anyone else, and that’s to be expected. While the coach can’t make that pressure go away, he or she can help everyone affected by the change to focus not only on the impact it has on their own situation, but on the big picture, and how the change is designed to improve operations overall. It’s important to keep an eye on the prize, so to speak.
Leadership coaching isn’t always called upon to help a new CEO hit the ground running. Sometimes it is used to facilitate a smoother transition when major organizational changes are planned. Change necessarily involves disruption and upheaval, but with leadership coaching, the purpose and end game of that disruption remains in the forefront of everyone’s minds.