Whether you work in a small business, a nonprofit or a multinational corporation, dealing with constant change is part of the job. Navigating a new CEO transition, adjusting to a company-wide technology shift, launching new product line or aligning internal practices to new industry regulations are some of the ways that a workforce needs to be nimble, adept and proactive. Coaching is one of the most effective ways for companies to get everyone on board and aligned for change projects of any magnitude.
Barriers to Change
In a 2016 study conducted by the Human Capital Institute (HCI), almost 80 percent of leaders said their organization was in “a constant state of change.” Episodic or ongoing initiatives prove challenging, with an even greater percentage of organizations – 85 percent – reporting that they were unsuccessful in their change management efforts within the last two years. Change, so present in the modern workplace, also remains a significant challenge to navigate effectively.
Change initiatives fail for numerous reasons. They include resistance from skeptical and fearful employees, insufficient training, and poor communication. Leaders need to communicate clearly during all stages of change, including planning and implementation. When employees and managers fear change will lead to layoffs or other perceived threats in the workplace, open communication with honesty and transparency can foster a sense of credibility and trust.
The Impact of Coaching
Integrating coaching at every stage of a change initiative, including planning, executing and sustaining, can enhance employee readiness and resilience. Coaching, as defined by the International Coach Federation (ICF), is partnering with someone in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. This partnership puts the coachee in the driver’s seat, because they are the expert in their field.
ICF and HCI’s change management research revealed that coaching is one of the most helpful learning activities to ease the challenges of navigating change. While respondents cited training, e-learning and meeting with senior leaders as the learning activities their organizations used most frequently, coaching activities, including one-on-one and group coaching, were rated as the most beneficial for companies in achieving their change management goals.
Empowering Your Leaders
During a major transition, executives need to give managers tools to lead through change. They should help them understand how to identify and address potential roadblocks and provide guidance on how different types of employees will react to uncertainty. Senior leaders who adopt coaching practices can provide a trickle-down effect to empower managers to use coaching skills with their teams.
Understanding the difference between telling employees what to do and taking a coaching approach, however, is key. A recent study highlighted in Harvard Business Review found that managers thought they knew how to coach employees, but in reality, were acting more like consultants and micro-managers. Instead of providing the answer to a problem, managers who use coaching skills give direct reports the confidence to arrive at their own solutions. Organizations that adopt a strong coaching culture – which involves buy-in at all levels – are more than twice as likely to be high-performing organizations. Coaching also has a positive correlation with leaders’ having greater confidence in their employees to plan and execute change.
Coaching for Change
How leaders react to change in the workplace will impact senior and middle managers, who can either positively or negatively impact employee engagement. As change becomes more constant and organizations have to manage multiple initiatives at once, high-performing organizations that use coaching at all stages of their change initiatives will be more adept at addressing employee concerns and successfully completing the task at hand.