The Value of Workplace Coaching at times of Uncertainty

Through my coaching work with MA, I spent the best part of February interacting with business leaders whose diaries were, as ever, jam packed with meetings to discuss various items. Change management initiatives tended to be a popular item on the agenda and discussions around planning for the future and how best to roll out contingency projects in light of uncertainty related to Brexit, trade agreements, fluctuating exchange rates, movement of people, supply chains and so on, so forth.

It just so happens that the B word was at the top of the agenda this month and for obvious reasons, however, uncertainty is something that leaders everywhere face regularly. Whether you are in or out, it doesn’t really matter, the questions for business leaders remain the same ‘How will this uncertainty affect my people?’.

Common change management practices tend to focus on the tactics, logistics and metrics rather than focusing on the people and this is where the wheels fall off. If you don’t have the people, you don’t have the plan, especially when leading through uncertainty. I am observing, through my coaching, that those companies who are proactively engaging their employees in coaching or some other form of personal development based training are not only creating more resilient and high performing team members, but, above all, and some would argue, more importantly, they are creating Certainty in the midst of massive Uncertainty. Their plans seem effortless because they already have their people.

There tends to be a two-pronged approach to managing through Uncertainty. Simple, effective and not costly to the business. Performance Coaching is without a doubt driving the two.

1. Bring Change Intelligence into the Organisation
2. Create Certainty in the midst of Uncertainy

A Coaching Culture in these organisations has driven change capability in an effortless way. It has increased change readiness and is addressing resistance. It has enabled leadership teams with whom I am currently working to understand how human behaviour reacts to change and allows employees to be better equipped to cope with that change. In some cases, there is anticipation of new roles and organisational restructuring and coaching is being used as a means to support that strategy. In my experience, the more agile an organisation, the better! Coaching empowers employees to demonstrate agility, helps them take on mission-critical problems and supports them to become more resilient in the face of risk. Individuals being coached often develop an insatiable appetite to learn. They want to solve problems, not be part of a problem. In a nutshell, they possess all of the skills needed to cope with Uncertainty and Change.

In a survey conduced by the HCI and the ICF in September 2018, 77% percent of HR practitioners and leaders report that their organisation is in a state of constant change with priorities and strategies continuously shifting, and 85% report unsuccessful major change management initiatives within the past two years. The study then goes on to demonstrate how coaching related activities are rated as the most helpful in achieving change management intiatives since the process is driven by the coachee(s) rather than the coach. I would add that by creating this sense of empowerment, employees are more eager to contribute successfully to the change.

Lastly, I have observed that coaching has a profound ability to create a culture of transparency, which, in turn, is helping these organisations create Certainty in the midst of Uncertainty. It is said that Uncertainty creates a threat response in the brain which takes up extra neural energy and decreases memory, thwarts performance and reduces engagement. Working with a Coach on Specific goals (personal or company lead) tells employees that they are valued and breaks down the change management initiatives into transparent, real, bite-sized plans to work on together.

There is still progress to be made in recognising the value of a coaching culture but it’s fair to say that those companies who are on their way to implementing one are ahead of the curve in many ways.

Suzy Beech, Head of New Business Development, Mindset Associates

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