Coaching for change

Peter Stanford
Coach and Mentor
Mentor Me (AUS)

Someone in your organisation has decided it’s time for a change! It doesn’t matter who, what or why, but you’ve been tasked with implementing that change. You lead a team of competent and qualified business analysts, have the best modelling tools, and know the names of the people you need to engage to start mapping the process. You gather your team, pass on the information and encourage them to start speaking to stakeholders and mapping the current process. Your experience and training tell you this is the place to start.

As good as your team is at facilitating workshops, they come back to you within a few days with a statement like, “The stakeholders can’t even agree on the current process, and they aren’t forthcoming with the information we need to complete this task!”.

This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, where what you’re seeing is resistance to change. There are many and varied reasons for this resistance, as outlined in a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article titled The Real Reason People Won’t Change (Keegan and Lahey, 2001). Your role, and that of your team, is no longer just information gatherers and process modellers; you need to unpack the resistance to change to move the project forward. If you don’t have the luxury of an experienced Change Management team, you need to assume the role of Coach, Mentor, Counsellor, or a combination of all three.

Anyone already resistant to change will also be resistant to the terms Coach, Mentor, and Counsellor. You and your team need to rely on “soft skills” to help your stakeholders articulate their fears or concerns. These probably won’t make any sense to you, but they are very real in the hearts and minds of your stakeholders (see the sidebar in the HBR article – Big Assumptions: How Our Perceptions Shape Our Reality).

How will coaching help? Coaching facilitates clients (stakeholders in this context) in reaching conclusions about their reasons for resistance to change. It enables them to see, from their perspective, why their beliefs are creating barriers to change. It allows them to realise this in their own time and on their own terms. It supports their transition from extrinsic motivation, i.e., “you have to change”, to intrinsic motivation, i.e., “I can see and appreciate the benefits of this change for me”.

Don’t underestimate the significance of this investment in time. Coaching involves the art of active listening, where the coach allows the client to meander through their thoughts, giving them time to reflect on things that might be inhibiting them from moving forward. There is no judgement, there is no advice, and there is no direction.

Once the client has had this opportunity for self-reflection, they are more likely to support the change and provide the information needed to complete the process mapping exercise. It’s not a guarantee, but it is far more likely to realise a suitable outcome than any dictatorial approach.


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