Six challenges organisations face – how coaching can make a difference

18th January by John Hill

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Six challenges organisations face – how coaching can make a diff

Like me, everyone will be reflecting on 2020, and the events that, despite warnings, no one saw coming. Our work life has undergone a test that will redefine it for years to come. The impact will continue throughout 2021 and beyond. Some of the changes will be irreversible. It is a sobering, perhaps intimidating but also, in some ways, exciting thought. As a coaching organisation, the question is “Where can coaching be of service as we traverse unpredictable times?”

David Clutterbuck recently wrote that the coaching profession will either “undergo rapid change to align with the fast-evolving world around it; or it will become less and less relevant.” No matter how positive and life affirming coaching is, it is what it addresses and what it delivers that really counts. We believe that coaching is not just a ‘nice to have’ but it is a game changer and inculcates certain beliefs, behaviours and practices that are potentially evolutionary and there are six challenges facing organisations that coaching can directly impact. Coaching is by no means a silver bullet, but the elemental shift in worldview it delivers has potential to influence all of the following.

1 Complexity Paralysis

When we are faced with continuous change, personal resources can become depleted and it feels like we cannot see the wood for the trees. This does not always happen, but it is a symptom of what can happen when confronted with continuous upheaval. Coaching creates environments of reflection and cultivates resourcefulness. It allows the coachee to adapt by forging new neural pathways and connections and sharpens self-awareness. If we believe that “our ability to learn faster than our competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage”, then businesses need to enable a mindset where learning and experimentation are encouraged and the learnings from failure are celebrated. That new thinking does not happen by chance.

2 Skills Obsolescence

As a global society, we know that there is a deficit of skills to address the unique challenges we are being faced with. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, “What has got us here won’t get us there”. Yet the time and investment needed to develop and enhance those skills is at a premium. In 2017, only 27% of business leaders felt confident that they would be able to access the new skills they would need to stay ahead[1]. Coaching helps coachees and teams look for what may be outside their habitual parameters to identify new skills that are required.

3 Structural Obsolescence

Many of our organisational structures and systems have served us so far, but they are creaking. Working from home really shone the spotlight on this. We need systems, structures and connections that are more agile and flexible than ever before. Coaching, and particularly systemic team coaching, helps people and teams create ways of working that are self-sustaining, owned and always under review.

4 Leadership Extinction

Many of our leadership approaches aren’t fit for purpose because they have been honed on a diet of an outdated success criteria. Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “when the tide goes out, you learn who has been swimming naked.” One of the most interesting things about the past year has been that there has been nowhere to hide for the leadership of some organisations. Some have shown themselves to be adaptive, resilient and inspirational and others are not meeting the challenge. When your supply chain fails, your operating model is no longer fit for purpose and your cash flow is strained, a soundbite and a competency model won’t save you. Leadership is a lived experience that reveals the soul and character of the leader[1]. Coaching can help create an environment where conscious leadership can begin to spawn.

5 System Disconnection

Many of our organisations have become victims of silo mentality, with departments or sectors within the same organisation not sharing information and resources with others in the same company. It has usually arisen from a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to management, creating accountability and clarifying responsibility, however, it can lead to system blindness and a blame culture, so disconnecting the organisation from itself. Coaching, specifically when we start coaching the connections or inviting teams and coachees to pay attention to their stakeholder system, has the potential for wider impact, reverberating throughout the whole organisation.

6 Meaninglessness

Perhaps one noticeable change we have experienced over the past year has been people reconnecting with what is important to them, reconnecting with nature, re-familiarising themselves with their locality, embracing long-neglected passions and interests. The past year has done something to our collective awareness about what sort of a life and work life we really want, what sort of a society we want to create. This needs to find an echo in our workplaces, creating spaces of meaning, reflection, consideration and thoughtfulness is ever more crucial. When we coach others, and embrace the philosophy of coaching, what we are effectively saying is, “you are important, your thinking matters”. When this is done organisation wide, we create reservoirs of resource, meaning and creativity that have, to date, remained untapped and if allowed to flow, will generate beneficial flows throughout our workplaces and beyond.

Nancy Kline, in her wonderful book, ‘Time to Think’, dreamt of the whole world being what she describes as ‘a Thinking Environment’ where “people wake up each morning knowing they are going to be able to think for themselves without punishment, that they can be logical, eloquent bold and imaginative, that their ideas count…”.

Coaching cannot just be a means to some spurious commercial end. It must help us answer some more profound questions we are faced with. When we skilfully create spaces for reflection, thought and reevaluation, in our experience, at the AoEC, answers to those more profound questions do begin to emerge.

We would love to discuss how we can help you make coaching work for your organisation and its people.

[1] Moorhouse’ Barometer of Change report (2017)

[2] From a Linked post by Laurence Barrett