Struggling with Change Management? A Coach Can Help

Written by on December 14, 2015

Change is an inevitability of life. One of the most valuable leadership skills to possess is the ability to not only to adapt and thrive with change, but to also bring your team onboard. It’s not easy; but in a corporate environment that shifts continually, it is a skill worth honing.

A Change Case Study

This brings to mind a team I recently had the opportunity to work with. With organizational changes underway, they were being asked to take on a new strategic role. Initially, this felt like a seismic shift in their world. Until this point, the team had been highly successful as subject matter experts and resource for the broader organization. Now, suddenly, it has been asked to step up, lead, and influence in a completely new – and challenging – way.

Understandably, the shift created excitement, but also some natural stress, taking many far outside their comfort zone. They had the skills and expertise to get tasks done and deliver strong results in their previous roles, but without experience in negotiating and influencing the bigger picture, they felt unsure of how to move forward.

Through coaching, the team took the following steps:

  1. Clarifying the Changes

    The first step working with this team was to define what the actual changes were. It sounds obvious, but this is often a significant stumbling block in change management. The team was able to say: “The organization is changing, and we need to be more strategic.” But they hadn’t clarified, as a team, what it actually meant for them.

    We spent time delving into this: What change are you trying to create? What will be different a year from now after you’ve affected this change? What will it look like? How will you know you’re making progress? The team was able to ask these essential questions, allowing them to really shape their vision of what they intended to achieve, and clarified many of the steps they would need to take along the way. They came away with a clear understanding – and then they could get to work on the change itself!

  2. Checking Alignment

    Parallel to clarifying their change vision, the team was also guided to ask: Are we aligned with the bigger picture? Is what we want to change really the change the organization is asking of us? This step kept them from getting caught up in the ideas or initiatives that, ultimately, did not line up with what was needed. Equally important to alignment within the team was ensuring connection with what the organization needed and expected of them.

  3. Rethinking Roles

    Once the team’s new goals and direction had been clarified, the team members then looked at their individual and collective roles. What’s our common purpose? What are we responsible for? Often, the mindset is: What do I need to do? Previously, as subject matter experts, they had focused on their individual functional strengths. Once they started looking at approaching goals together, it brought a whole new strength to the team.

    Before, each member was one person, rolling a giant boulder up a hill. Now, by sharing ideas, strategizing, supporting each other, and harnessing collective energy, they found a new way to approach their work.

  4. Supporting Change

    How did we get this change to stick, to become a part of how this team works? One way was to put a focus on the progress that was being made. At meetings, everyone was given a pile of poker chips. Whenever a member shared a strategic idea or worked collaboratively (one of the goals they had set for themselves), anyone who noticed would throw a chip into the center of the table. As the pile grew, it emphasized, visually, how the dynamic was shifting.

    Simply noticing and communicating with one another was invaluable in supporting the changes they were called on to make.

Peter Senge, pioneer in the field of organization learning, said, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” When team members have an active role in the change process, including defining what exactly the change is, they can move forward with more confidence. They feel as though the change isn’t happening to them –but instead, that they are creating it. It is a powerful difference.