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Feature: Coaching to Change


Executive meeting Aparna Uberoy, chartered occupational psychologist and head of coaching at Blue Edge Consulting, looks at the effectiveness of coaching in equipping managers and leaders to effectively adapt to change.

Across almost all sectors, the ability to manage and adapt to change is frequently quoted as the single most important challenge facing managers and leaders.

Having observed numerous management and leadership programmes, it is fascinating to see the impact that these interventions can have on participants. Workplace simulations, outdoors activities and motivational programmes are certainly memorable. Participants can often recall in some detail how they felt about the programme, the facilitator, the activities they liked best and least.

But what exactly are they doing differently? How can we get people to move from reflection to action? It’s not that people don’t have good intentions to change, but changing habits of a lifetime isn’t easy. In fact, personal development objectives are rather like New Year’s resolutions:
* All fired up at the start but tend to peter out by February.
* Usually address a known 'weakness'.
* Typically the person has made several failed attempts in the past.
* Rely solely on will power and good intent.
* Reviewed once a year.

The reality is that change requires commitment, a plan, feedback and continual support and most of us don’t have time to learn how to do all of that.

Head, heart and hands
So, why do many development initiatives seem to deliver only partially successful results? The answer seems to lie in a failure to deal fully with people’s motivations for change. The ‘head, heart and hands’ approach to change illustrates very eloquently the three essential elements for change:
* Head - how people rationalise and think about change.
* Heart - people’s feelings and emotional responses to change.
* Hands - the specific skills and capabilities people require to make changes.

Successfully managing personal and organisational change means giving attention to the challenges and questions in each of these three areas. If even one of these elements is neglected, then long-term, sustainable change is unlikely to occur.

Meet Suzanne
For instance, 'Suzanne' understood the business case for changing her management style but was locked into a state of constant analysis and rationalisation.

She logically and systematically identified a need to set more realistic expectations in order to get the best from her team. Her approach focused exclusively on the ‘head’ and ‘hands’ aspects of changing her style. However, she hadn’t addressed the emotional impact at all. Setting more realistic standards also meant relaxing her need for perfection and quality.

During one-to-one coaching, this required a huge mindset shift. Exceeding expectations, for her, was a major strength and played a massive role in her career success. Overcoming and managing this was critical in determining how she would sustain changes to her management approach.

Missing ingredient
In the case of Suzanne and many other managers, coaching has enabled the individual to work on all three aspects of change (head, heart and hands). Coaching enables people to access all three aspects - getting individuals to understand what change means from a logical and rational point of view, the reactions and feelings towards making a change and the practical skills needed to make change stick. The personalised nature of coaching allows people to address and overcome their own potential resistance to change.

Whilst coaching isn’t universally effective, research shows that in companies with a coaching culture, leaders deliver greater business results (1), employee satisfaction and performance improves (2) and the impact of training is maximised (3).

In one study, the impact of training was assessed and was found to improve productivity by 22%. However, when follow up coaching was also included as part of intervention, productivity was boosted up to 88% overall.

Coaching has been shown to result in a long term, positive impact on individuals and organisations.

Using psychological techniques during coaching can greatly amplify the benefits. Using structured diary techniques can be useful for instance, in raising awareness of unproductive patterns of behaviour and their trigger points. Visualisation and positive thinking can be hugely powerful in helping people to make the leap from ‘intention to change’ to actual change in behaviour.

Getting inside an individual’s way of thinking and understanding what makes them tick, as well as what turns them off, is vital. Regardless of the challenge being faced, an understanding of human behaviour and motivation helps the coach to assist individuals to:
* Make a personal connection to the organization’s goals and objectives.
* Pinpoint motivators and de-motivators during change.
* Step outside of current situations and view challenges with greater objectivity and insight.
* Learn to replace ineffective behaviours with successful ones.
* Develop a plan for ongoing support, feedback and skills training to make changes last.

100 executives received long-term coaching and reported an RoI of 5.7 times the initial outlay (Manchester Review, 2001)

(2) Harvard Business Review(1998) report that coaching improved the quality of management in Sears along with employee and customer satisfaction. As employee satisfaction increased 5%, revenue growth increased by 5.5%

(3) Zeus & Skiffington (2002) cite a public sector study with executives in which training alone increased productivity by 22%, compared to an 88% increase when training was combined with follow up coaching.


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