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Opportunities to work as a coach with individuals may mean responding to the impact of downsizing, a merger or acquisition, a new role or responsibility or transfer to a new location, or a new boss. It may also be the desire to achieve a new qualification or to set up on their own in business. These work-related changes can also mean that individuals think more seriously about their lifestyle options and choices. This is particularly true in the case of being made redundant, where people really reassess their options and often make major changes in the way that they live their lives. In helping individuals handle change it is important that you help them to understand the process of change and the key stages.

Initiating Change

One of the most important factors in initiating change is helping learners explore their reasons for wanting to change. Equally essential is that learners need to own and want the change. As a coach you can act as a sounding board to help individuals explore their options and wait while they make up their minds that they actually want that change. As discussed in Chapter 3, everyone is different and so as a coach you need to be able to help all your different learners progress at the pace and speed that suits them. As part of this process it is important that you understand the process of change.

As coach one of your rules is to help individual learners really think through the consequences of their actions and to help them set up a clear process for identifying and achieving their objectives. Encouraging them to review carefully at each stage of their progress against their original objectives and helping them to refine them if necessary is one way to ensure that when they achieve their goals they still want them.

One of the very real issues for today's organizations is the transfer of knowledge. In creating a dialogue for change, conversations can be a very powerful tool in shaping the pace and form of change. Think of the great orators of our time and the influence that they may have had on others. Then think of most business leaders that we know. What is their influence on others? When was the last time that you had a meaningful conversation with someone, a conversation that encouraged you, stimulated you, motivated you to go and do something, a conversation where you really listened to someone and asked questions because you were genuinely interested in the replies?

Encouraging dialogue between those who have the knowledge and those who do not is the first step, but enhancing the power and impact of those conversations is perhaps a more critical next step.

One example of this was GE's approach to executive development held at the leadership development center in Croton-on-Hudson. The course was highly participative. The course members were divided into teams and given action learning assignments. At the end of the course they presented their findings to Jack Welch and the other officers. Jack's participation in 'the pit', which was the name given to the well of one of the lecture theatres, was a unique experience. He typically arrived at the end of the course. His appearance was unscripted, without notes. He expected challenges and he wanted active debate. What Jack was offering was accessibility; he often devoted over four hours to the session. When the session was finished he would stay in the bar talking with the participants from the course. Robert Slater, author of Jack Welch and the GE Way, distills Jack's advice as follows: 'act like a leader, not manager, use the brains of every worker, keep it simple, embrace change and fight bureaucracy'.

In Chapter 1 there was reference to the work of Daniel Goleman and Louis Patler, who both emphasize the importance of encouraging individual development in a safe environment and developing respect for the views of individuals.

If more organizations encouraged accessibility then the transfer of knowledge would be more natural. Unfortunately knowledge can still be seen as power and very few organizations create the opportunity for people from different levels within the business to share ideas and concepts. Ask many employees about how they would feel if they were offered a one-to-one interview with their CEO or the board and they would probably feel quite nervous, and yet think about the more entrepreneurial business leaders: how many employees are nervous about meeting Richard Branson, or Julian Richer, or Jamie Oliver? These leaders are demonstrating a new accessibility of approach and a willingness to share knowledge and information.

Think about your organization. What opportunities have been created to share knowledge? How many really meaningful conversations take place? One of the real challenges is how to encourage informal and natural learning to take place. Traditionally, particularly in manufacturing or service industries, much learning took place on the job. An experienced worker would take a trainee and train primarily using the transfer of knowledge. The advantage was that the experienced worker was on hand to monitor the effectiveness of the learning; the disadvantage was that the new trainee could also learn all the bad habits of the experienced worker. To develop more consistency in the training, training courses were developed, over time competencies were identified and the training became more formalized.

However in today's working environment a whole range of approaches are used including training programmes, on-job experience, online learning and coaching.

If you want people to transform performance then it's important to help them both individually and organizationally to recognize what is possible in terms of personal achievement.

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