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Chapter 1: Creating a Mechanism for Change


Coaching for change is about creating a process of learning that supports each individual's capacity to grow. Personal growth should equate with organizational growth. The corporate effect of individual transformation of performance should be enhanced organization performance, but this will only occur if the individual identifies with the overall goals of the organization.

The reality of this challenge is enormous; many organizations simply have not been able to achieve this alignment. This is due to a number of reasons:

We could go on and you can probably add to this list. The items on the above list do not occur in every organization however there are very few organizations that will not have several of the above issues on their corporate agenda.

The opportunity exists therefore to help your organization rise to the challenge and really recognize what can be achieved by accepting that to survive it needs to do things differently. On a personal basis individuals can also feel threatened by change: it can make us feel uncomfortable; we put things off; we prefer what is known or tried and tested. In recent years we have seen a growth of interest in innovation and creativity, but we still have a long way to go in harnessing the talents of people who think differently and perhaps do not fit the corporate mould.

This resource focuses on how coaching can help in the change process; its application is at every level, from personal to team to organization. In this context coaching is about sharing knowledge, wisdom and experience to help in the development of new behaviours, attitudes and skills. Importantly, coaching has to be introduced or further developed into a climate that is receptive and recognizes how coaching can help with the process of change.

It is also about taking coaching seriously, not just putting it on to a menu of training, but embedding it into the fabric of the organization. Way back in time before training was ever thought of as a discipline, people coached. It was the first way that knowledge was transferred. It may not have been perfect and it may have started more as 'telling', but the more intuitive 'tellers' would also have listened, responded to questions from the curious learner and together they would have discovered how to do things and how to make advances in their primitive industries. Coaching today has the benefit of all those years of experience, but it does need a level of commitment to make it happen.

If you are part of an OD, L&D or training function you may feel slightly removed from the process of transformation. In some organizations, following on the wave created by BPR (business process re-engineering) or perhaps the introduction of a major HR or IT implementation, the people development implication can appear somewhat down the corporate agenda.

However, as more and more organizations are realizing that people operate the systems, focusing on enabling the individuals within an organization to transform their performance is an important role for all OD, L&D or training professionals to play.

Being invited to take part or persuading others to let you join will depend on your ability to become a real business partner. Unfortunately there are still too many instances where the learning profession becomes marginalized. In an operating environment, sending people on courses can be seen as a distraction. Engaging the learner in developing real skills to meet business needs, however, is still relevant and important; creating a coaching culture where wisdom is shared can be a positive contribution to transforming performance.

Levels Of Influence

One of the biggest frustrations for any professional is not being taken seriously. If you feel you are a lone voice but speaking with wisdom it is even more frustrating if you feel that no one is listening to you. As with any other influencing situation you need to have a strategy. The first thing is to identify the reality of your own position. Many entrepreneurs or adventurers start with their own idea or belief; then they seek to find sponsorship, funding or other people to support or back them.

You do not need to start trying to influence the whole organization; focus on the parts that you can influence. Explore the concept of change, read about it, identify case studies of other organizations, talk to colleagues and network with other professionals. Knowledge equals power; seek to influence those around you. Have confidence when talking to colleagues or senior managers based on the knowledge that you have gained. All the great writers and business leaders had to start somewhere; they learnt to be persistent, to keep going when others gave up.

Focus on becoming a person with influence. One of the saddest comments we hear is people saying, 'I don't think I am good enough', with the result that they have not fulfilled their potential because they live with a fear of failure, or they do not speak out because they believe that others will not listen to them, give them a job or take them seriously. If you are looking to develop others, to build a coaching culture, it is important that you build your own inner resilience, that you are confident, that you develop self-belief and, most importantly, that you become the person you always aspired to be.

There are a number of references within this resource to becoming a business partner. You may want to use the following questions as the basis of assessing how effective a business partner you could be:

  1. Can you accurately describe the current business success of your organization?

  2. Do you know what issues in the business would keep your CEO awake at night?

  3. What are the current challenges being faced by your business sector?

  4. Who are the key competitors?

  5. If you had an opportunity to meet with the CEO and board of your business, what would you share as the challenges and opportunities in people development currently?

  6. You have been given the opportunity to take a three-month paid work experience/study leave on the condition that you research into an area that could enhance your business on your return. Where would you like to go?

  7. Are you in tune globally with the latest trends in learning technology?

  8. Do you blend together different cultural and creative influences in your work with learners?

  9. Do you regularly undertake stretching personal development each year?

  10. Do you have an extensive network of colleagues and business acquaintances?

  11. Looking back over your career, do you have examples of work that you have undertaken that could be described as leading-edge?

  12. Do you regularly research new areas of development?

As well as helping you to become a more effective business partner, addressing the learning opportunities on this list can help with your own continuing professional development.

State Of Readiness

One of the fundamental steps in any process of change is to identify accurately your starting point. This is dealt with in more detail in the Five Principles below; however, it is worth highlighting at the start of this chapter. Talk to any CEO or the person tasked with managing change, and over and over again will come the same issue, 'How do you really make change happen?' One of the biggest issues is people and their willingness to take action. CEOs will say, 'I have done everything I can to pass the decision making down the line' or 'I thought I had empowered my people, but nothing happens; all the decisions still come back to me.'

For anyone charged with transforming performance it is vital to surround yourself with people capable of proactively making change happen, rather than the 'silent nodders' who you know are on the surface agreeing, but underneath are part of the silent majority of observers who in any organization may not actively sabotage progress, but who kill it by their unwillingness to take responsibility for making it happen.

Think about your own organization: how many people have the following profile?

And how many have the following profile?

It is this contrast in styles that causes the issues when trying to transform an organization. Many organizations adopt anthems, hold motivational events and build inspiring quotes into the fabric of their company; however, this will make little difference unless there is real belief and unity of hearts and minds behind the words. This can only be achieved through a carefully orchestrated and planned process of change.

Daniel Goleman in The New Leaders talks about true change occurring through a multifaceted process that penetrates the three pivotal levels of the organization: the individuals in the organization, the teams in which they work, and the organization's culture. Based on principles of adult learning and individual change, such processes take people on intellectual and emotional journeys - from facing the reality to implementing the ideal... the best development processes create a safe space for learning making it challenging not too risky. The experiences have to be different enough to capture people's imagination but familiar enough to seem relevant.

Louis Patler in Don't Compete... Tilt the Field! takes a similar approach when he describes the core values approach of Lloyd Pickett of Rodel Inc. More than a mission statement, the Rodel Way is the articulation of a set of principles that have guided Rodel's transformation. There are five commitments that constitute the heart of the Rodel Way:

  1. Listening generously: learning to listen for the contribution in each other's speaking versus listening from our own assessments, opinions and judgements.

  2. Speaking straight: to speak honestly in a way that forwards what we are up to. Making clear and direct requests. Being willing to surface ideas or take positions that may result in conflict when it is necessary to step toward reaching our objectives.

  3. Being for each other: supporting each other's success. Operating from a point of view that we are all in this together and that any one of us cannot win at the expense of someone else or the enterprise.

  4. Honoring commitments: making commitments that forward what we are up to. Being responsible for our commitments, holding others accountable for theirs, and supporting them in fulfilling their commitments.

  5. Acknowledgement/appreciation: each member commits to be a source of acknowledgement and appreciation for the team; this includes giving, receiving and requesting.

These commitments fill one side of paper and articulate a goal to which everyone in the company can aspire.

You might like to think about your own organization and whether the Rodel principles apply, or what principles your organization has adopted. You may also want to think about your own motivation to change and, although this is dealt with more in Chapter 3, if you are supporting the transformation of performance it is also helpful to identify your own starting point.

So How Do You Support Transforming Performance?

The answer to this can be highly complex, or surprisingly simple, depending on your approach. We have tried to adopt a simple but thorough model of Five Principles to transform performance:

  1. Accurately assess the readiness to change.

  2. Clearly state the overall strategic direction.

  3. Identify the key stages on the journey.

  4. Gain commitment to the common goal.

  5. Establish a process to learn and grow.

If you are looking to transform performance it is important that you identify some key steps. The principles model above is just one suggested model; you need to identify a model that works for you, your team or your organization. At the end of each of the principles there is a series of questions designed to prompt reflection and, it is hoped, highlight some key areas of development that could make your implementation more effective. Choose the questions that are most relevant to your organization; you may want to compare your answers with other colleagues. If you are acting as a coach, identify the ones that are most appropriate in your work with others. The answers can help you build a development strategy.

Step 1: Accurately Assess the Readiness to Change

If you are developing a process for change you need to identify where you are starting from, and quantify the scale and scope of the required change. This can be assessed at an individual, team or organizational level. It is also important to test reality: how achievable are your goals, again from an organizational, team or personal perspective? It is important to look outside the organization. What is happening to your competitors? What legislation may impact on your business? What are the key trends?

Sometimes change can be seen as overwhelming, and this is one of the main reasons why change initiatives fail. Almost like a giant rabbit frozen in headlights, an organization fails to identify which direction to take. Alternatively, individual managers and their teams run off in a set of different directions, each well meaning but totally uncoordinated. Although the perceived scale of change required may seem to be enormous, it becomes much more achievable when scaled down into specific projects or time-frames.

It is fundamentally important to recognize the real starting point. Often organizations involve external consultancies to identify what needs to change, but the same information can be identified from within the organization by undertaking a realistic and honest assessment of the state of readiness of your organization by talking to your customers, employees and suppliers.

It is also important to recognize what has been achieved, what is working well and what can be built on. Step 5 particularly links to this point and emphasizes the need to learn from your current experience rather than keeping on reinventing or discarding current practices.

Questions that you may want to consider

Step 2: Clearly State the Overall Strategic Direction

Importantly you also need to identify your level and span of influence. Organizationally who are your sponsors? Can you achieve real change from your position? Depending on your role within the organization you may feel that you have a greater or lesser role to play in planning the journey; however, there are a number of ways that you can become involved.

Wherever you sit within an organization you will have a role to play in the achievement of the overall goals. Transformation teams need champions at all levels within an organization.

You may not sit on the executive board; however, you may be a head of department, team leader or manager with responsibility for others. Individually everyone has responsibility for themselves; therefore in some way it will be possible to identify an overall strategic direction. If you're responsible for others it is important to ensure that whatever goals or overall direction you are setting it is synergetic and linked to the overall strategy of the organization. It is also important that you involve members of your team in the setting of goals to ensure buy-in.

In any process of change there should always be an overall plan, which once decided should be the blueprint for all actions. Just as an architect designs a house taking account of the need for foundations and a properly constructed internal structure, as well as interesting and innovative design features, so do the architects of change need to recognize the need for strong organization foundations and internal structures before embarking on the more innovative approaches to change.

The vision or goal should be very clearly articulated. It should be written in a very clear statement that you and the members of your team can identify with. A test of its validity is that when asked each and every employee can respond clearly to the statement.

People also need support to help them to embrace change; some will be resilient and able to cope, and others will be less prepared and less comfortable with change. Adhering to some simple principles can make the transition more successful.

Questions that you may want to consider

Step 3: Identify the Key Stages on the Journey

As well as having an overall direction you have to identify the key steps that need to be met to achieve the overall goal. These should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed) and expressed in a language that everyone can identify with. Highlight the key steps but also try and think about each step in detail: think about what needs to happen, what could go wrong and how to deal with issues that might arise. Although traditional tools like SWOT analysis and SMART objectives have been around for a long time they are a good starting point. Have a project plan, and use all the available current project planning tools and techniques to ensure that you can constantly monitor and track where you are with each project. Hold everyone accountable for progress. These stages should be regularly reviewed so that progress can be measured.

Most organizations have a competency model, but the competencies should also include behaviours and emotional and social competencies such as those defined by Daniel Goleman. He defines five basic emotional and social competencies as follows: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills. As well as a focus on the practical skills and knowledge required to undertake roles, there should also be the encouragement of the development of behaviours designed to support personal and organizational growth. These can be simply expressed and measured, e.g. 'To enable us to meet our goal/ vision we need to be able to do the following...'

Remember to be creative, encourage people to share ideas, use different techniques to generate different approaches, make no assumptions about the way something has to be done and think about how it could be done differently.

It is also important to build in regular measurement of achievement. The measures of success should be clearly explained. This should build on the SMART objectives and be time-bound. 'By the end of three months, two weeks, one week we will have achieved the following...' Encourage people to goal-set on a daily and weekly basis. Use these measures regularly. Don't just set them and walk away; stay close; make them very visible.

Questions that you may want to consider

Step 4: Gain Commitment From Others to the Common Goal

You need everyone to unite behind a common goal. However, you will also need to identify the people who are going to be most proactive; you do not need to call them champions, but in reality they will be the sponsors of the change. You need them at every level in the business from the very top to the newest recruit. They need quietly (and sometimes loudly!) to promote the changes that are required. They will be the people who can keep both themselves and others going when the change runs into difficulties, or when new solutions have to be developed. They will keep going when others say it cannot be achieved; they will be self-motivated, but able to motivate others to keep going. Others will be able to offer coaching support; build coaching in as a core competence.

Help teams to respect each other's strengths. As the period of change progresses you will need people with different preferences. Use profiles to identify team and individual strengths, and match the right people to the right tasks. Recognize the importance of behaviours: reinforce the positive behaviours and try to eliminate the negative behaviours. Encourage people to share feelings, and support those who are struggling. Recognize, however, that not everyone may be capable of handling the changes required: offer them support.

Questions that you may want to consider

Step 5: Establish a Process to Learn and Grow

Once the change is initiated you want to build on and learn from the experience. Transforming performance does not require huge resources, but what it does need is often a change of mindset. People need to be prepared to learn from the experience, to share successes and to learn from the mistakes. All too often people move on to something new before reviewing the experience and sharing the lessons. Success can be celebrated at different stages depending on the size of the challenge. It is all too easy never to celebrate because the goal keeps moving. In reality most change processes take many years; therefore celebrating the small achievements is vital in order to keep individual motivation alive.

Questions that you may want to consider

Making It Happen

Once the Five Principles or a similar model for transformation has been established the projects need to be managed; one very real issue for individuals, teams and organizations is how to make it happen.

Right people doing the right things at the right time. Such a simple statement. Think about your own organization: how often does this happen? In step 3 of the Five Principles, matching individual competencies to the tasks was highlighted. An important part of any transformation program is about helping people identify and develop the required competencies. At the start of the process it is likely there may be three categories of development of the people in the organization:

  1. individual and organizational alignment;

  2. alignment but needing development;

  3. discord.

Individual and Organizational Alignment

The right people doing the right job at the right time: working with this group as a coach during a transformation process, it will be important to encourage, reward and recognize this group as champions. Ideally they should also be encouraged to take responsibility for making things happen. Take time to ensure that they are supported in what they are trying to achieve. From an organization or a team perspective they should not be held back because of petty bureaucracy.

Organizationally or in a team, this may cause real tensions if it is perceived that certain groups or individuals are receiving special attention. However if you're looking to really transform performance there has to be real change. Just because processes have worked in the past doesn't mean that they will in the future.

As well as sponsoring this group they may also need real support to stay motivated as they may become frustrated with the speed of change. For those who can see the way ahead they may feel that others are deliberately holding them back. As a coach, be sensitive to the needs of the whole team but also recognize the needs of this group. Acting as a sounding board, encouraging them to air their frustrations and helping them to develop personal action plans to manage the challenges that they are facing are important roles that you can provide as coach. Encourage them too to support others; being seen as a star can be a great personal motivator, but helping people to act as a guide for others can also be important. It is a delicate balance between giving them a free rein and asking them to act as role models to help others develop.

Alignment but Needing Development

With this group it is important to help them recognize where they need to develop. One of the first tasks is to think about the role and to identify if they need to change roles or whether they need to develop new competencies or behaviours. Using profiling tools and competence mapping can be vitally important to identify where the elements of mismatch are occurring. Although this will take time it is an important part of the transformation process, and important to the individual as well as the organization. If the role specification has been clearly defined then this could be a good starting point; if this is coupled with an accurate assessment of an individual's competence then as a coach you can work with the individual to help him or her identify the growth areas.

For some this will mean that they need to develop new competencies; for others it may mean that they need coaching to identify the new behaviours that they need to develop. The work of Daniel Goleman has been mentioned before but using his model of emotional and social competencies can be a valuable starting point. The people in this development category need to identify where the gaps exist and to assess their willingness and motivation to change. This group will need ongoing support; very little in a program of transformation can be based on the assumption that once it is set up it will happen. Regular coaching sessions, support from line managers and sponsorship from the champions will all help this group continue to grow.

All progress needs to be reinforced. This category may turn out to be the largest grouping in your workforce; therefore they will need constant reassurance and confirmation about the overall direction and progress. When something isn't working out you need to make sure that this group understands what's happening. Changes in direction need to be carefully communicated so that they continue to believe that the change is worth while. When this group is neglected this is often the reason for a growth of discontent or negativity, or disbelief that change is really happening. Lack of motivation and the feeling of a loss of direction and momentum can easily spread.

They will also need assurance that the journey is worth making; although it may take time they will need support to make the transformation. They will want to know that they are making a valuable contribution to the team or the organization, but they will have the highest motivation when they can see that the transformation is worth while for them.


This is the biggest challenge to any team organization and coach. As with group two, a thorough assessment needs to be undertaken; unfortunately, some organizations lose good people because of mismanagement, or lack of identification of real talent. So when addressing this group the coach has a very important role to play in helping both the individual and the organization explore the reality of the discord. If we look back at the original statement, 'right people, right role, right time', then we will see with this group that one or more of these is out of step. Therefore the first assessment has to be about the individual and helping individuals to identify where they are in their career, what they achieved before they entered the organization, what they have achieved since entering and what they believe their potential to be.

When organizations downsize, individuals often leave without a real understanding of why they are without a job. There is often an underlying feeling of 'Why me?' As an organization transforms there may be genuine mismatches and in this context there will be occasions when individuals recognize that their personal aspirations and the overall organization direction may not be aligned. There may also be a real difference between the skills and competencies of an individual and the needs and opportunities within an organization.

Unhappily too there may be a behavioural mismatch and this is often the hardest element of all. In some industries there will be managers, senior as well as junior, who were recruited and encouraged to demonstrate particular behaviours that now do not fit with the new direction of the business. In Chapter 4 the way people are managed is given as one of the main reasons why talented people leave organizations. If your organization is losing talented individuals this is another important reason to address individual behaviours.

From a coaching perspective working with people who were unable to see the impact of their behaviour on others can be a real challenge particularly if they are senior players. Organizationally there has to be an assessment of how much time to invest in this area of development. Equally important is the impact on the individual: does the individual have the motivation to change his or her behaviour? What is the personal impact on the individual? One of the most important aspects of working with this group is respect and integrity. Whatever decision is taken either by the individual or by the organization will send out signals to the rest of the workforce. Careful planning, careful support and acting in the best interests of all employees are critical measures of the success of any transformation programme, not just for the internal audience but for the wider community too.

There is a need to see people as individuals able to exercise personal choice. Ask simple questions like 'What are you really good at?', 'Given a free choice what would you really like to do?' and 'If you could develop a new skill what would you like to do?' The overall aim should be to create the right job, for the right person, in the right place.

Preparing For The Journey

How do you and your team share responsibilities for the transformation process?

Team Action Plan

  1. Commit to meeting once a week at a time that is least disruptive and most productive to review all the projects that are in your plan.

  2. This should be a session where people are open and honest about the real progress that has been made.

  3. Keep to a sensible time-frame for this session; encourage short updates not debate. If there are issues that need real discussion this should be arranged outside this meeting. Use this session to identify resourcing and time-frame issues.

  4. Use project planning tools. Having a detailed project plan with an agreed timeline is a vital part of any transformation process.

  5. As part of the process, identify exactly what has been achieved, what has slipped and how the time can be recovered. There will be times when there are real difficulties over an action being carried out on time. Teams and organizations have different ways of coping with this. One approach is to accept it and almost collude with it happening on a regular basis. Another approach is much tougher and not to accept slippages. As ever there is a middle way: the most harmonious solution is to set a realistic time-frame in the first place.

  6. This means mapping out the total journey and a really detailed action plan, effectively working through all the actions before they happen, questioning, challenging the assumptions, exploring the 'what ifs' and building in a contingency plan.

  7. Tasks are allocated, regularly reviewed and absolutely no assumptions are made. Communication across all parts of the project is well maintained and the best-fit people are allocated to key roles.

  8. In this way if things do go wrong there are mechanisms all along the way to ensure that the impact on the problem is minimized. Without this attention to detail, when things do go wrong the impact is much more serious.

Dealing With The Unexpected

If the project really has been planned in detail the incidents of the unexpected may be less dramatic, and so the impact can be minimized. However even with the best planning things do go wrong and it's important that the right resources are deployed to fix the issue. This should be a carefully selected individual or team whose task is to identify clearly what has gone wrong and to seek help and support as required. Sometimes perceived problems and issues can be an excuse for inactivity, and with stretched resources everyone all running after the same ball can mean that problems occur in other areas simply because the focus has shifted.

Giving regular progress reports, communicating on how the issue is being tackled and identifying the lessons learnt can be reassuring and useful, but a policy of business as usual should be maintained for the customers and the rest of the employees.

In his best-selling, ground-breaking first book Maverick, Ricardo Semler suggested the following:

To survive in modern times, a company must have an organisational structure that accepts change as its basic premise, lets tribal customs thrive and fosters a power that is derived from respect not rules. In other words, the successful companies will be the ones that put quality of life first. Do this and the rest, quality of product, productivity of workers, profits for all - will follow.

In his book, Seven Day Weekend, Semler continues this theme: 'Employees must be free to question, to analyse, to investigate and a company must be flexible enough to listen. These habits are the key to longevity, growth and profit.'

Bennis and Biedermann in Organizing Genius make some very important points about talented individuals and organizations. In their case studies of seven great groups they identified some critical factors about how talented people work together. In their summary of the lessons learnt from their study they suggest the following about recruiting talented people:

In Great Groups the right person has the right job... Too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted people never are. They have unique talents. Successful groups reflect the leader's profound, not necessarily conscious understanding of what brilliant people want. They want stimulus, challenge and colleagues that they can admire. What they don't want are trivial duties and obligations; successful leaders strip the workplace of non-essentials. Great groups are never places where memos are the primary forms of communication.

Summary Of Key Points In The Process Of Transformation

  1. Recognize the reality of what you're trying to do.

  2. Be brave but not foolish.

  3. Carefully research how others have achieved it. Build on their findings but create your own plan.

  4. Always keep your overall route map close by, ready to show others and to reinforce your own beliefs.

  5. Don't try to do it alone; identify key members of a support team and keep in close communication.

  6. Break the journey up into bite-size chunks and set key deliverables.

  7. Review each stage and learn the lessons from what has worked and what hasn't.

  8. Don't be afraid to amend the plan in the light of the lessons learnt.

  9. Don't let apparent difficulties or failure overwhelm you; have contingency plans.

  10. People often give up when they are closest to achieving their goals. Take regular breaks, do something different and return with new energy.

  11. Listen to feedback but make sure it is balanced.

  12. Recognize that not everyone is able to make the journey. Support people as they make the difficult choices.

  13. Use your own support network, personal coach and mentor.

  14. Do not over-analyse failure; learn from it and move on.

  15. Celebrate success and prepare for the next stage of the journey.

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