Coaching for change leadership

A member of the Center for Executive Coaching requested guidance with a client who is seeking coaching to navigate change. Because we have had extensive experience with most every type of executive-level coaching assignment, we were able to help. In fact, we pride ourselves on responding promptly to member requests about working with clients or framing engagements with prospects.

In brief, here is a summary of the three-phase approach we worked out together for this client situation.

Phase One: Assessment. During this phase, the coach sets goals with the CEO to clarify where the organization is now, and how success will be measured over time. That way, we can quantify the change and anticipate issues with skill development, turf and status issues, and issues related to general fear and overwhelm about the change. The coach and CEO also confirm what is at stake if change doesn’t happen, so that there is a compelling rationale for change. Next, the coach interviews the CEO and members of his executive team to understand each individual’s perspective about: the organization’s readiness for change, obstacles that are preventing change, and advice for individuals involved in the change.

The culmination of this process is an understanding of what to do during the next phase to make change happen.

Phase Two: Coaching to begin to embrace change. It is useful in this case to work on three areas: business improvement, cultural change, and skills for communicating effectively throughout the organization. Other issues, like attitudes and mindsets, will come up and be addressable naturally as the coaching progresses. In the case of this specific client, the company in question has the potential to triple sales in a few years. To do this, the organization needs significant process improvement. At the same time, the culture of the organization has a victim mentality, and the top executives need to change their own attitudes in order to move forward. Finally, the individuals in charge don’t talk straight with each other, resulting in mistrust and passive aggressive behaviors; they need to rebuild trust and learn new skills to communicate more effectively.

Phase Two coaching addresses the above-mentioned three areas as follows:

First, coach the CEO to understand the weaknesses of the current culture and his role in creating that culture. Have the CEO describe the culture he wants, and the behaviors he needs to show to make that culture become a reality. Who does he reward? Who does he need to let go? Where does he spend his time? What expectations does he need to set? Once the CEO is clear on these things, he can have a meeting with his executive team to make amends for the past and declare the new culture, new rules of the road, and new expectations.

Second, the executive team chooses key processes to improve or redesign to be ready for growth. Aside from preparing the business for change, this gives the coach a chance to work in group coaching and one-on-one coaching sessions with the team to help them overcome their victim mentality, develop new ways to embrace the future, and also get comfortable with the CEO’s new way of being and leading.

Third, the coach works with the CEO and executive team to develop new communication skills, starting with how to talk straight, make requests, assert appropriately, and handle conflict appropriately. This work will also uncover attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs that hinder change and give the coach a forum to address them.

In Phase Three, the coach continues to work one-on-one and in groups with the CEO and executive team to check on progress towards goals and make sure that things move forward.

It is essential that the coach conceptualizes an engagement ahead of time, whether about change leadership or any other major issue. The three-phase approach is a great template in which to work. Remember — a big reason people hire a coach is because the coach has a proven methodology and framework to get things done.

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