How To Coach Through Difficult Times
Quick SummaryThese are difficult times. Commercial organisations are faced with empty order books, lack of cash or capital and shrinking markets. The public sector too is finding its resources shrinking as there is simply not the finance expected even a year ago.
If you're a Line manager, you're left to deal with the aftermath. Unsettled by losing your own colleagues and friends, perhaps feeling guilty about still being employed and having to achieve the same or greater results with fewer resources. You must, in turn, be able to support your own team through these changes to have any chance of coming out the other side.
In coaching your people through change, you are working towards a situation where you have restored their self-esteem, their competence and their willingness to learn; all of which will be vital to getting back to business.
A coaching conversation will offer clues as to where people are in the change curve and the following advice is designed to help you deal with people at different stages. Coaching in this context is about responding appropriately to the behaviour that a person is exhibiting at different stages of the change process.
Shock or denial – Coaching is directive
Explain and continue to explain what is happening and why it is happening. Give facts and figures – as far as they are known. Keep reinforcing that change is happening or going to happen. Get a response – ask people what they think. Help your people understand what is expected of them. Suggest specific actions they can take to deal with the situation. Allow time for people who are in shock or denial time to digest the changes. Ensure coaching provides opportunities for people to talk things over.
Resistance and anxiety – coaching is supportive
Listen, listen, listen! Allow your people the opportunity to express their feelings about the changes. Acknowledge their feelings and show empathy. Be encouraging and supportive – it takes time. Never say "pull yourself together" or similar. Help individuals to ‘mourn' the loss.
Acceptance and letting go – coaching is supportive and encouraging
Note that people can waver between "Resistance and Anxiety" and "Acceptance and Letting Go" for some time before really climbing the curve. Coaching therefore needs to be both supportive and encouraging.
Experimenting – coaching is encouraging
Provide clear direction and guidelines. Coach to work up short term goals. Help with prioritising so that focus is on the key issues. Provide opportunities to develop the new skills that are needed. Hold regular planning and review sessions.
Commitment - coaching is facilitative
Help people set longer term goals – building on their progress to date. Look to the future and encourage forward planning. Demonstrably, but sincerely, reward those responding to change. Coach for ongoing support and encouragement
There is often some reassurance from the fact that there is a certain predictability in what people go through when experiencing change. Resistance to change is normal. If managed by encouraging openness and supported through coaching, then its effect can be reduced and ‘turned around'. A threatening response to resistance normally results in people ‘digging in' and expressing their resistance more strongly. Coaching people through change is anything but ‘soft' but rather a responsible management approach in the mutual interest of people and the organisation.
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