Spare some change?
There has been so much change in the last few years that you could be forgiven for panting whilst trying to keep up. Monumental changes at the international, national and business level – the Obama administration into the Trump era. Britain deciding to exit the EU. Huge changes in the way commerce is delivered – Uber, Airbnb, fintech, HRtech, deliverytech, foodtech, legaltech…
Business comes in by email, gmail, SMS and whatsapp. Have you got it all in order? When was the last time your phone actually rang?
The whole way that we work has changed, and this can be daunting. Leaders are responsible for pioneering huge transformation initiatives that will help keep them in step with their competition or their disrupters, and employees are in the exciting and challenging zone of the changes this brings. Whether you work for the old school or the disrupter, change is your daily bread.
A lot of contacts we work with haven’t always worked out the one thing that can make them feel uncomfortable in these times. It could be that they feel their role is threatened; they might be working in a whirlwind without much direction and left wondering whether they’re doing the right thing; they could have been promoted into a new role based on their potential but not have any real training in how to make a success of the role; or the company itself may be putting forward a set of services that the staff just don’t feel capable of delivering.
There is something that links all of these areas of discomfort though – it’s that change is happening. In order to move into the positive cycle of what change can bring, it’s important to know how to manage change.
How Can I Equip Myself?
I’m pinning my colours to the mast and saying that I think coaching will be the number 1 resource to help leaders and their teams through the relentless change that the next decade (and more) will bring.
Let’s go up one level and work out why.
In any environment of change that I have worked with, in my role as coach and Talent consultant, there is always a differentiating factor that sets those people apart who will make it through the change with the least stress and anxiety. The ones who will look back from the other side, rewarded with the capability build in their skill base, success on their CV and the future options they’ll be able to choose in their career. They are the ones who take ownership of their own personal change and put themselves in the driving seat. They take control.
Are you sitting comfortably?
I’d like to ask you to take part in a visualisation practice with me. There will be two scenarios, so give yourself five minutes somewhere quiet and let’s go through the following exercise:
Your employer has announced a transformation that will change the types of skills needed and the way teams are structured and managed. What is your reaction?
First, visualise yourself hearing this news. What are your first emotions? What are the questions that you want to ask and to whom? What answers do you hope to hear? Are you excited? Are you nervous? Why?
Scenario #1: Wait and see
Next I want to ask you to imagine that after this first piece of information has hit home and you acknowledged the way it made you feel, you do nothing. You wait. You head back to your desk and you carry on with your work (perhaps hoping you won't be caught up in the changes coming your way), and you wait to hear what the leaders will say next.
One week later, you haven’t heard any further information. How do you feel now? What would you like to happen at this point?
Scenario #2: Taking control
In the second scenario, imagine that after the news has sunk in, you begin to build a set of action points that you would take on as a response to what you’ve heard. What would they be? Are you worried about anything? How could you address the worry head on? Are you excited? What are you hoping for – what would be the ideal outcome of the situation for you? Is there anything you could be doing right now that would make that ideal outcome more likely? What do you need to do next? Is there anything that could stand in your way? How will you take steps to mitigate it? What resources do you need? Who can help you?
Having worked through those visualisations, and perhaps written yourself some notes around those questions, what is the different effect of being in scenario #1 or #2?
I don’t know the answers to the questions above. They are your own. But I do hope that when you take control of the change that is all around you, by planning what you would like your own journey to be and taking steps to get there, change becomes a lot more exciting and a lot less stressful.
Business coaching is a resource that is designed to help individuals through change by asking powerful questions, helping people come to realisations, insights and "a-ha!" moments that help them push forward to achieve their goals. I believe this process is instrumental to survival in the current business world.
So, do we need professional coaches or should our managers be doing that for us? Some managers have an instinct which helps them get the best from people that could be compared to the role a coach can play. They are warm, truly care about their team’s welfare and have fantastic EQ which allows them to draw people out and realise ambitions that they might not even have known they had. I hope you’ve had a manager like this, because it’s a truly fortunate experience.
For many, though, we’re not able to rely on managers being coaches in the enlightened sense described above. Let’s not blame the managers though. The point of taking control is that you don’t need the right leader/manager/employer/era/moment to be your best. You are in control of being your best, and you can hit that goal. There are resources everywhere that can help you, and coaching is one of them.
So far we’ve address the issue of change and how taking control is the number 1 way to survive and thrive in the business climate of now and the future.
But we want more than survival don’t we? When we talk about thriving, what does it actually mean? Get ready to ask yourself some questions again:
How satisfied are you with your current job?
Are you glad you chose the career you’re in? Why?
What could be improved?
When you’re 85 and you look back at your career, what do you want to be able to say about it?
What do you really, really want?
What are you prepared to do to get it?
If you’re lucky, you have 8 hours sleeping, 8 hours at work and 8 hours free time per day. How do you want to spend the third of your life that you spend in the office? And the third of your life that you spend on free time?
I passionately believe that a sense of purpose creates a deep satisfaction that transcends almost all other things. I’ve worked with thousands of individuals on their careers and at the end of the day, it’s not the pay cheque that matters the most to people. Those that know what they want to do, believe in the purpose of their work, and are appreciated for what they have done, are the happiest.
How do you know whether you have a good sense of your own purpose? Here are some (more!) questions that you can ask yourself to think about your own level of purpose in work and life:
What makes you proud of your organisation?
How does your role fit in to the company?
What hobbies or pastimes have you found that energise and give you a sense of purpose?
What are you proud of in your life?
What do you care about the most?
What is the ideal amount of time you could spend on your passion?
A coach is trained to help you answer these questions and unlock your motivation, your energy and the feeling that you are in control of your own destiny and life. Whilst change is happening all around you, you can be driving personal change and avoid getting stuck in the passenger seat whilst the train heads in a direction you’re uncertain of.
As a final thought, I’m reminded of something a coach friend of mine, Sheila Town, observed. During her training to become a business coach she happened to observe a sports coach in action, and made a comparison which was simple but powerful: “Seeing coaches with young Indonesian ice skaters over the weekend made me think about how a good coach can really help you raise your game. You see a change in the way the skaters move across the ice, the chin goes up, the body straightens and suddenly there is a flex that you can see. It is wonderful to see them lose fear and speed up.”
Doesn’t that sound beautiful.
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