Back to Basics: How Coaching Assists Employees in Coping with Change | EAPA-SA

For individuals, the need to deal with change may result from an employee being promoted, a change in their role or responsibilities, changes in work location and culture, or through an altered pattern in working hours. At an organisational level, navigating a company merger, adjusting to a company-wide technology upgrade or aligning internal practices to new industry regulations are just some of the ways that an entire workforce may need to face change and be proactive, responsive and capable. 1

At an organisational level successful change hinges on behavioural change at an individual level.  It is well known that the majority of change interventions fail for reasons that include resistance from sceptical and fearful employees, poor communication down the line and insufficient training.  It is clear that organisations need more effective strategies and methods to implement and sustain organisational change.  Should employees fail to process their thoughts and emotions during times of organisational transition, this can lead to their not being on board with the upcoming change – leading to performance issues, or even becoming mentally unwell.

Integrating coaching during every stage of a change initiative – including the planning, executing and sustaining phases – can enhance employee readiness and resilience. This process should begin at the top by coaching the coaches, and ensuring that sponsors, managers, and supervisors have been prepared to coach down the line; because effective coaching as a tool for change management requires a top down, whole-organisation approach to reinforce change within willing participants rather than forcing change on a resistant workforce. 2/3

Coaching for development versus coaching for change

It is important to differentiate between coaching for development and coaching for change. When the coaching goal is personal development, the coachee sets the direction of the process.  As such coaching for development is primarily focused on impacting the life of an individual with a positive knock-on effect for the organisation.  However, when the goal is effective organisational change, then coaches and their coachees (or change agents) work together to move forwards in a pre-determined direction.  In other words, coaching for change is primarily focused on impacting the organisation, with a view to accelerating the implementation of change as related to set business objectives. 4

Coaching modalities for change

In their paper entitled Building a Coaching Culture for Change Management1 in which the International Coach Federation in concert with Human Capital Institute report on international research findings) the ICF cite three different coaching modalities which are present within many organisations:

  • Internal professional coach practitioners

An internal coach is a professional coach practitioner who is employed within an organisation and has specific coaching responsibilities identified in their job description.

  • External professional coach practitioners

An external coach is a professional coach practitioner, who is either self-employed or partners with other professional coaches, to form a coaching business.

  • Managers and leaders who use coaching skills with their team members

A manager/leader using coaching skills is a leader who uses coaching knowledge, approaches and skills to create awareness and support behaviour change.

This paper states:  “All professional coach practitioners should adhere to specific competencies in their practice, training requirements and ethical standards. Managers and leaders who use coaching skills with individuals on their teams should understand what coaching skills are, and practice those skills. Researchers in a recent study found that when managers were asked to “coach” someone else they instead consulted and provided advice. The researchers referred to the phenomenon as “micromanaging-as-coaching.” 5

How coaching can practically support change

When skilled coaching is strategically incorporated into leadership activities for change management, those who design, implement and sustain the change can address individuals’ resistance to the change and develop the attitudes, behaviours and skills needed for the type of change.

  • One-to-one coaching allows the opportunity to develop a compelling case for change and provides the opportunity for employees to be involved in the change process, paving the way for engagement and ownership. At management level it can help leaders at all levels to clarify their role in a change initiative and deal with resistance, become a role model or champion and build relationships and secure agreement from key stakeholders.
  • Peer coaching can accelerate the acquisition of skills and help individual employees in applying new knowledge or skills and behaviours to successfully take on a new role; it can assist in a team preparing to become familiar with a new product or customer focus brought about by organisational change.
  • Team coaching can help a team to understand where it stands in relation to changes that will make it effective. This often involves a focus on two aspects by the team: Firstly, in terms of set business goals and role clarity around implementing organisational change; as well as action planning to support the change; and team discipline. Secondly, in terms of the softer issues which include mutual trust, commitment and accountability for the team’s successes and failures; and ways of working together and relating to the team leader.

Organisational benefits to be found in coaching for change

There are wide-spread benefits to be experienced through coaching for change. These include:

  • When competent coaching is widespread the whole organisation is enabled to learn new things more quickly, thereby adapting to change more effectively
  • It demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to employees.
  • Managers develop their own management abilities with less need for crisis management
  • More employees do a better job, leading to better outcomes
  • Employees are more informed about career prospects
  • There is better potential for enhanced workplace relationships
  • There is an improvement in morale
  • The organisation enjoys better staff retention. 6