Hazel Owen has been helping Cyma employees with personal development. She supports Cyma to recognise our strengths, alongside collaboration and co-construction, and can help us on our journey to transformation. She also stresses that it takes both leadership and team growth for organisations to realise their vision. Cyma has been using Hazel's professional expertise in coaching and mentoring and wanted to share it, so we asked her if she was willing to do a guest blog on what she knows best, and well, here you are:
At Cyma we talk a lot about how organisations need to be aware of the impact of new technologies on their business, and how they need to change in order to meet the new challenges that they face. As technologists, it is easy for us to look just at the technology. But organisations are more about people than technology. For any change to be effective it is important to look at the impact on people and how they can support that change. This blog takes a look at how you can do just that.
Change: Not a once only occurrence
There are many ways of positively implementing and supporting changes in organisational culture, and much that has been written about them (e.g. Michael B. Goodman, 2017; Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, 2018). In this post, though, I’d like to consider the specific support that people are able to access that empowers them to make, and own, their own personal and professional shifts.
Change is not a ‘once only occurrence’ that means an organisation is all set for the future. Rather change is part of being responsive in a rapidly changing, global environment where it is almost impossible to keep current, let alone ahead.
In their bid to meet the needs of their clients and customers, many of the organisations that I work with invest majorly in innovation. However, innovation, without an overall shift in culture that recognises that their people need to be comfortable with ongoing change, is likely to be at best, marginally successful.
What can go wrong?
To grow a culture where change is the new normal requires “a new environment in which the majority … think in new ways, develop new skills and have new understandings of themselves as professionals” (Bolstad, & Gilbert, 2012, p. 43). It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes there is an uneasy dichotomy where the current culture of an organisation sits alongside innovations that require people to develop new ideas, approaches, and ways of working that they might feel they didn’t sign up for when they took the job. Also, where a shift in culture is heavily top down, or mainly ‘lip service’, often there is a sense of being ‘done to’. In situations like this, people may feel as though they aren’t being listened to, that their organisational knowledge is not valued, and that the change underway is ‘for the sake of change’. Throw in a new culture where change is an everyday occurrence, and this can send people into a tailspin that can result in anger, stress, and a decision by (often highly talented people) to move on. Alternatively, people can become disengaged, disillusioned, and/or (vocally) negative.
Supporting people to be comfortable with change
It rolls off the tongue: “a shift in culture“, but what does it actually mean for the people who work in the organisation? People will need to have the skills and mindset to be responsive, while also being comfortable with ambiguity (i.e. the range of factors involved means that there is no clear ‘right or ‘wrong’, but rather a decision needs to be made and evaluated - then tweaked, or abandoned, if necessary).
To support their people through the process of being comfortable with ongoing change, an organisation might decide to include coaching to support the different ways their people work and interact, as well as the way they build relationships with clients and customers.
In a nutshell, any coaching initiative should be:
a combination of external and internal coaching (with consideration of how having managers as coaches might work in an organisation).
Why coaching works when change becomes the new normal
Coaching can help an organisation’s people identify what’s missing for them - and this might be something that is transactional (a skill set for example), or transformational (delving into what their role and relationships actually mean for them, and how they align with their own values).
Working with a coach encourages a person to unpack their challenges in a safe, confidential partnership that may be “transformative and growth producing” (Stokes, 2011, p. 8). For example, a strong coaching relationship will enable the coach to push back and ask the ‘hard questions’ that encourage the coachee to examine themselves closely, and to develop alternative perspectives (Stokes, 2011). This isn’t always easy or comfortable for the coachee, but when a coach does it well, it results in real changes. Mistakes are likely to be made as part of the process of growth, but these will be seen as opportunities to learn and will feed into future strategies.
Conversations that promote personal and professional growth, need to help a person manage their own progress (including accountability) (ICF, n.d.), often in the shape of setting their own goals. This requires a delicate balance between what a coachee has identified as important for them, and the requirements and values of an organisation (ICF, n.d.). Beyond the practical aspects of goal-setting, research indicates that setting, and evaluating, your own goals play a large part in sustained motivation and ongoing action, even in the face of emerging challenges (Bandura, 1998). The process of associating attainment of stated (valued) goals with self-satisfaction has a direct influence on “how much effort [a person]... expend[s]; how long they persevere in the face of difficulties; and their resilience to failures … [and these contribute] to performance accomplishments” (Bandura, 1998, p. 75).
For example, in one coaching session a person might do some great work identifying goals that align nicely with an organisation’s focus and big-picture aspirations. They have worked out action points, timeframes, possible blockers, enablers and sources of support. However, at the start of the next session, for a range of reasons, they have not achieved much of what they set out to achieve. This is when it’s important that the coach remains non-judgemental, acknowledge them for what they have achieved, and talk through why the coachee feels they haven’t made (much) progress toward their actions. This could involve reviewing the actions based on what the coachee has learned, or become aware of, since their previous session - and possibly revisiting the relevance of the goals to their role at the organisation. The focus, therefore, is importantly about supporting the coachee to grow skills and strategies are all about their own resilience and self-motivation - including changing, or dropping, their goals if they aren’t working out.
The exciting thing is, when the experience of coaching is spot on, a person can move within an organisation, from a place that feels bleak, to one where, over time, they recognise that the initial situation provided a catalyst for incredible professional growth. However, it also pays to be acutely aware that change - especially in core beliefs and identity (as a professional and as a person) - takes time and energy, and is not comfortable. Patience is required to help ensure ongoing motivation, the celebration of positive growth when it occurs, and at all times the provision of “a mirror… to extend the...[a person’s] self-awareness” (Daloz, 1986, in Stokes, 2011, p. 8).
Over time, once a person has a clearer sense of identity and purpose, they are able to not only take advantage of, but also to recognise, a broader range of possibilities. In addition, they are more likely to be inclusive, open to learning, tolerant, and ready to make the most of change.
When an organisation recognises that, to remain relevant, they need to make change part of the way they ‘do things around here’, coaching can be integrated into the culture. This will not only help people to develop into thought leaders and lifelong learners, but also give the whole organisation a common language and, increasingly, a common mindset that will help ensure they meet ongoing change with confidence...and enthusiasm!
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).
Bolstad, R. and Gilbert, J., with McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting Future-oriented Learning and Teaching: A New Zealand Perspective. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/schooling/109306.
International Coaching Federation. (n.d.). ICF Core Competencies. Retrieved from http://www.coachfederation.org/files/FileDownloads/CoreCompetencies.pdf.
Stokes, M. (2011). Mentoring in Education: The Mentor as Critical Friend. Retrieved February 14, 2013 from http://ebookbrowse.com/d2-1-coaching-mentoring-handbook-v3-240107-htfinal-pdf-d51727958.