These days leaders need to be masters of change. They need to understand the dynamics of change inside out. For our money, the role of an executive coach is to help leaders build the acuity, awareness and agility needed to lead in environments that never rest.
Here are the seven secrets of a process oriented approach to masterfully leading and coaching change.
1. Be Buoyantly Curious
Breakthroughs come from the most unexpected sources. When leaders bring interest and curiosity to what is happening (and not happening) around them, they pick up on information others miss. The attention of a leader is like a lighthouse beam reaching out into the darkness. The lighthouse beam doesn’t know exactly what it will find. It scans the environment nonetheless
2. Befriend the Unknown
It is in the unknown, rather than in the domain of business as usual, that new discoveries lie. The unknown is where our untapped potential lies, waiting to be released. A leader’s role is to investigate the unknown. It is here that entrepreneurs birth fledgling ideas that the rest of the market hasn’t yet imagined. It is here that leaders recognise the risks that could derail their ventures long into the future. Process Oriented Coaches accompany leaders into this territory, helping them to recognise the possibilities and latent potential that awaits them.
3. Pay Attention to Flickering Signals
Flickering signals are an early indicator of change. Being able to spot these signals before they become a major force distinguishes leaders who are pioneers and innovators. Process oriented coaches have a keen eye and ear for the flickering signals that are easily dismissed. They encourage leaders to develop their antennae and the intuitive capacity needed to capture opportunities before they become major trends or crisis. They spot unmet need, the hunger for more, or the early signs of tension and dissent.
4. Ask Questions
In an era of disruption – questions may prove to be a leader’s most important asset.
Our questions should open the door to unexplored possibilities. We and our clients must break out of the confines of exploring what we know to the exploration of new and sometimes uncomfortable territory.
Many, though not all, coaches, have mastered the art of strategic questions. Leaders are now getting on board, learning how to ask questions that elicit renewed imagination and new behaviours from themselves and their teams.
5. Embrace Disequilibrium
A leader’s role is to disturb their organization and encourage states of disequilibrium in which growth occurs. By growth I mean business development and re-invention, as well as personal and professional growth.
The EMERGE Model of CoachingTM is Process Oriented – meaning that we are interested in the flow and momentum of events. We are less interested in achieving a frozen or fixed point with our clients. We know that change is inevitable. It is the capacity to navigate change that most leaders and individuals today need. Our coaches support individuals, teams and systems to become more agile, supporting the emergence of deep transformation.
6. Welcome Disturbances
Unfortunately many leaders and organisations view disturbances to business as usual as merely problematic. They want to get on with the job or get back to life as they know it. This means that they suffer (and resist the disturbance) without getting to the gold.
Granted, sometimes disturbances are thrust upon us. The world changes and asks us to change before we feel ready to do so. But the majority of these readjustments and crisis are not random. They are usually caused by dynamic forces that we were blind to. We are caught out in neglected or taken for granted parts of our businesses and our lives.
Process Oriented change agents bring an attitude of deep curiosity that helps leaders and individuals get beneath their reactions to organisational symptoms or crises to discover the learnings and gold they hold. Leaders and team members learn not to shut down in the face of potential challenges. Instead they recognise the call to engage with new information and possibilities. In doing so, the coaching client learns to harness power which has been trapped or repressed within the system. Relationships usually deepen.
7. Map The Dynamics of Change
Leaders and change agents need a rich understanding of the environment that they are about to propel into a dynamic state of motion and disequilibrium. They need to understand the strengths, resources and limitations of their workforce and the challenges that might lie ahead. Many of these challenges are predictable when one pays enough attention!
A transformational map is a rich source in insight and guidance.
Process oriented change agents and their cleints build a dynamic map exploring the fabric of the whole system, encompassing organisational relationships,mindsets and dynamics. Through the use of focused questions, they activate an understanding of individual psychology and collective behaviour.
The GCI Coaching RoadmapTM is a dynamic tool used by Process-oriented Coaches to build a shared understanding of the change environment. And I do mean it is a dynamic tool - the map is constantly evolving, deepening thinking and encouraging discovery.
8. Harness The Forces That Support and Oppose Change
Change disturbs the status quo. Most systems are never completely on-board with a new initiative. Neither are they completely against it. It’s important that leaders recognise this and are able to read the shifting currents within the change environment.
A leader’s capacity to read the diversity of views and opinions within the workforce is critical to engaging allies and addressing concerns. This requires the capacity to stay present and actually hear what people are saying. Much of the feedback and workforce reactions to change are delivered poorly. They come from a state of fear and uncertainty. It becomes critical to separate the message that is being conveyed from the way it is being delivered.
Coaches play an important role in helping change teams make sense of the messages stakeholders deliver and avoid the temptation to write dissent off as ‘resistance’. They assist their clients to hear what is behind distress, disengagement and distrust. Process Oriented change agents consciously grow their ability to understand and interpret feedback, so that they engage people and bring them along on the change journey.
They also draw on their ability to read flickering signals of change, to spot those moments when even the most ardent critic favours and begins to recognise the the need for change. Sometimes these signals are small. For instance, an adversary lowers their eyes or falls silent for a moment. These are the game changing moments when the awareness cultivated by process oriented practitioners is worth gold