Big Idea 2015: Coaching – the key to change and innovation

Peter Drucker once said, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” I would like to add that, “If you want new ideas, you need to stop old practices.”

Our personal and work lives and habits are cluttered with mindless activities and rote practices. When was the last time we ignored the chime of our incoming emails or notifications? Here you are, trying to think of a new marketing plan, and “ping!” goes your smartphone! Rather than ignoring, you pick up your phone to check what it’s all about. You get sucked into yet another never-ending quagmire of responses and actions triggered by that communication. When you get back to the marketing plan, you are back to square one, struggling hard to get started. We run our lives exactly like that in the autopilot mode, dancing and reacting to external triggers and distractions. Over a period, we accumulate a whole pile of useless clutter into our brains and realize we have wasted a huge chunk of our times and lives without a second thought.

Organizational versus Organic change

While organizations struggle to introduce and implement change at a macro level, our old habits, thinking, practices, and judgement continue to remain the same at a micro subconscious level. While the organizational system wants new technologies and new processes to bring about the change, the organic system operates as a monotonic congregation of robotic actions and habits. The result? Acute discomfort leading to total rebellion against changing status quo.

Two of the top burning issues over the past few years include severe talent scarcity and lack of innovation. Could it be because we have stopped thinking too deeply and simply comply with everything around us? How do we attract the right people into our lives and our teams, and how do we attract great ideas?

2015 – A turning point

2015 would mark a significant milestone in corporate history. Baby boomers will be close to retirement, most leaders and mentors will be from Gen X, while the mainstream will be flooded with versatile, technology-savvy, and multi-talented Millennials. There will be a shift of power and roles between these generations. As the population of Millennial will be more than ever before, here’s where bulk of the talent would lie. What worked for Gen X may not work simply because the technological and economic landscape is different. The motivating factors for Millennials to stick around is different as Anne Fisher has explained in this article. It is exactly because of this reason that we need to bring about change at a fundamental in the way we think, work, and achieve results.

Why Coaching?

For successful change management, every individual part of the exercise has to consciously and willingly agree to change either their mindsets, habits, or behaviours.

For change to occur at a micro level, it is more important than ever before to dedicate exclusive time for the brain. Coaching is a unique process where an individual works with a coach to articulate, analyse, detail, and plan their future actions. The coach asks purely open ended questions and facilitates the entire process through activities and exercises to help the individual look at the situation objectively from all angles and perspectives. It is sort of an “out of body” experience where the individual is encouraged to look at problems and challenges without judgement or external influence. The individual arrives at his own ideas and solutions during this process. This makes decision-making a completely mindful exercise. As the individual gets regularly coached, she gets more insights and awareness into her behavior and becomes a willing participant in change.

Benefits of coaching for the organization

  • Promotes a culture for change—Imagine this process happening across the organization where every employee is encouraged to get coached. Rather than pushing changes down employees’ throats, coaching could be a way to get employees to embrace the change after considering all aspects and benefits. This change in mindset leads to an organizational culture that intelligently participates in the entire change process.
  • Builds synergy within all generations of workforce— As millennials take center stage in the next decade, they will need to extract the best out of the more experienced and seasoned Baby Boomer and Gen X workforce, who can be deployed as coaches and mentors.
  • Develops emotionally intelligent leadership—A large part of EQ comes out of self-awareness and mindfulness. Coaching helps leaders and managers to reflect and improve their behavior and actions by enabling them to become more empathetic people leaders and better decision-makers
  • Drives empowerment and active innovation—Innovation already exists within individuals as a tiny unexplored glimmer of an idea. This idea usually gets clouded and eclipsed by legacy processes, assumptions, and indecisiveness and as a result, dies a quick death. As coaching is all about exploring the mind and heart towards newer solutions and behaviours, it automatically helps employees manifest and expand their ideas, and gives them the courage to take first steps towards implementing new solutions. Latent skill transforms to active talent, leading to active innovation.
  • Increases employee engagement and loyalty—It is now known that employee engagement largely depends on an employee’s emotional connect with the company management, brand, and organization. Through coaching, employees not only work on their career progression, they also take responsibility for their overall well-being and self-development. Leaders and managers too demonstrate a willingness to participate in their employees’ overall development and career planning. Coaching at the executive level helps organizational leaders to think beyond quarterly business results, and outline a more holistic and people-oriented vision. Once coaching becomes an intrinsic part of the company culture, over a period of time, employees begin to see a better alignment between their individual goals and the organization’s vision, and feel more invested in the company.

If a company needs to change its strategy, it has to get buy-in from its employees and customers. Unfortunately getting stakeholders to participate in the change process is easier said than done. If questions and ideas are not encouraged at an individual level, any change management exercise becomes an expensive promotional campaign followed by a “my way or the high way” stance.
That said, developing a coaching culture is a fairly long-term strategy and involves whole-hearted commitment from the company’s top management. Merely training managers to become certified coaches is not enough. 2015 should hopefully see companies building, driving, and executing a concrete talent management strategy using coaching and mentoring as key drivers.

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