Coaching journal: Walking backwards into change

December 10, 2009

One of my coaching clients wants to be more active facilitating change in her organization, but is frustrated by the apparent lack of interest, or perhaps it’s hidden resistance, on the part of the managers who work under her.  Efforts to brainstorm needed change, or in other ways to create an agenda for the future, have not been successful. She was evidently worn down, perhaps really depressed, by this difficult and unrewarding process.

What might make a difference?

She had one very helpful insight: Part of what’s wearing her down is the negative attitude of so many around her, and she’d be better off spending more time with those staff people who are most agile, resourceful, and interested in real change.  Such attitudes and temperaments are indeed contagious, and I’ll be anxious to see what comes of this conscious effort to pick up the most constructive staff energy.

I also had an insight that might be fruitful. Listing possible changes brings up all sorts of resistance.  Why not spend more time  as a management group listing things about the organization that should be preserved — things that are really good or right?  This might give more staff permission to join the discussion in a non-threatening way.  We expect that the process of enumerating aspects to be preserved will actually highlight some things that need to be changed, but that would be the discovery and not the stated goal.

I tread very carefully in making any suggestions.  My role is not supposed to be that of a consultant, offering solutions, detailed strategies, or lots of content expertise.  Indeed, I’ve only a vague sense of this organization’s mission and program.  I’m there to help the director find insight and clarity herself, occasionally offering hints or suggestions, but primarily listening to her reflections and observations and helping her hear her own insights in the most constructive way.

That’s what coaching (which I call “clarifying”) is about.  Remember, you can have a free half hour session, in person or on the phone, to help you decide if this could add value to your life, or your organization.

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