Coaching for Change – You’ve got to get to Meaning

I had this great maths teacher at high school. I wasn’t a natural mathematics student but his enthusiasm meant that his classes were really enjoyable. His name was Mr Zitkus – over six foot tall with big saucer-like eyes and a booming voice. One day he put up an equation on the blackboard with the confident statement – “Look at that. That’s beautiful that is! Beautiful!” 

Euler’s identity.

The class was silent (and totally confused)….so it seemed up to me to say the obvious:

“Aye Mr Zitkus, but what does it mean?”

His voice boomed out “You’re a philistine Gregor! A philistine!” and with a shaking head he scrubbed it off the board and got down to the lesson. To this day I am still clueless as to what Euler’s identity is!

Why tell this story? Well there is a fundamental issue when coaching someone leading change and that is what does this change actually mean? What does it mean to them personally? What does it mean to all those in the organisation that are expected to implement it?

A coach should be totally honest about their experience of you so they’re the perfect person on whom to test your change vision. If it doesn’t mean something to them and move them then it’s not good enough to engage and motivate your people. Leaders often make the mistake of assuming their people think just like they do and will just get what they’re saying. This is a very dangerous assumption to make in a change environment when people are often fearful and uncertain – even if they don’t need to be. So managing change is a perfect time to get the support of a coach so you can fully test your vision and plans.

To help you now however, here is something that really helps in building a compelling change vision. It comes from a piece by McKinsey – The Inconvenient Truth about Change

The population splits roughly into five ways in regard to the message they respond to:

  • 20% respond to what it means to them personally (my development, paycheque/bonus, empowerment to act)
  • 20% respond to what it means to the customer (making it easier, superior service, better quality product)
  • 20% respond to what it means to the working team (a sense of belonging, caring environment, working together efficiently and effectively)
  • 20% respond to what it means to society (making a better society, building the community, stewarding resources)
  • 20% respond to what it means to the company (beating the competition, industry leadership, share price targets)

But it is often only the last message, what it means for the company, that is consistently given. Any change narrative should include ALL of these messages to encompass all your employees and stakeholders.

Its clearly not just about content but how the message is given – flat and lifeless? or engaged and passionate? Both content and method of delivery have to be on target. A training course on change management, while useful just won’t cut it. Coaching is the ideal developmental tool because of honest, instant feedback and support.

If you’d like help with your own change leadership then please get in contact.

Many thanks for reading this post. I hope you found it useful and productive. If you did, then please do share it with your network. Thank you.

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

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