4 min read

3 Keys To Coaching Your Team Through Change and Transition

There is one distinction most managers fail to understand about leading people through change. They don't change.

Often, we have clients in senior management who land in a new organization and determine that there is need "culture change." Organizations are experiencing such rapid change (particularly with impacts of tech and the global pandemic) we often forget to appreciate the velocity and yet the inherent challenges faced in implementing "change" initiatives. How do we lead and coach our people through change? If you're responsible for leading/managing others, you can increase effectiveness by understanding and applying the 3 points below.

With the exponential rate of change, we've seen more change in the last decade than our grandparents saw in their lifetimes. Here's the thing, though: The world is changing, technology is changing, work is changing,  customer consumption habits are changing, and organizations are changing rapidly - but people are notIt's because of this that in the drive for change, stress runs so high. Whether we're looking at the response to global tech induced disruption, talent shortages or labor relations the need to change is creating challenging levels of tension for many. There's no question that it's easier to plan change than to manage people during its implementation. Change is necessary in a changing world, but if mismanaged, the result can be a serious decline in productivity.

With that said most leaders recognize that a work culture that embeds constant innovation and change will adapt well so the questions is "how?".

Here are a few things that effective "change leaders" need to watch for while managing through the process.

3 Things Managers and Change Leaders Need to Keep in Mind

1) People don't "change" - they "transition". That's why managers at all levels need to coach/lead people through it with dialogue, vs. managing (telling) them to do it. When people experience change in the form of job/organizational change, (ie remote work changes) job loss, grieving the loss of a loved one, or going through a divorce, they will inevitably go through stages of transition until they arrive at a new perspective and acceptance of the new reality.  In his book, Managing Transitions, change strategist Dr. William Bridges documents that transition is a 3-phase psychological process that people go through.

  1. Ending - Letting go of their old perspective
  2. Neutral Phase - a sort of "no man's land" in between the old reality, and what the future holds. (often in a state of confusion and mixed emotions)
  3. New Beginning - Starting over again with new passion, vision, and sense of purpose. This essentially is a new identity.

In the Change Curve documented by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross,  people move through the stages much like a grief process often going from shock/denial, through anger/depression before arriving at integration/acceptance.

To be effective, leaders will need to be patient and use a coaching (questioning) dialogue with team members through emotions of transition to align with new direction.

2) Different Strokes... Not only is change a process of transition with stages, but it is a process that will be approached differently by different people. In a team where there are a range of personality/behavioral styles 
(think DISC styles) , you will encounter a range of approaches. Managers need to understand the behavioral style needs of their Direct Reports, in order to tailor their coaching and communication styles through transition.
In some cases, a team member may feel they are no longer a fit with the new direction, in which case the job of the manager is to be open and coach them to be "successful elsewhere" (within the organization or not). At the end of the day, it's about engagement that stems from a "Right Fit" with the new role. Better to have a team member engaged elsewhere than remaining unengaged in the evolving role.

3) Nurture the Culture. Continuous change requires continuous listening and learning. Organizations need to embed a coaching culture that equips managers with the capacity to coach staff to evolve comfort zones with confidence (rather than fear), practice continuous learning, and ultimately to initiate and embrace new ideas and innovation to serve changing client/customer needs. The challenge comes in balancing the urgency of change (Step 1 of Creating Change in Harvard Professor John Kotter's 8 step process) with the strategic coaching of people in transition, to result in effective organizational transformation.

Whether it be the print media brands navigating to a new digital value proposition,  an organization navigating remote work, or a media provider evolving to a mobile platform streaming culture,  change is constant. What is certain is that organizations that end up succeeding will be those that succeed in aligning change with a culture of coaching the transition of their talent in serving customer centric transformation. Coach your team to transition through the change. Align a coaching style that matches communication styles and  lead a culture that helps teams get comfortable with ongoing transformation. After all, Organizations don't innovate or get results - people do.

In the Spirit of Growth,

As Chief @ XLTeamwork.com Chuck is a Creative business leader/writer/husband/dad/real estate investor. Passionate about leadership, faith, family, entrepreneurship, and helping organizations understand and leverage their talent. Visit www.XLTeamwork.com for more information. 


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