Why we all need to be coaches, according to an expert

Bianca Healey


written on May 8, 2017

In a world of disruption and rapid change, coaching needs to be taken out of its box and applied across all levels of the business, says the CEO of a strategy and coaching consultancy.

When a company is going through duress, many of the challenges can be managed by effective coaching, says Heather Parkinson, CEO at Directioneering.

Her company works closely with HR and leadership teams, primarily during periods of organisational transition: when a company is going through change that is going to significantly impact its people.

“That might be a merger or acquisition, or a particular business strategy change that means that some people need to exit the organisation. Roles might be disappearing, or people need to reapply for other kinds of internal roles,” she says.

During these periods, HR must equip leaders with the tools to best manage the situation from a “people perspective” as well as keeping business outcomes on track.

Coaching the C- Suite

Though leaders often move up at organisations because they are experts at particular things: “good at solving tactical problems, good at getting things done – those are not necessarily great leadership characteristics,” says Parkinson.

Nor are they the skill-set required for getting the most out of others.

“As we look forward to the future of work, there are greater expectations of leaders than ever before. Individuals expect leaders to be invested in their development, and people are increasingly intolerant of bad leadership.

“Leaders these days need to be good coaches. They need to be able to take coaching, development and advice and apply it to themselves – and others.”

Coaching through change

Coaching is particularly valuable when an organisation is navigating seismic change. In these cases, there are three main challenges that must be addressed: the fear that organisations will lose their top talent during the change, decreases in engagement and productivity – and damage to the company brand.

Transparency is very important. The first thing organisations can do is be honest and clear about what’s happening, say Parkinson.

The next step is to build the capability in leaders to best manage their employees during the transition.

Finally, employees must be empowered to manage their careers during the change.

HR and the executive: steering the ship

Parkinson gives the example of an organisation that closed an entire office as an example of how leadership and team coaching can guide people through rough seas.

“Right from the CEO down the line, except for a select few people who were transferring to another office, they were all going.”

“So we encouraged having the conversations as early as possible,” says Parkinson. “We started to talk to people about how to understand the current employment market and recognise what their strengths were – and preparing them while the change was occurring.

“The people who felt supported and felt looked after and in control of their destinies were much more productive – and constructive.

“All change is different,” says Parkinson. “But if you do it right, you can ensure people are constructive and helpful. If you can reduce uncertainty, reduce fear and build capability and resilience, you’re going to get a far better outcome.”


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