How to Better Utilize Coaching during Staff Transitions
When you read the word “change,” what comes to mind? Is it remote working, a new job title or a new team? So much focus is placed on the situational change that we often fail to recognize its most important aspect: the psychological transition accompanying it.
As coaches, we’re passionate about our clients’ resourcefulness and their ability to grow and develop. A large part of our work involves partnering with clients to break through barriers that limit potential and performance. One of the greatest challenges people face when going through professional change is the ability to engage effectively with all aspects of the transition.
At What Point Should Coaching be Utilized by Organizations?
Part of the research for this article involved speaking with leading talent, learning and development specialists within the legal sector. While the majority of these organizations rely on external coaches, some employ an internal coach—the main benefit being the coach’s extensive knowledge of the organization.
The predominant opinion was that coaching would ideally start at the beginning of an individual’s career, as it enables them to thrive in future transitions and leadership roles. In some organizations, coaching is being trialed at junior levels, and this is yielding excellent feedback from the clients and key stakeholders. The majority of those I spoke with, however, revealed that coaching is reserved for those staff identified as senior or high potential, indicating that junior staff should focus more on developing technical skills over softer alternatives. I would argue both are critical.
Tips for Implementation
As soon as knowledge of an impending transition arises, have coaching automatically available. Of course, coaching cannot be forced upon staff, but sometimes merely giving them the opportunity to pursue it, even if they don’t take it up, creates a supportive environment.
For the New Joiner
Offer coaching as part of an orientation package to assist the individual as they adapt to their new environment and role. Most that I spoke with do not currently make coaching available for new joiners and instead focus on the traditional “buddy” system. In a more virtual world post COVID-19, organizations will have to question if this will work going forwards.
For the Recently Promoted
Offer coaching to help staff adapt to their new position within the team. Work with them to develop their delegation, feedback and conflict management skills, as well as an awareness of the importance of effective communication techniques. Those I spoke with confirmed that coaching was popular and effective among those taking on senior leadership roles.
For Those Who are Part of a Merger or Restructure
Offer coaching to provide enhanced clarity about future roles. It’ll give staff the space to acknowledge what has changed and to settle into the neutral zone, where things have ended but the new beginning is yet to start.
For Those Leaving an Organization
Offer coaching as part of an outplacement program. This gives staff the thinking space to explore their next steps, clarify their strengths and discover how they might pivot to position themselves for new roles.
Before any new beginning, it is critical to encourage staff to explore what has ended and what they have lost as a result of the transition they are facing. Although coaching focuses on making a plan for the future, failing to acknowledge the ending will prove detrimental to an individual’s ability to move forward.
Is It Worth the Investment?
Let’s consider this from two perspectives:
1) The Staff
Coaching provides a safe space to come to terms with a transition and effectively “draw a line in the sand.” They’ll feel valued by the organization, empowered and possess greater levels of accountability and responsibility to themselves and others. This will enable them to move forward and thrive.
2) The Organization
Giving staff the opportunity to engage with coaching sends a clear message: You care. Staff will adapt quickly, leading to greater buy-in of the situational changes they’re experiencing. Productivity will increase, along with loyalty and morale. It’s also critical for the organization to be marking what has ended. Quite literally having a celebration could be a great idea or sharing stories about what used to be. This might sound counterproductive, but staff will thank their employer through their actions.
Hierarchy is irrelevant when it comes to the psychological effects of change—it does not obey the rules of organizational structure. The effects of transition are felt at both the junior and senior end, and this is acknowledged by all those I have spoken with. If an organization wants to make sure its people are maximizing productivity, drive, ambition and effectiveness, coaching must be at the forefront of change. If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s that people are at the heart of everything we do.