The ability to adapt to change is one of the most critical skills of leadership. When leaders create change, and they can control and direct it, it can be positive and empowering. But when change happens to them, it’s much more difficult to navigate. How can coaches/consultants help their clients meet and overcome these challenges?
Two Faces of Change
While change comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, there tends to be two primary types that leaders face:
Change Imposed On Them
This is when change happens to them: when they’re not the cause – but they do feel the effects. Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes in the Harvard Business Review, “change can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory…Our sense of self-determination is often the first thing to go when faced with a potential change coming from someone else.”
Or, something else. A takeover, for instance, is certainly an event that can make leaders feel as though they’ve lost control of their territory. The fear of the unknown takes over, and the tendency is view the change in a negative light.
In this situation, coaching helps the individual get in touch with how they feel about the change. What are the negative possibilities? What are the positive opportunities? It’s about helping them understand what the change means to them, and where they want to be in terms of that change. In other words, how do they want to position themselves – and how can the coach support that?
A leader may also be the driver of change; they see a need for a change and really want to take charge of the situation. It is not a change that is being thrust on them from the outside, but it can still be challenging to tackle.
The coach’s role is to help the client clarify the change: Why is it necessary? What structures and systems are in place to help facilitate and sustain it? The conversation becomes about positioning the leader for success.
What Stands In the Way of Change?
What can impede change? Success. It may sound counterintuitive, but a track history of success within an organization, or an individual, can make them tremendously resistant to change. The attitude becomes, “If it’s worked, why should I change?” The old, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mentality.
Change is inevitable – and in our world, it seems as though it is occurring much more rapidly than at any other point in history. There are so many shifts with the market, globalization, and technology that are outside of our control. If clients keep trying “business as usual,” they cannot grow. And they will eventually decline.
Another factor that can prevent someone from achieving change is the attitude and reaction they receive from others. Is trying something new applauded? Is it cause for concern? Is it flatly discouraged? This can be an organizational, a cultural, or an individual mindset, and it sets the standard of response and comfort with taking risks.
Overcoming Change Challenges
Throughout any change process, it is critical that there is trust, credibility, and confidentiality between the coach and client. This relationship allows the client to get in touch with themselves and what’s really important to them. What can they control? What can’t they? And how do they handle it?
It’s important to remember that life is 10% what happens to us – and 90% how we feel about it. When the client can frame change as a matter of outlook, that viewing it through a certain lens can help them achieve positive results, it can help them adapt – and thrive.