Coaching through Change
Who could have imagined, just over a year ago, the monumental shift in our lives that happened almost overnight. The way we live or lives at home, in education, and at work, has changed, and, as the grip of the pandemic eases, thoughts inevitably turn to the way things used to be. So what have we learnt over the past year? What should we hang on to as we inch towards our new normal?
A YouGov survey conducted last September revealed that, prior to the outbreak, the vast majority of Britain’s workforce never worked from home. Post-pandemic, 57% of those surveyed wanted flexibility to work from home and have access to their workplace.
We’ve already seen major employers shed significant estate, with HSBC, Lloyds, and Metro Bank all closing offices after the sector survived during significant periods of home working. Big-name organisations such as Spotify, Twitter, and PwC all confirmed that flexible working is here to stay. Amazon is taking an alternative approach having recently revealed that it plans to return to “an office-centric culture” as its baseline.
Flexible working is, however, here to stay.
Smaller businesses are also finding new, hybrid ways to work, and have been surprised that work has carried on, despite not having employees on site in the traditional sense. Of course, different sectors have fared differently, with the hospitality industry hit particularly hard. Even there, however, innovations have seen events taking place online and restaurants delivering “heat up at home” chef-quality cuisine.
One thing that unites us all is that the return to a new normal may be turbulent, with local lockdowns likely for some time yet to come.
So how can leaders ensure their teams are sheltered from the storms as best they can, while continuing to survive or even thrive?
Investing in people has never been more important, but investing in people is often the easiest thing to “drop” when things become complicated. Leaders too need to ensure that they invest in their own development, not only to be good role models to their colleagues but to help them reflect and hone new skills that will be important in the hybrid home/office environment.
A successful day is all too often measured in emails answered and tasks completed, and it can be hard as a leader to spend hours in virtual meetings just listening to staff, but that listening is important. In the office, we might listen informally, maybe at the photocopier or over a cup of tea, but in the remote world, leaders need to make an effort to actively listen, to schedule calls, and to value them as equally important to other tasks that pull on their time.
Listening effectively helps to build cohesive teams and can cure workplace niggles before they become full blown problems. Actively listening can also facilitate space for innovative thinking that is very much needed in times of change.
Listening and asking the right questions forms the basis of a coaching conversation, where the leader doesn’t impose the answer to a problem, rather elicit the answer from their colleague. In the virtual world, where the leader will not have the lived experience of their employee, coaching conversations become more important.
Coaching conversations, that are widespread and commonplace, lead to a coaching culture in an organisation.
The Institute of Leadership and Management conducted research that found a coaching culture helped develop high-performing workplaces and boost employee engagement. By leading by example, leaders can instil a coaching culture that permeates teams and creates an engaged and energised workforce.
Engaging the services of a coach can be valuable. Embedding coaching skills throughout your organisation can help to ensure a resilient workforce, with employees who are engaged and motivated. A coaching culture should be a key part of the new normal.
Contributor: Dr Louise Bright, Director of Research and Business Engagement, at the University of South Wales
The Wales Coaching Centre at USW supports the development and growth of coaches through training, qualifications, and a community of practice.
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