Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Executive Guide to Transformation Coaching


Coaching is one of the hardest skills for an executive to learn.

Why?

The answer I believe is revealing. Most executives are convinced they know what they are doing. In his or her mind, it is the rest of organization that needs to change. Given that executives excel at building relationships and managing perceptions perhaps most executives believe their own spin.

This state of denial is a blind spot that blocks many an agile and lean transformation. Isn’t the first step to change, recognition of the problems?

By believing it is someone elses problem, the executive overlooks an important part of the transformation, the transformation of oneself. Subsequently, such an executive also ignores the transformation of one’s peers.

Think of the discontinuity that will arise. You are asking your staff to change their behavior. You invest in their training and teach them key concepts like how to be self-directed .Not only will this impact your organization, it will impact neighboring organizations. What is being done to prepare the leadership of the coming changes?

Remember, the culture that is in place, the one you are trying to transform, was put in place by the leaders (i.e., you or your predecessors).  The current system (i.e., the way work is done) is primarily responsible for the organizations struggles. It is the leaders that are primarily responsible for the state of the current system.

Understanding agile and lean leads one to understand the importance continuous improvement via root cause analysis. Too many organizations are driven by a culture of blame. If something goes wrong, someone is to blame. An executive must recognize it is the current system that is the root cause of most of the current dysfunction. To move from a culture of blame to a culture of continuous improvement requires the elimination of fear. Removing the fear from ones organization does not happen overnight and will not happen at all if the executive does not change. Teaching leaders that fear is not a tool but part of the problem will be a challenge.

OK, so you are an executive and you have come to understand that the current system is the main contributor to poor productivity and or poor quality. What next? You need to coach your peers!

Too many executives attempt transformation and look to their subordinates to drive the change. When their staff hits against the existing corporate system, the executive is nowhere to be found. When an executive from a neighboring organization complains or blames any person attempting to drive transformation the executive’s backing is critical. Backing your people as they execute the transformation shows you have skin in the game. By not to supporting your people you are placing your people in harms way and many will fall victim to the corporate immune system. This will bring the transformation to a halt.

Your role as coach is to first coach your peers. This is essential if the transformation is to succeed. Your peers need to be educated about the transformation. They need to know what to expect, why the change is necessary and the results and benefits the transformation will bring. Collectively, you can determine the impact to the neighboring organizations and what if any coaching is required. When things go wrong, the leadership needs to bring an end to blame. Instead the leadership needs to coach how to drive continuous improvement via root cause analysis.

As you can see the best transformation starts from the head. The executive educates oneself then learns to coach one’s peers. Collectively, the leaders of the organization can then begin to coach their organizations.

It is a rare executive that has the insight and courage to first transform oneself then become an agent of change by coaching one’s peers. Transformation is hard. Transformation without support from the top is impossible. It will have limited success at best and any progress made is likely to be short lived.

Transformation from the top brings about sustainable transformation. What kind of executive are you?