Business Coaches as Change Agents through Corporate Training

By March 15, 2012 Leadership No Comments

(Adapted from the Coaches Learning Center and ’Behavioural Coaching’ by Zeus and Skiffington – published and copyrighted by McGraw-Hill, New York)

Corporate Training professionals are required to both change the level and standard of personal and professional skills sets, attitudes, thinking, beliefs, values, motivation etc of an individual or group, in order to help them (and their organization) perform even better and derive greater satisfaction from their everyday work life and their careers. Business Coaches are fundamentally about achieving behavioural change (what people do and say).

Is the study of emotion, cognition, and behaviour, and their interaction. A critical aspect of psychology concerns the science of behaviour change. This involves the study and the discovery of principles and laws that govern behaviour, the extension of these principles, and the development of an applied technology to facilitate positive, lasting changes in behaviour.

To accomplish substantive and sustained individual behaviour change, certain psychological methods must be used by the Business Coach, and specific protocols followed: The change process in business training, in essence, is a psychological one and thus requires specialist corporate training and finesse on the part of the coach. In order to help adults change significant facets of their behaviour and enhance their performance at work, it is essential that business coaches use proven change models and processes from the behavioural sciences. From the perspective of the behavioural sciences -there is really not much that’s “new” regarding how to change behaviour and employ evidence proven models, tools and techniques etc co-opted by the professional coaching industry.

Business Coaches as Change Agents
A change agent is a person who is formally conducting a change effort. The change agent is involved in all steps of the process of change.

Corporate training professionals are Change Agents – however most corporate trainers are taught only to assist their clients to make changes and as a consequence only see them fail in the process of transition: Change is situational and physical, like applying new skills. But, there is a transition period, a psychological process, which people must pass through to come to terms with the new learning, skill, behaviour, situation etc. Transition starts with an ending. When you move forward, you have to have an ending of where you were. For a person to successfully make a change, they must leave the past/where they were. This takes time and expert guidance by a professionally trained business training professional in the use of proven psychological methodologies.

Transition has a period in a ’neutral zone’ where little momentum is achieved: This psychological period of transition is much slower than the physical change/learning how to execute new actions. When you move to a new area, the physical change usually occurs fast. But the inward psychological transition happens much more slowly because instead of becoming a new person as fast as you change outwardly, you actually struggle for a time in a state that is neither new nor old. The coachee feels like they have let go of one trapeze and are waiting for the next one to appear.

Three Phase Psychological Re-orientation of Change
Ending – Neutral Zone – and New Beginning
You can only make a new beginning if you first make an ending and spend some time in the neutral zone. However, most business training and mentoring professionals try to start with the new beginning without finishing the old. These business coaches tend to take a performance deficit approach with their clients and spend much of their time in the ’New Beginning’ zone concentrating on the application of a new skill/behaviour etc. They fail to pay important attention to the endings (of why a person was where they were to then become committed to move on) and the existence of the neutral zone (of how to successfully make the transition/the move/the journey from the old to the new).

A Business Coach needs to Establish what a Client first Needs to Move Forward:
A coachee needs to feel understood and be heard and have time to wrestle with many emotions such as; denial, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, confusion, frustration, apathy, scepticism and isolation. Questions and issues concerning self exploration, self awareness, self control and self expression must also be addressed. Other questions include: What do they need to get on with the transition? What are they holding onto? What do they need to leave behind? What can they bring with them?

Management’s Psychological Contract of Support with their Employees:
For optimum results an executive coach must also spend a considerable amount of their time with the key stakeholders around the coachee. During the transition phase it is also important that the coach has the coach’s management and fellow employees provide support and a climate of openness and risk-taking. The coach is encouraged to be open with stakeholders about what they are going to change. It helps that the stakeholders are also “fellow travellers” in the journey of change and are also trying to improve themselves and not act as “judges” pointing their fingers at the coach’s client.

Business Training Programs are the bridge builders across the Neutral Zone:
Unless successful transition takes place, change will not work. The neutral zone is the critical time for the executive coaching professional to ensure the coachee is able to achieve sustainable renewal and development. It is critical that business coaches be taught how to employ the proven psychological skills and tools necessary to guide and support their clients through this time of transition to achieve genuine change/acquire lasting new skills.

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