Leadership Coaching as a Tool for Organizational Transformation Success

Suntiva LLC Blog

By Wendy Myers and Robin Broadnax.

Your agency is undergoing a restructuring in the way it conducts its business. You may be replacing an enterprise-wide legacy IT system with new technology and processes, or perhaps your organization is transforming its organization structure and design. Either way, it will be one hurdle to implement the change successfully and another to successfully sustain the transformation.

Leadership Coaching can be a powerful tool for enabling successful large-scale change management engagements.

As a government leader, imagine two different scenarios for leading your organization through a major transformation initiative.

  1. Scenario 1. The organization implements a structured change management approach focusing on activities such as leadership alignment around the need/case for change, stakeholder engagement to assess change readiness and address resistance, communication to support awareness and understanding of the change and its implications, and training to ensure those affected by the change have the knowledge and skills needed to support the changes.
  2. Scenario 2. The organization implements the same structured change management approach described in Scenario 1 but includes a robust Leadership Coaching program directly aligned to the organization’s goals as a key component of its change management strategy and offers this coaching to selected leaders in the organization. Through this coaching program, individual leaders work with coaches to focus on the fundamental skills they need to successfully manage themselves and others through this transition period. While the agency can successfully modernize its information technology or transition to its new operating model under the first scenario, the ability of the organization to sustain the change is much greater when the individual capacity for change is significantly enhanced through Leadership Coaching. Which would you choose to facilitate your effectiveness in leading change?

Why Include Leadership Coaching in your Agency’s Change Plan

Government leaders today have the mandate to transform unlike we’ve seen in the past. The pressure is high, expectations are lofty, budgets are slim, and the federal workforce is often not ready to embrace the change. These transformations are often high dollar and publicly visible—risk of failure is great.

Poor Change Leadership is the #1 cause of failure.

To responsibly manage the expense of implementing change, government leaders should carefully consider the sustainability of the transformation. It is likely that the addition of Leadership Coaching can be a relatively low-cost add-on that can mitigate risk of low adoption of new technology or cultural resistance to change. Leadership Coaching has become an indispensable tool for executives and leaders around the world to improve engagement, affect change in their organizations, and, ultimately, drive performance.

ROI on Leadership Coaching is 7 X’s initial investment.

Coaching has many benefits, including improving productivity, collaboration, and satisfaction. If coaching is linked to specific business purposes (e.g., IT system implementation, organization restructuring, culture change), the benefits are even greater. According to the International Coach Federation (ICF) and their Global Coaching Client Study, organizations that use coaching “for business reasons have a median return on investment of seven times their initial investment.”1

Furthermore, according to a Prosci research study with 575 participants, “managers and supervisors play one of the most critical roles in helping employees through change.” The challenge is that most leaders and managers are not equipped to handle the changes themselves, let alone lead their employees through the change. There is an increasing amount of data showing that the success of a project is directly connected to how well the people side of the change is managed. Based on benchmarking data from Prosci, only 15% of respondents with poor change management met or exceeded project objectives. 42% of those with fair change management met or exceeded objectives, while 76% with good change management met or exceeded objectives. 94% of the study respondents with excellent change management programs met or exceeded project objectives.

Making the Business Case

To make an ask for a Leadership Coaching investment, consider writing a business case. In this document, be certain to list the objectives of the change initiative. Then specify what people, processes, and behaviors are involved in making the change. Highlight the depth and breadth of the people touched by the change and outline the risks—to each objective—of not being able to bring the people along or change the behaviors in a sustainable way. Link the case for Change Leadership Coaching directly to the results and outcomes for the project. Show how objectives depend on individual adoption and sustained behavior change. If you are able, try to quantify the costs of failure sustain change over time; project delays when the change initiative is stalled due; and sunk costs if the change fails to take hold.

Incorporating Leadership Coaching into the Transformation Effort

The earlier in the change process coaching can begin the better, but it is beneficial whether the change is in the planning stages or is already in process. The most powerful coaching programs during times of change incorporate some sort of 360-degree assessment instrument at the beginning of the transformation project to establish a baseline of current skills, effectiveness and influence as a leader from perceptions of other leaders, as well as subordinates. The results of the assessment inform the leaders’ development objectives for the one-on-one coaching and during times of change, those objectives are best focused on helping the leader gain the self-awareness, confidence, resilience and other leadership characteristics required to lead through uncertainty and resistance. Another element of success in implementing a large-scale coaching program to drive change is to supplement the one-one-one coaching with skill-based learning on topics such as strategic thinking, resilience, innovation to build a common language in leaders and managers so they can communicate more effectively, collaborate more easily, solve problems more quickly, and ultimately help each other and their employees through the change process in a meaningful and sustainable way. During a time of organization transition, leaders need a safe place to talk to each other about how their employees are experiencing the change and share ideas about what tactics or strategies they may be implementing within their individual departments or teams to address employee needs during the transition. The holistic coaching program should include an informal, but organized, mutual support collaboration forums. Through this collaboration and sharing, leaders can realize that they are not in this change alone and that others within the organization may be facing similar challenges or successes.

Conclusion

The purpose of change management is to manage the effects of organizational transitions on its people and teams. Prosci’s research shows that initiatives with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management.2 As demonstrated in this blog post, “excellent” change management for large-scale transformations must include a comprehensive coaching program to support the organization’s leaders and managers at all levels throughout the change. The coaching program should not only include one-on-one coaching, but also training on key change management topics; collaboration forums; and ongoing change communications and engagement strategies. Deliberately coaching through change at the individual level enables leaders to build skills and modify behaviors to adopt a new way of doing things. Leadership Coaching has proven to be a powerful tool to affect individual change and thereby promote the organization’s capacity to sustain change in a meaningful way over the long term.