Why consultants need coaching skills when leading change…

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December 3, 2012 by Lea

By Lea Wehbe, MSc in Management Consulting 3 student

Leading change in organizations developed over time and is an indispensable skill for consultants to possess. Twenty years ago, consultants would focus more on Target transitioning—or moving a company as a whole from point A to point B. Today, more and more importance is given to individuals and teams, as consultants understand that organizational change management takes place on three interrelated levels (individuals, teams, and the organization). Recognizing the impact of this process on productivity, stress, and even health can be managed through coaching.

Consultants are now encouraged to play an active role in managing change since it is an inevitable facet of their daily work.  Coaching may provide an answer to effectively dealing with change at the micro-level, and while many consultants may think this is beyond the scope of their work, it really depends on the needs of the organization and how consultants view their role in helping clients achieve their objectives.

One should not confuse the roles of the consultant and coach, and consultants need to learn how to switch from one role to the other, as they require a different posture and skill. A few decades ago, the term “coaching” was most frequently used to describe activities in sports and psychology. Today it has evolved to include the development of individual strengths through individual accompaniment designed to boost performance and encourage personal development.

Often executives spend more time defining strategy than creating a direct link with their management teams and communicating openly. This creates an environment where employees are unaware of the reasons behind managerial decisions and it is precisely in such an environment that consultants can play an active role in implementing coaching.  By introducing coaching into the company culture and providing a safe environment for communication employees, managers, and executives are empowered to voice their opinions or at least to express their needs in a constructive way.

Coaches need to identify personal strengths and weaknesses in order to assist individuals in setting their own priorities. Moreover, coaching also aligns individual goals to the company’s objectives. In conflict resolution assignments, such as in family businesses, coaching requires consultants to identify conflicting interests and solve problems by finding solutions that allow family members to work as a team.

When it comes to operational advisory, consultants should focus their efforts on knowledge and skills transfer to their client’s managers and executives. How does transfer of coaching skills add value to the client? Companies adopting the coaching culture are experiencing a shift from the old paradigms of “management by power” to “coaching through questions”. This model fosters the development of new skills and requires intensified levels of listening, interaction, and feedback. Employees are thus more motivated because the management style is facilitative.

Coaching and consulting require similar strategies and show certain commonalities in practice. Consultants need to set the overall aim of their client’s organization in order to capitalize on its strengths and thus prosper. They would be able to do so through coaching the people and instilling the “develop yourself to develop your business” attitude in those individuals. Coaching is a long-term engagement on an individual level designed to accompany those key individuals who can then implement organizational-level change—or ‘change champions’. Nonetheless, one should be aware of the requisite questions to ask, including: At what point should coaching be implemented? Can any consultant become a coach? Is everyone coachable? What makes coaches credible? And how can their contribution be measured? In my opinion, these questions should be considered by both parties before implementing coaching in change management, as they are crucial to its efficiency.

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A blog by Grenoble Graduate School of Business students.

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