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Helen Goss
Helen Goss,
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The importance of having a coaching culture in times of uncertainty
27 May 2020

Coauthored by Boyes Turner Coaching team members, Steve Couch, Coaching Together Ltd and Claire Rason, Client Talk 

Boyes Turner HR Solutions offers coaching because we believe that coaching is a power tool that expands the potential of organisations.

In order to support HR teams and to provide them with greater understanding of what coaching is and how they might use it, we are delighted to announce the launch of our new podcast series. We have spoken to some of our Boyes Turner coaches and will be sharing their knowledge with you.

We start with the importance of having a coaching culture in times of uncertainty.

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that firms are facing an ever-changing landscape and an uncertain future. Large numbers of employees have been furloughed, teams are working remotely, some organisations have had to pause operations. This has led to HR having to grapple with new regulations, increased anxiety and problems that just did not exist six months ago.

Adopting elements of a coaching culture can underpin vital awareness of what is best, for greater understanding and effectiveness, in addressing urgent needs and meeting deadlines. The adoption of coaching culture elements is not something that we should turn to when we are less busy and have greater certainty; it is powerful in enhancing effective delivery now.

In our first podcast with Steve Couch and Claire Rason we discuss different elements of coaching culture and offer examples of different practices that you can implement immediately.

Steve and Claire set out some of their top tips below:

Building and Maintaining Rapport

Our ability to work successfully with uncertainty is enhanced by how much certainty and trust we build through rapport with those around us. We suggest sharing individual stories of how current concerns are being addressed, and explicit recognition of the uncertainties that we face in our work and wider lives. Aim to build rapport with your colleagues by acknowledging vulnerability.

To maintain existing rapport at work, consider opening virtual meetings 10 or 15 minutes early for voluntary unstructured conversations i.e. those that currently can’t happen at the drinks machine or in the canteen. Recognise that just as colleagues spend more or less time around the drinks machine, colleagues will choose to participate for more or less time in these discussions. We are all dealing with uncertainty in different ways.

Involving Everyone

For team calls, inviting all team-members to participate at an early stage in meetings, encourages engagement and further involvement as the meeting progresses. Participants receive a positive endorsement of their value. Doing this also helps to confirm the purpose of the meeting.

Sensing

Note that in times of change you may be less sensitive to changes in your colleagues’ behaviour. This could be because your brain is pre-occupied dealing with your uncertainties (amygdala hijack), or because what is available to sense your colleagues’ behaviour is restricted – contrast what you can sense on a video call compared to an audio call.

An option for teams is to work with an experienced facilitator or team coach who can observe individual and group dynamics, providing valuable observations on perceived engagement and mood, and concentrate on opportunities that may be missed or glossed over by teams focused on the immediate conversation.

Listening

We spend more time listening than we do on any other activity. However, the biggest common frustration is that people don’t listen well enough. Having a heightened awareness of the way we listen can lead to deeper listening and help us to achieve a greater understanding of our colleagues and our clients. In the current climate, being able to listen with empathy is perhaps the most important skill that we should develop.

Acknowledging and Summarising

Acknowledging and summarising team-members’ contributions can be extremely valuable in building team effectiveness. As well as recognising the intrinsic value of participation, acknowledgement encourages others to suggest enhancements or make their own contribution. Summarising what has been heard confirms the accuracy of the teams’ understanding of what has been said. A summary also acts as a further trigger to related thinking and development of new thoughts.

Asking team-members to take it in turns to act as summariser (e.g. in 20-minute shifts), provides different perspectives on listening and of what is being said.

Questioning

Coaching practice places strong emphasis on being curious about what is going on and the skilled use of questions to increase awareness. Questioning can be used to confirm, modify or deny assumptions, to improve understanding. These confirmations are valuable in avoiding inappropriate responses to uncertainty.

Reflecting

Taking time to reflect, acts as a counterbalance to panic and heightened stress at times of uncertainty. When we reflect, we use more of the brain’s capacity to generate potential solutions, as demonstrated by new thinking that emerges after a night’s sleep. Reflection also offers us greater calm by reducing stress hormones including cortisol, and increasing the production of beneficial chemicals such as oxytocin which has been shown to reduce anxiety and build trust, and dopamine which can increase motivation.

Ignoring a process that offers these benefits appears counter-productive, particularly at times of heightened uncertainty. Neuroscience suggests that this happens as brains, orientated to task completion, are less developed in other areas. It is becoming increasingly common for individuals and teams to make more conscious effort to incorporate the benefits of reflection in their work.

Conclusion

A coaching culture champions openness and psychological safety. It has benefits for successfully navigating periods of uncertainty and change. It also helps to foster high-performing teams in the long-run.

Working with a team coach, who can offer greater awareness of group dynamics, can increase the potential of the team to collaborate and address uncertainty. They can develop the capacity of each team-member, and the team as a whole, to work with the powerful elements of a coaching culture. 


To find out more about Boyes Turner’s team coaching solutions contact us.

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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