Recently, one of my clients described her leadership role as working in a minefield. She pictured herself in potentially hostile territory, without a map, not knowing if a bomb was inches away. A powerful image of turbulent organisational life; with economic uncertainty, rapidly changing technology, globalisation, restructuring, downsizing and good old fashioned acquisitions and mergers. All contributing to unpredictable, potentially explosive working environments, places where hidden explosives of depression, anxiety and stress can blow your life apart.
Organisations turn to coaching to help managers and leaders boost their capacity to deal with shifting corporate environments. Coaching provides a space where executives can step back from the everyday cut and thrust, have time to engage with complexity and think through challenges.
It takes huge reservoirs of courage and concentration to be a deminer and they say the main danger is not the mine but your own state of mind. Similarly, when organisational change is on the agenda it is important for leaders to access their best thinking; they need to be ‘cognitively flexible,’ to switch when needed from problem-focused to solution-focused thinking. Coaching claims that by creating an oasis for reflection, learning and positive challenge it provides an environment where flexibility and clarity of thought can flourish.
But another important contribution coaching can make is in helping to change perspectives on change. It takes a leap of imagination to move from defining and relating to change as a minefield filled with objects that have to be managed to recognising change as the ocean we swim in; unpredictable, emergent and ultimately what makes life possible.