”Doubt Is Not A Pleasant Condition But Certainty Is Absurd” – Voltaire
When change is the new normal, certainty is elusive. Yet we crave certainty or, at a minimum, relative stability as homeostatic sapiens. What to do?
I remember presenting a strategic paper on Executive Coaching to share how it could be leveraged to support an entire organisation. I was rebuked for using the term VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) and criticised for being too theoretical. I do not think the same argument would hold today.
VUCA and what it means for leadership, individual membership of today’s organisations and people in general is a ubiquitous term a term that has taken centre stage. Even if people are not familiar with the acronym they are most definitely familiar with its features. We live in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous in which our work and lives are constantly disrupted and changing. These are the conditions by which the 21st century individual is dealing. Similarly, we are now living in a PAID reality, pressurised, always on, information overload and distracted.
How to cope? How do we as leaders navigate our new environment and help others do the same?
Coaching is one answer
One answer is Coaching. There is broad recognition that leaders cannot be omnipotent or think they can. Knowledge, technical knowledge that was once a preserve is likely to be disrupted.The speed of change is unnerving. To survive today’s conditions requires collaboration, connection courage and curiosity.
Coaching is one methodology and leadership practice that has surfaced to shore up the insecurities felt dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty. As stated above leaders need help navigating the complex and often messy business landscape in which we operate. They need help to handle the pressures from increased demands, high workloads, and the challenges of running cross-functional projects while working on diverse teams. Coaching supports leaders in dealing with the complexity inherent in this new environment. Change is embraced rather than ignored. The question is how do we get at the innovation and answers that reside in all rather than in the few. What we are now facing is a need for scalable learning and not scalable efficiency.
How it works?
Coaching can help by providing much needed support and strategies for not only surviving but thriving in these new circumstances. It is a process that illuminates what success could look like, shifting perspectives and hidden assumptions, obstacles and barriers that get in the way of achieving it. It deals on many levels – the emotional, cognitive, intuitive – to get at the specific action steps to take that will lead to a desired outcome. Through active listening and powerful questioning, direct feedback and challenge a coach will help the individual or team maximize their potential and move toward a preferred future. A future replete with possibilities rather than reductive.
Coaching is no longer a fad!
It is probably no coincidence that the Coaching Industry is booming. More and more organisations are leaning into the power of coaching to support their leaders navigate the complexity they are facing, the resilience they need to survive and the emotional intelligence essential to deal in a networked society where the unit of currency is the team.
In the last 10 years, membership of the International Coach Federation (ICF) has more than tripled. Estimates put the number of professional coach practitioners worldwide at more than 50,000 and growing. According to the ICF’s 2016 Global Coaching Study, the annual revenue from coaching is estimated at $2.35 billion. The reason is simple, more organisations are using coaching as a key strategy to help develop leadership capabilities beyond the more obvious linear trajectories and increase the performance and productivity of their employees.
In addition to the extraneous benefits enjoyed by applying a coaching mindset, such as greater productivity and performance by the collective, coaching supports intrinsic needs as well, such as the growth and confidence or self-efficacy of the individual or team member. Coaching helps individuals make meaning and derive satisfaction by gaining the clarity and direction often missed by not having the opportunity or space to think and reflect.
Learning and your role as a leader
The Irish Management Institute offers programs to support leaders hone their skills and develop the capacities important to lead in the 21st century. Their 3 day coaching for business results program is one such offer. It allows leaders understand the often counter intuitive nature of coaching that prizes the question over the answer. It supports leaders understand and appreciate the mindset necessary to lead in a world that is predominantly VUCA. It leans into the inherent skills imperative for a coaching conversation and it normalises the practice by practicing with others getting direct feedback and experiencing in real time the benefits to be derived from leadership coaching.
What are you doing to help your people thrive in this VUCA environment?
Tara Nolan is an IMI associate who teaches on the Coaching for Business Results programme.
Tara specialises in developing leaders and managers in the practice of business coaching.
She has worked with top teams of many multinationals and her approach balances the needs of the company and individual while leaving a lasting, positive legacy of professional and personal change.