Part of the job of a coach when trying to helping an organization to move from one state to another is to identify behaviour that is productive or counterproductive. When you observe counterproductive behaviour and raise this a concern to stakeholders in this transition between states you are sometimes met with a lack of understanding of why you don’t simply tell the people involved to behave differently. This is of course an exaggeration, but one that will hopefully help me paint a picture of some of the things that is going on inside my head when I take note of certain behaviours.
If we look at the following picture:
The blue circle in the middle represents the environment that will foster the desired behaviour.
The little green men represents the current behaviour of management/leadership.
The little yellow men represents the current behaviour of our engineers (or team members if are talking about a non-tech organization).
What we would like to see is both these representations within the blue circle. That will ultimately mean that the behaviour of our people will be the desired behaviour. Saying that we’ve managed to create the culture we want, that we believe will make our organization successful.
In order make this happen, have all the green and yellow men be inside the circle, there are two things you can do. Either you get the green and yellow men to step inside the circle, or you expand the circle. The implications here might be severe, so you need to consider the cost of doing any of these.
As an organizational coach I look at a few different factors here and the approach need to be tailored to each situation. Looking at the team members first. If we want them to step inside the circle, i.e. change behaviour. This means that I will be focused on coaching the team at hand helping them realize the value for them of actually being inside the circle.
Another thing you can focus on is the individual member’s ability to influence the circle. Are they able to influence the environment they’re in and able to affect the desired future state, i.e. culture. As a coach, how can I help the team influence their environment? How can I help them become active contributors to define the desired culture? Questions like these will drive my coaching stance here.
The same kind of approach can be taken when coaching management/leadership teams. Since leadership will be seen as role models in the organization it is of utter importance that the example set here is within the boundaries of what is desired behaviour for everyone else. When coaching leadership, in essence, the approach is similar to any team. You are trying to help people change their behaviour, the drivers will just be different. You will, however, be able to affect a larger number of people with your coaching indirectly through your coaching of leadership. The individual changes will be smaller, but by affecting a larger crowd the net gain could be worth it.
You also have the possibility to help leadership affect the blue circle, making it more accessible and understandable by others. Maybe also more susceptible to manipulation by others, i.e. increasing individual’s ability to influence the environment.
Ultimately the picture below is what we are trying to achieve, everyone together creating a desirable culture where everyone is contributing to the best of their ability.
So when I as a coach notice a behaviour that I see as not contributing to the desired state, some of the things my brain starts to consider are the following: Is this an isolated event, to an individual, team, department? Is this a systemic behaviour? When was the first occurrence of said behaviour? Are there different version of similar behaviour elsewhere? How far away from the desired behaviour is it? Where can we start to affect this behaviour? Will the team/individual accept my help? Will it be seen as help? Do we share a similar understanding of the desired state?
There are so many questions that come to mind that it is sometimes hard to know where to start. This taking into account that one should ALWAYS look at people’s behaviour as if they have the best intentions in mind.
This goes for myself as well, I tend to question a lot of things, but I do so with the best of intentions.
Ending comment here is that the blue circle seldom is a blue circle, and will most likely be unique depending on the individual you ask. Therefore clarity is very important. You can never mention your vision enough times.