Posted July 2017
Recently I had the pleasure of working with a diverse team on a workplace project. Now I have worked with many teams in different types of organisation and sectors to deliver similar projects. To enable a behavioural change in the workplace, there needs to be a business lead with the sponsor of change agents. The role of the change agent is to promote, encourage and role model the required behaviours in the new space. They need to cascade key messages and help the teams they are responsible for to adopt the new ways of working.
As part of this change, there comes a point when the change agents need to develop an approach and mechanism that encourages and monitors people’s behaviour in the new space. With many organisations, the change agents tend to decide the best approach is to have a charter, or set of protocols/guidelines/rules/ etiquette that is then communicated for all staff to follow.
However one team of change agents within a technology firm, decided to take a different approach. They felt going down the more typical route would make them feel more like “police” within the workplace and they did not want that. Instead, they wanted to encourage people to decide for themselves to display the right behaviours – this lead them to use a coaching technique which would help facilitate the “right” behaviours by the individuals. Each of the different workspaces had a poster with a leading question “Are you in the best space for your activity?”. Then there was a series of further questions that would directly relate to the workspace. For example, in a touchdown workspace the questions were “Are you in between meetings? Are you in between different offices/sites?” If the answer to both those questions is ‘yes’ then the indication was the person was in the right space. However if the answer is ‘no’ then perhaps a different workspace would be better suited to the tasks that needed to be completed.
This was tremendously successful and resulted in the change in behaviour to be nearly instantaneous. The approach immediately put the behaviours in the ownership of the impacted staff rather than it be on the implementation or imposition of the project/change team.
I think this demonstrates when coaching becomes a part of the ‘group thinking’ the potential and success rates increases unilaterally within an organisation. This is due to the same reasons as to why individuals find executive coaching so powerful – it gives the ownership and accountability to act and enact to the people who have to actually do the change – and that is all the people not just leaders/managers and change agents which fully embeds the change.