Organisational change

How can line managers and change professionals continually and successfully support people through Organisational Change?

Sue Noble photo

Sue Noble, Associate with and provides training and coaching for South East Employers

18 April 2023

This short blog by Sue Noble, co-author of ‘Coaching People through Organizational Change, explores how managers and change professionals can use practical tools and techniques to support themselves and their teams through change.

The world is changing faster than ever and to provide the context for organisational change, we must understand the context for change more broadly with factors such as the changing environment, growing social justice movements and technology advances all having a knock-on effect to the corporate world. In terms of local councils, we are seeing the increasing practice of two or more council’s collaborating and sharing council services.

New technological advances since lockdown has made working at home far more possible than it ever did before. This brings an added pressure to organizations and managers because employees now expect a reasonable level of hybrid working.  Bringing teams together when not everyone is in the office, can be a challenge and requires managers to adapt their management style.

We are now seeing people choose jobs based on organizations who are flexible to their needs and who can accommodate the new ways of working.  Brexit, could arguably have created problems with finding the right people, with the right skills in jobs that are highly technical or which require specific qualifications, knowledge and understanding. Change is everywhere and with any change, there is uncertainty, ambiguity, resistance and a potential for challenge.

The way employees react to proposed changes can vary enormously but not all employees dislike change. However, looking at some of the examples of organisational change, it is understandable why people might react negatively. For example, team members often dislike using a new IT system as it involves retraining and giving up specialist knowledge accumulated over many years. Similarly, it is logical that an event as significant as a restructure leads to fear and anxiety, adding to the perceived risk of job losses.

Fear of change has been the subject of significant research by psychologists, sociologists and neuroscientists. This fear is rooted in something far more complex than simple unwillingness or recalcitrance – human beings are hardwired to preserve existing social structures as a fundamental part of our survival instinct.

If line managers are feeling the fear of change, what support do they get when they are expected to manage their own teams through organizational change and uncertainty? The ability to ask for support is a fundamental strength for all managers and leaders, however, this is fraught with difficulty if the manager is not supported themselves or if there is a lack of psychological safety within their organization. Later in this article, the subject of coaching is raised as an essential support mechanism for everyone within organizations going through change and uncertainty.

A challenge for any organization is when line managers do not see themselves as pivotal to the change process. Although their official role may not have ‘change manager’ in their title, if all managers identified themselves as ‘change ambassadors’ this would have a positive impact on the change process, especially when there is resistance within teams. An example of this is where a line manager colludes with their team about an imminent change initiative. This collusion can lead to unhelpful discussions where the team talk at depth about the negative aspects of the change process without focusing on how it might benefit them as a team and or organization. Managers have a duty to remain impartial, to listen to concerns and to help the team to reframe their concerns and move forward with their thinking.  Without this impartiality, the collusion continues when the resistance is fuelled by each team member, with the potential for unconscious and conscious resistance of the process. This is one example of why change can fail.

Line managers who identify themselves as ambassadors for change are those who are willing to sell the change to their teams. This is achieved by the manager adopting a ‘growth’ mindset and encouraging their teams to do the same. Regular individual discussions, asking questions and being curious to know what is causing the resistance with each team member, is important remembering that different people will have different reasons for being resistant or concerned. Investing time to really listen to your team, is a useful starting point and an example of why coaching skills training for managers is essential.

Coaching plays an important part in organisational change on so many levels. A manager may look for an external coach to help them through a difficult change initiative. Part of the role of an executive coach is to help senior managers make sense of the changing world around them, which often includes their job role. Supporting senior managers by exploring their level of control and influence with regard to the change initiative is a helpful. Once this has been established, the coach can then look at what the manager is willing to accept as part of the change.

The coach may introduce (where appropriate) practical techniques for the manager to share with their teams to help them be more accepting of the change process and if not, what options they have available to them. These focused sessions hold senior managers to account by exploring ethical issues and will always include a healthy balance of support, challenge and psychological safety.

Developing managers in how to use the principles of coaching and mentoring with their teams has become increasingly popular in the past few years particularly as the rate of change increases and jobs are harder to recruit to. The need for teams to be more autonomous, to make decisions and not to rely on their manager to provide all the answers, is critical. This development is another example of where coaching can be embedded within the organisation.

Pure coaching is not always realistic for line managers and so a balance of coaching and mentoring tends to sit more comfortably when developing these skills.  A practical way for managers to use the principles of coaching and mentoring is to introduce a 70/30 split into their coaching conversations.  If managers listen for 70% of the time, ask a few questions during their conversations (not telling them what to do), they are allowing their team members to do most of the talking, thinking and decision making. Managers can then use 30% of their time, once questions have been asked, in offering suggestions and using the principles of mentoring with their team members. This 70/30 approach works well in one to one and team coaching.

Team coaching has a big part to play in the change process. Bringing the team together to hear their combined voices and concerns can then enable the line manager to work closely with their teams as a collective to find a workable solution. Afterall, it is unlikely the change initiative will go away and accepting what is, might be the solution.

Team coaching requires managers to know how to listen, be curious and to ask the right questions to get the team moving forward. Learning how to use the principles of coaching on individuals within their team is a good place to start.

The subject of management coaching skills and team coaching is explored further in our book Coaching People through Organizational Change.

Coaching People through Organizational Change

This book came about from a chance meeting between Sue Noble and Amy Tarrant. Amy at the time was working closely with the Change Management Institute and working as a change practitioner within the Insurance Industry. As a strong supporter of coaching she recognised the importance of establishing coaching skills as part of her change manager responsibilities. Sue later delivered a session for the Change Management Institute on the subject of Transition tools to support change. Their following discussions revealed their joint interest in these two subjects and agreed that there was indeed a book to write. What  surprised them was the lack of books which fused the two subjects or that offered practical coaching tips and techniques for people who were responsible for managing and influencing change within an organisation.

Two years later Sue and Amy were delighted when Kogan Page also recognised the importance of fusing of these two subjects and agreed to be their publishers. The rest is history as they say.

Coaching People through Organizational Change will help readers to develop a greater understanding of how using the principles of coaching skills can help teams adjust to change, whilst providing practical guidance that can be used to select and apply the most effective coaching intervention.

The primary audience are business change practitioners and line managers. They wanted to share the ways in which many of the day-to-day change challenges could be mitigated using skills traditionally linked to coaching.

An image of the Coaching People Through Organizational Change book on a wooden table next to a lush green potted plant and a pair of glasses

Coaching people through organizational change by Sue Noble and Amy Tarrant

Cover image

The book outlines what organizational change is, the different forms it can take and how to apply evidenced-based coaching techniques to support the delivery of sustainable business change.

Coaching People through Organizational Change takes an in-depth look at five specific challenges resulting from organizational change – overcoming resistance, managing ambiguity, managing post-acquisitions integrations, embedding lasting change and managing stakeholders. The result is a holistic and rounded toolkit for the change practitioner and line manager to maximise success.

The final chapter explores the important subject of how to build coaching capability within the organisation by developing not only line managers in how to use coaching skills but also developing a team of qualified internal coaches. These coaches are often used to widen the impact coaching has within the organisation, as well as offering coaching to everyone, not just senior managers.

The book includes over 20 tools and frameworks each supported by a suggestion for what type of organizational change the activity is best suited for, this is invaluable reading for anyone responsible for change, coaching and talent development whether as a change practitioner, professional coach or a line manager.

Here’s what industry professionals have to say…

“A very practical and informative book.”

 Professor Peter Hawkins Ph.D., Chairman Renewal Associates

“If you care deeply about your organization and your people, then put this book on your reading list and get to it quickly!”

Hina Shavdia, Head of Change, AXIS International

“A handbook for anyone concerned with delivering large scale change.”

Myles Downey, Leader, Performance Coach and Author

“This is the first business-related book that I have read during my 40-year career that is truly a page-turner.”

Robin Peppe Sterneck, President of Sterneck Capital Management and Co-Facilitator of ‘Emerging Leaders’ at The Central Exchange

“A substantial change-related toolkit is essential for coaches and that’s what this book provides.”

Professor David Clutterbuck, Practice Lead at Coaching and Mentoring International Ltd. Practice Lead at David Clutterbuck Partnership

“This book brings humanity, care and respect to those experiencing organizational change through the use of coaching in a way most Organizational Change books have not.“

Ketan Patel, Founder, Change Reaction and UK Co-lead, Change Management Institute

Our book was published in September 2022 and is available on Amazon for £29.99

Order from Kogan Page direct and receive a 20% discount by adding SALE20 when checking out.

Bulk orders of 50 and above, ordered direct from Kogan Page will give you even greater discounts. Contact Sue Noble for details.

Get in touch

If you are interested to know more or to book one of the courses Sue offers via SEE please get in touch using the contact form. 

5 + 1 =

You might also like…

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This