Transformational Coaching – working with the individual in its whole system

Transformational Coaching – working with the individual in its whole system

Let’s say I have a leadership problem. The solution? I am looking for a coach who can help me solving this problem. But, nowadays coaching is no longer as simple as that. Like in many other industries as well, the coaching industry is undergoing major changes caused by topics such as AI, VUCA, and digitalization. Central for the coaching industry is, that there are no longer stand-alone challenges. Executives have many connections to stakeholders, systems and the environment, where only the best coaches can really provide support.

Inge Simons Transformational Coaching

About the author

Inge is an experienced executive coach and facilitator who works with senior leaders and leadership teams across different industries and countries. The most important thing during a coaching session for her are impactful conversations that enable leaders to make some positive changes within their organisations. She focuses on increasing connectedness and impact as well as successfully navigating change. Her work experience ranges from managing complex international projects and programs through to managing culture and change processes and has intimate knowledge of starting up as well as integrating businesses. She has almost 20 years of international business experience and is working together with MDI Management Development International for about 4 years already.

From the individual challenge to a transformational coaching

 

Like almost every business sector, the coaching industry is undergoing major changes as well. The challenges are changing and so must the solutions, we offer as coaches. Many things have changed since I started working as a coach.

In the past, I worked a lot with individuals and their specific challenges. In a coaching session, we focused on current leadership topics and talked about them. Nowadays, we not only work on the challenges from one person but of the whole system the person is connected with. Instead of solving one specific problem or improve specific competencies, I am rather confronted with a complex system of connections, relevant stakeholders, different interests and structures. As a coach, you have to think beyond the individual. You have to think systematically. This skill was not that relevant in the past.

Generally speaking, coaching is changing towards a partnership approach, such as many other business fields as well. The key is that the coach and coachee really work together as a team. As a coach, you must be able to understand the person as an individual but at the same time as a part of a company and society. During a coaching session, you must permanently switch between these two roles. You can’t ask your coachee to tell you the topic you’re working on today. One could simply say: the individuality has increased massively in recent years when it comes to coaching.

But coaching is not only about strong individuality and a partnership approach. It is about changing things. A coaching should not only transform the coachee but as well the economic environment. Coaching is more than just working on the coachee’s skills.

And: as coaches, we must be faster, more agile and we must adapt our methods to the challenges and needs of our time. So far, as coaches, we have worked a lot with 360° feedback and various analyses. This is actually not so effective because you’re looking into the past with those tools instead of working into the future.

Transformational coaching

As a coach, you have to be much more agile these days to look into the future and not the past

Responsibilities as a Coach – Living a partnership approach

 

The partnership approach, we’ve been talking about earlier, involves certain responsibilities. The times where you went to a coach and spent one hour with him/her are over. As part of this partnership approach, you as a coach have to support your coachee as good as possible, also beyond the coaching session. In my opinion and regarding leadership development, this sentence applies more than ever “The heroic CEO is dead, long live the leadership team”. This is the reality and the reason why my work as a coach has changed. I still have coaching sessions with individuals, with senior leaders, but I work much more with teams and groups of people than a few years ago. Individual coachings are more an additional measure from time to time. This development is exciting and challenging at the same time. You cannot coach someone for a few hours, get paid for it and you’re done. But you can achieve a completely different impact and experience successes together with the individuals and with teams. This change is taking place throughout the whole training and development industry. In most companies, more than 50% of the employees are millennials by now. They have different needs and a much more personalized and individual working approach. In my opinion, the time of training programs, as we know and realize them today, will be over soon.

Excursus: Artificial Intelligence in Coaching

 

The Singularity University has built a new app that makes diagnoses, highly complex diagnoses and sometimes even better than most doctors. Some people may start asking themselves: why should I still go to a doctor? Tomorrow we may be sitting at home, uploading our data via a chip and someone will tell us what to do. In my opinion, this will be the reality in less than 20 years.

AI also affects the coaching industry. If you ask Alexa or Siri “How should I deal with my conflicts?” they will have a lot to say. One effect: you no longer have to tell your coachee all the basics because they can find them on the internet. Another effect: many average coaches will probably lose their jobs because they have been replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

What moves executives today

 

Nowadays, we have this interesting phenomenon that children learn a lot in school they don’t need later in life. Meanwhile, other skills remain on track. For example, the ability to quickly work together with people you’ve never worked with before – beyond nationalities. That’s a skill you cannot cover or replace by the internet or AI – unless we will all be robots at some point. This is a key challenge for today’s leaders. Everything has to be fast, you face a new situation with new teams and stakeholders and you do not even have 6 months to incorporate. You immediately have to get used to the new situation. In this case, we as coaches, can support them with questions such as “Who am I?”, “How do I affect people?”, “What kind of impact can I have?”

Transformational coaching - Interpersonal level

We learn so many things in school, but one of the most important things we don’t – for instance, the ability to work together with different people from different countries.

Nevertheless, the interpersonal relationship is still the focus of the coaching – in all possible forms. Of course, that has a lot to do with communication, whose challenge has increased with the complex systems, we live and work in. People no longer work alone, isolated in their personal “silos”. There is always a connection with partners, not only within the company but also on the outside. This is the reason why everything about cooperation is one of the most important topics during coaching.

Equal to the interpersonal challenges is the time, we currently live in, and all the challenges it brings. Complexity, overextension, the flood of information, aggressive competition, and constant disruption are just a few keywords. So many things are happening at once nowadays. As a leader, you must make sure that your business is running. At the same time, you must be aware of the changes which might come. The speed of change is enormous. Not too long ago, people were starting to talk about VUCA – now it’s here!

When working on a senior level, the question of meaning is central and more present than ever. People are wondering and asking themselves if their work really adds value to the world. “If my life comes to an end, will I be satisfied with what I did in my life?”

 

Coaching in times of disruption – a conclusion

 

We all come from areas where it is said over and over again “This is the agenda.” Based on this agenda, things get told, questions asked and on certain actions will be agreed on. But we all know that many of these actions are never put into practice – whether in a meeting or a leadership program. Now, when we think about what makes coaching meaningful and successful, it’s the following: the moment you take part in coaching, something must happen. We must change our mindset from “I am asking a few questions” to “I am doing interventions right now!” Such an intervention does not have to be big, it can be – for instance – just a sentence that triggers something in the coachee. What’s important is that something is happening and that you try to make a difference in this exact moment.

As long as this happens, as long as coaching creates impact, it will persist – still in times of AI – but at a different level with higher quality.

Dear Inge, where do you see the purpose of your work?

 

Firstly my work is enormously exciting and complex and consistently an adventure. Methodological I always start to work with the principle “We start with the end in mind”. This means that I always try to find out where we have to go. Actually, we never know where the journey of development will bring us and what will happen. That all happens unbelievably fast and this is what fascinates me. I like the complexity and I like working intensively, starting the journey anywhere and find out what it needs to support a person, a team or a company on their way. Most important for me is knowing to have an impact on people and the organization I work with and to make some change. Especially when I think of my kids and their kids. Primarily, I work in the organization sector, in government as well as in non-government and I would like to leave not just chaos for the next generation. I am trying to support the people as good as I can so that they can advance the organization in their way. Therefore, we are all helping to create a better world.

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We are living in a world that is constantly changing. Due to the digitalization and globalization, we are much more connected, which has its benefits but can be challenging as well sometimes. John Livden works as a trainer, mainly in Norway, but as well with international companies. We talked to him and wanted to know more about the current challenges for leaders in Norway, the influence of the digitalization for leadership and development measures and his outlook on the future.

John livden leadership training in norway expert
About the interview partner

John Livden works as an executive coach and leadership trainer. His passion is to work together with people and help them succeed. He enables people to discover their uniqueness and possibilities, inspires them to take charge and full responsibility for their own lives and help them grow into their full potentials as leaders/managers and human beings.

According to your opinion, what do you think are currently the biggest challenges for Norwegian companies when it comes to leadership and how can they master them?

 

John: I think that the biggest challenge is actually the gap between management and leadership. Managing the projects, the people and the organization takes up so much time for leaders. My experience is, that a lot of leaders really feel this pressure. There so many things they have to do and the thoughts they have in their mind. I think that one solution to this problem could be the implementation of new agile leadership styles, where the leadership tasks are not only with the leaders but also with other employees of the company. This has a lot to do with coordination and cooperation between people and the way they work together. Successful leaders should be able to manage the complexity around them and still find time to actually build relationships, to communicate and to be there for their employees.

 

You are working with international companies and leaders. What are the most important skills when working as a trainer on an international level?

 

I think you need to have a good radar. You can’t know everything because you are not native. You have to be aware that you are working together with people from another culture. Try to find connection points and try to understand the differences. And probably most important, always pay respect for their culture. Keep in mind that there could be cultural elements that are inhibiting the learning process which leads to conflicts. In this case, sometimes cultural differences can be a hinder for development. As a trainer and consultant, you have to be aware that you have challenge things from time to time. Make sure to know how to do this in a good way.

 

What would you tell a trainer who has her/his first training in Norway? Do you have any tips?

 

I think, when we are specifically talking about Norway, it is important to understand, that the Norwegian culture and the Norwegian working-culture is very different from, for instance, the German or even the Danish one. Actually, many people see the Scandinavians as one entity, but there are differences between Norway, Sweden, and Denmark as well. We should definitely be aware of this. It is really interesting to see the differences the way people make decisions, how they approach problem-solving, discuss and handle conflicts. For example, the difference in the overall picture between a Norwegian and a Danish, when it comes to a business setting is following: The Danish has a much more continental influence on their business style and is more business oriented, as well as a little bit more formal and hierarchical. Of course, we do have hierarchies in Norway as well, but we have a much more egalitarian view on the work life. The power distance between the managing director and the genitor often seems lower. This is as well a difference to Germany or Austria. They are much more formal in the way they are working and how they are addressing each other. But I think this will also change with generations. In Norway, we are very informal in general, also in the workplace. Some people can also experience it a bit rude, when you really meet in eye level and people speak their mind, in some cases more freely.

leadership development in norway hierarchy

The working-culture in Norway is very different from, for instance, the German or even the Danish one. The power distance between the managing director & genitor often seems lower and the view on the work life is much more egalitarian.

The influence of e-Learning in leadership development

 

So you said that this informal/formal way of addressing will change with generations. We can already see many changes between the generations in companies. Keyword: digital natives and digital transformation. How do see this? How does the digital transformation influence the work life in Norway already?

 

I think, when it comes to the Norwegian society, we are in the middle of the shift. Sometimes I am a little bit surprised when I am working in Germany for instance, and see that they are not there yet. Online we are connected, this is the way we live. But this can be very stressful for leaders, who are for instance 50+. Much more stressful than for a 20-year-old, who is growing up as a digital native and who is working seamlessly with different online platforms and systems. For a leader who did not grow up in this digital time, it could be challenging. It creates some tension between the way how his/her generation is doing things and “the new way of doing things.” All in all, I think that in Norway, we are really getting along with the digitalization on all levels of society. Public services, social security, taxes, the medical system, etc. – everything is online now. It is getting more and more digital and people are getting used to it. When they don’t, this will be a real problem. I have been putting a lot of effort, also in my interest, to use more digital tools.

 

This is something you probably also see as a training and development guide. Are you using a lot of e-learning during your training?

 

It really depends. In this case, I am kind of more a “classical trainer” who loves one-to-one-interaction: physically in the classroom but also in some group-settings. I know, that there are more and more courses available on the internet. E-learning is a component in almost every company. Many companies have e-learning platforms for many different skills, not only leadership skills. Our business world is very digital already, all of it and I think we will see more of it in the future. Besides that, I think that you cannot rely on digital solutions at 100%. For me, leadership has a lot to do with who you are and what you do. You can learn the theory, you can study the method, you can have check-lists but you cannot substitute the factor of human leadership. Leadership development is very closely connected to personal development. It is also about a leader being responsible for his or her behavior, attitude, communication and the way they come across. You can read this in theory but basically, you need to do it in practical life.

So when we are coming back to e-learning, I think that you can study the theory with the support of e-learning but the human interaction is missing. I really embrace the digital shift and I see a lot of positive things and, as I said before, I think that we have just seen the start of it. But we still need the human element. You can automate things and use things such as artificial intelligence but things can go crazy if we leave leaderships just to algorithms. As a leadership trainer, team trainer and organizational development consultant it is very important to have this human factor. This factor is based on relation, experience and knowledge – theoretical knowledge is not enough. This is perhaps also the deviation between leadership as a technique and leadership as an art. There is no 100% right answer to this. It takes a person and a character. In my experience, the most giving leadership development programs are the ones, where we go so close to the person, the leader and where we challenge them on a very personal level. This can be quite deep actually.

 

So would you agree that e-Learning is more an add-on and can be used for theory or as a follow-up?

 

Yes, it can be a real add-on. Also in my consultancy, I have an online platform, where we communicate, share things and thoughts, where I can show videos and so on. But this is something in addition to the personal contact and the group exercises. 

 

How do you think that this will be in the future?

 

I think it will definitely change and we will probably see much more of the digital tools and the digital way of making learning opportunities like virtual reality. Of course, this is something positive. But I also think that we can lose ourselves in being human beings when we just rely on the digital things. Leadership is very practical and it happens in real life and in real life situations, where you cannot control what is happening between people. So there will definitely be surprises and it takes a character to be able to do that.

 

So all in all: What do you think will be the biggest changes and challenges for organizations, for leadership but also for the training and development industry in general?

 

We are living in a dynamic world, in which the demands of the employees will be different in the future. The younger generation won’t be willing to work every day from 9 to 5. This generation wants to be more flexible. Therefore we have to find much more flexible solutions and this flexibility leads to complexity as well. For leaders, it will be more difficult to control the work of their employees and to keep an overview. If you are giving the people more freedom, you are losing some control you traditionally had as a leader. This had been a very huge change and I think we have only seen the start of it. This is one example of what will change in the next years. So it is important to create a company culture, where flexibility is a big part of it. But it is important as well, to be able to be one unit, one company, one organization. Many leaders have already lost and will probably lose some of their formal power and structural power, so what will there be left? Leadership will be more about the relationships, the communication, the flow of things and much more. Leaders have to make up a new mindset and that requires much more agility and the ability to drive in a world that starts to work quite differently than it was in the past.

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About the author

Sylwia Lewandowska-Akhvlediani is an inspirational and energetic cross-cultural psychologists, working as a strong sparing partner and coach for senior leaders and as a trainer and facilitator with more than 15 years of training, coaching and management experience! She is Co-Founder of the Emerge Leadership Festival, a global community of purpose driven leaders. Her focus is on daily rituals that build your power in leadership and parentship.

If the business is changing so dramatically each day in a VUCA world, why are the leadership development methods not along with this process?

The VUCA-world we live in is marked by constant change. There are new business models rising up as a reaction to this “new” world. Agile leadership can be an answer, more self-designed and self-managed organizations that are offering more purposeful work opportunities, more remote teams that are successful, more robots engaged, fewer people needed here and there, digital disruption where nobody really knows what it is all about. There are many discussions between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg whether AI (Artificial Intelligence) can support the human kind or if it will lead to what we were watching passionately in Terminator in the early 1980’s? The concepts of what is constant or secure are changing. The managing methods that were created not very long ago, seem to not having so much adequacy regarding the new challenges. Points who are important for leaders or business owners are changing. You have to be equipped with new skills so you can stand still when your head is on fire (as I heard once). Those new skills are dealing with the uncertainty, facilitating group processes (including conflicts), managing energy rather than engagement, mindfulness and emotional intelligence, creative and community problem solving, creating new products (with design thinking for instance) for instance. You as a leader must as well make sure that people are able to transfer their experiences from different contexts (parents <–> leaders).

International leadership development

Artificial Intelligence: can it support the human kind or if it will lead to what we were watching passionately in Terminator in the early 1980’s?

What are the reasons that the methods are not getting along with the process?

Then the question I ask myself is – why are the methods of delivering the training and development opportunities not changing so much? I mean, of course, we have much more room for coaching tools, facilitation technologies (e.g. Open Space Technology), we dare to be a bit more provocative than in the past but honestly, does this really offer a lasting impact on a person and the organization?

We know from the research that we forget over 60% of the learned material on the second day after the delivery, the next two days 80% and 99% when not applying the new skill or knowledge. Most of the companies look for better products to make their customers’ life easier, more pleasant, happier and healthier sometimes. But WE (= Development Guides in a role of a coach, trainer, facilitator, HR or talent managers, people or wellbeing officers,  head or business partners etc.) should really keep in mind that this all requires a set of new methods – and equally important: the mindset!

Why do you want to work with unconventional methods?

I asked some of the customers we’ve been working with developing leaders worldwide and these are the answer

  • Curiosity: we always think the same way, with unconventional methods I can provoke and kind of step back and free up.
  • I rely on previous programs and still want to have a surprise moment and a balance between what’s new and then experiment,
  • Change, innovation, and digitalization make people think out of the box, we want this from the people, I want to walk the talk and have it inside of me,
  • I don’t want to offer standard trainings, I want a different setup and apply it in intercultural setting as well,
  • I want to have this experience during the training, reflect and ask myself and therefore become better and broader,
  • HR meetings, forums, and conferences are a good form to try something new,
  • I want to make internal HR community meetings unconventional,
  • I want to do something different, demanding a lot of self-responsibility, it must be connected to the purpose of the training – and I want an “aha moment” and curiosity that offers something to really remember!

We agreed that WHY we really want it, is to have an IMPACT that LASTS on a leader and the organization. While working internationally for the last 15 years in really different contexts, I created a Personal Learning Model I am applying to all the development program I am engaged which says:

International leadership development

This is really to underline that one learn and change only when something touches him or her – not my boss, nor HR but me.

What does this mean in practice?

Having this in mind what does it really mean now to offer the learning space for leadership programs? I asked myself and the group and the answer seems to be obvious:

– Leadership development programs should be a space
that offers the most opportunities to be touched –

Now, people differ, so you never know who will be in the program to say – well, John joins us at 11.15, so there will be something for you to transform, or Anna comes for the afternoon outdoor session as there will be „your” exercise. Thus, we need to create a space as a whole – virtual space, physical space and the connection before and after, so people can come with curiosity and willingness to contribute not only for themselves but also for the collective. And remember, that the fact that you take a group outside of the training room but keep talking does not mean that you will gain the lasting impact 😉 From this perspective for me personally, it emerged that leadership is:

– Co-creating and holding a space for people to be and to act
from their highest potential, every day –

When working with my teams on specific projects or delivering an individual or group space I am present there in a collaborative way, so the person I am working for will reach the highest potential and will know how to fire it up every day – and not just during the training.

The 10 rules of how to co-create a space for people to act from their highest potential

I know what’s on your mind now:

Sylwiaaaaaa, please share how to co-create and hold a space for people to be and to act from their highest potential, every day? Don’t worry, this is what I will do now as I put it in 10 rules.

1) 80% success is in preparation, 20% in execution.

Save 80% of the time for the preparation of the program, meeting or conference so you can offer different opportunities to be touched.

2) Co-creation is a key.

Engage different stakeholders to co-create the space and learning experience (this I show and name it instead of just a program). Don’t try to be the smartest one but use crowdsourcing. This is how self-responsibility for growing starts.

3) Set some rules for the learning process.

Change and deep learning only happen when people feel safe to be vulnerable. Make sure that people co-create the rules together and live them during the program.

4) The balance between experience, reflection, and talking.

Equality in a learning process is important – we can learn as well as the ones we design the programs for. Thus, you are not the only expert in the room but you offer the space for the experts to go through something meaningful by doing, reflecting and sharing. How many times were you touched by the story somebody shared? Make sure you have time for that.

5) Use the time for transformation at the event or training not only after.

In a VUCA world, I want to already transform during the program and not wait until I go back to work or home. Thus, I want to experiment here and now, so make sure people understand the intention and get ready for that!

6) Body-Mind-Heart connection.

Offer the experience that supports the connection of all three aspects of the humankind. Concentrating too much on the intellect only (what happens most) will not have a lasting impact. Include movement and emotions – that makes the change!

7) Create curiosity and intrigue the surrounding but not too wired.

Offering the space to be touched does not mean to come up with “too strange” exercises or exercises that, instead of putting you out of your comfort zone, will put you in a fear zone. If so – not much learning can be done! Keep it in mind.

8) Check your mindset first.

We want our people to be more innovative, agile and so on. The first question is: are we the ones who are innovative, agile etc.? How do you walk the talk? How do you grow yourself? You will not include new methods once you will not have your own internal believes that it works. What holds you back?

9) Simplicity versus seriousness

I know that something that sounds serious seems to be the smartest. But the question is if the person really understands it and if she/he can apply it later on?! I prefer to do less of the material but the one that can be applied instead of having an ego satisfied to deliver something sounding so good. You know what I mean, right?

10) Let’s have some FUN!

You’ve probably heard the quote <<work hard, play hard>>. Some say that Millennials made us act differently. I disagree as being around forty, working on complex challenges, being a mum of two young ones, working internationally and being married to a foreigner who is also working internationally. This requires a lot of creativity, agility, and FUN unless I want to stay healthy and strong in my life. The same refers to the leaders we offer our space too, isn’t it? How can you invite a sense of humor in the way you do things?

Last but not least: who can co-create and hold a space for people to be and to act from their highest potential every day?

The last thing – and I would admit that it is the most important one are the questions “who can co-create such space” and what kind of skills and mindset does it really requires?

From my experience, holding this transformative space is a big thing. You need to be very self-aware and mindful, so you feel and read what’s happening in the field. This requires not only a great body-mind-heart connection of your own but also the ability to confront the reality, show what is hidden, bring a shadow, witness the old passing and the new coming, set some rituals to celebrate it and work on the everyday habits to support it, depending on what the group purpose is. It is more the role of a facilitator or coach than an old-way thinking trainer or an expert. I call it leading in a leadership development journey.

 

Methods and formats that can inspire you:

  • Welcome rituals
  • Cards and pictures
  • Lego blocks
  • Art and painting
  • Music, including live music
  • Movement and dance
  • Body work
  • Laughing yoga
  • Visualization
  • Experiments
  • Challenges in public
  • Social responsible projects (CSR)
  • Self-designed reflection groups
  • Fuck up nights
  • Cabaret and show
  • Evening sessions
  • Concerts
  • No hotel rooms anymore but nice pensions, development centers, co-working spaces often used for start-ups
  • No power point presentations
  • No tables, circles
  • Transfer of learning – easy to use platforms for people to stay connected
International leadership development

Laughing yoga, challenges in public, bodywork & Co. are only a few methods that can inspire you

Believe me, the sky is no longer a limit, so is designing the development opportunities.

Happy to discuss this by email or virtually.

Have fun and lasting impact on the work you are doing to support leaders worldwide create a better world.

Sylwia Lewandowska-Akhvlediani

sylwia.lewandowska@mdi-training.com or sylwia@leadershipfestival.com

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Leadership development in Brazil – Insights from a long-time consultant

Leadership development in Brazil – Insights from a long-time consultant

Wide beaches, hot rhythms, soccer and the world-wide famous carnival – Brazil is known to be loud, colorful and charmingly chaotic. Silke Körner, L&D consultant, lived there for some years and reveals in this post how she experiences leadership development and training in Brazil and how digitalization and leadership 4.0 are influencing the country.

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