Leaders must coach to make change successful

Leaders must coach to make change successful

coachA soccer team is preparing for the start of their season. Players put in time and effort to improve by practicing daily, motivating each other and working on specific skills to be better as a team. The team purchases necessary equipment, coordinates referees and outlines the season’s game schedule. After planning and preparation, everyone is expected to show up for the game, especially the coach. Making it to the championship or World Cup is impossible without practices and games in between.

Similarly in a business setting, if an executive okays a new project, she must also coach her team. Deciding to implement a change in the workplace requires executives to make time in their schedule to make this project a success. Not doing so is similar to a coach not showing up for practice to help players learn and improve.

The project manager can only do so much without the executive’s guidance and support; the message of adopting a new way of working is stronger coming from the executive than the project manager.  For example, employees may ignore a manager’s requests to use a collaboration tool for some tasks or need to be pestered to complete their intranet profile. An executive that is plugged in to changes happening at their workplace can see what is working and what is not for their employees, and then make changes based on this feedback. 

A project manager feeling unsupported after putting in so much work can be difficult to remedy. A project manager, similar to the soccer team captain, takes on their superior’s role when absent, in addition to their own duties. Project managers also may convey messages from the executive for employees, but the executive must enforce those messages too. Players listen to their team captain, though often look to the coach for the game play; if the coach does not show up, the practice or game is cancelled. Just as a team cannot function without the coach, employees cannot adopt changes without leadership participating in those initiatives. An executive’s signature is not enough.

Besides the difficulty of getting employees on board, the project manager may also be unsure what direction to head without guidance from the executive. Doing so much work for a project just to have the executive disagree with plans or make many changes is frustrating. An executive meeting with the project manager often prevents lapses in communication and allows for a smoother transition.

The project manager needs to tell leadership if she does not feel supported. Explaining what is needed to succeed in a project allows for an understanding between both parties. Tips are available if leaders are unsure how to proceed when a project manager asks for help.

Keeping up with the constantly evolving world is important to keep your company relevant and successful long-term. Do not make every new upgrade or try every new technology, but thoughtfully approach potential changes with an open mind. If company leadership does this, employees understand why the company is choosing to change – and ultimately brings a sense of purpose to learning a new system. Expecting that the World Cup is attainable without coaching is similar to executives assuming a change will be successful without being fully engaged.

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