The Value of Coaching in a Fast Changing Organizational Life

Kostis Tsounakis

Smooth and accelerated transition through Appreciative Coaching

The world is changing faster than the organizations. Organizations in order to survive and prosper within an increasingly competitive business environment, they have to maximize their operational efficiency while at the same time they have to constantly improve the quality of their products and services. As a consequence, executives are moving frequently to new roles, organizational structures, teams, countries and cultures. In addition they are expected to adjust rapidly to the new context and deliver results within a short timeframe.

Against this backdrop the executives are experiencing an ongoing transitional process, a stressful condition characterized by increased complexity and ambiguity followed by feelings of loneliness, insecurity and stress. The situation becomes even more demanding due to the frenzied pace of operational routine. As a result, the executives have limited quality time to decompress, reflect and think clearly in order to secure meaningful decisions and actions. During the transitional period, executives lose part of their sense of stability and self-confidence as almost everything is changing around them: new learning is needed, new relationships have to be built, new tasks have to be executed, new ways of thinking have to be explored and new practices have to be applied.

An Appreciative Coach can be a unique support for executives in transition. A qualified professional, an empathetic companion who provides a safe space for the executives to decompress, share their worries, challenges and dreams, reflect and think clearly, find creative solutions to accelerate and smoothen their transition.

An appreciative coaching relationship is a dialogical partnership, a purposeful and systematic inquiry towards contextualization and co-creation of meaning. It is action-focused, aiming at self-directed learning and development of the Coachee (Executive) applicable to any organizational context and situation.

The first task of the appreciative coach is to establish with the executive an authentic relationship of connectedness and trust, mutual influence, shared exploration and learning. A relationship which is founded upon (a) respect of diversity: cultural, personal style, knowledge and perspective; (b) acknowledgement of existing values, competences and best practices; (c) positive rephrasing and use of language enriched with gentle humor (d) mutual openness which allows deeper connection and understanding (e) patience during the dialogical exploration until the outcome emerge.

In order to support people in transition to reduce their sense of instability and insecurity, the Appreciative Coach emphasizes on bringing into light the core strengths, values and dreams of the executives; the unique set of personal differentiating competences that are meaningful resources always available for the person in transition. Through that process, the coach is aiming to establish a secure and stable point of self-anchoring in the professional life of the executives in transition, while almost everything else is fluid and unstable; in other words the Coach is aiming to establish a reference point for meaningful decision making, a set of criteria used as a benchmark against which the executive can evaluate her/his options for personal and team progress in any context and situation.

The process to reach this outcome begins with a dialogue around the highlights and best practices from the professional life of the coachee, which is tremendously pleasant and creative. The process includes an appreciative exploration through a method called Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider 2003)1. During this inquiry, the Appreciative Coach discovers and feeds back the executive with all the values, skills, abilities and positive emotions he identifies in the narrative of the executive during the inquiry. By doing so he enables his Coachee to increase her/his self-consciousness regarding her/his unique set of strengths and resources, and boost her/his self-confidence and optimism.

As a second step, and based on the outcome of the inquiry, the coach invites the executive to “define” the values, skills and abilities identified, in other words she/he is asked to give her/his own meaning in relation to her/his culture, profession, dreams and aspirations. The purpose of this phase is to increase clarity and personalize even further the outcome.

With this outcome at hand, the coaching relationship is enriched with a resourceful material for future use. Going forward the executive is supported to bring in the dialogue all the challenges he is facing in her/his current situation and organizational environment, to deconstruct and reconstruct them in a more meaningful way, under the light of the resourceful material, her/his core strengths and dreams. By “meaningful way” we refer to a deeper understanding which drives immediate decision making and action planning.

In a fluid organizational life, in an era of instability and frequent change, Appreciative Coaching embraces complexity, by focusing on the tremendous opportunities that change and transition can open up, as long as we stick to our core self, our unique set of values, skills, abilities and dreams.

1 Cooperrider, D. L., Whitney, D., & Stavros, J. M. Appreciative inquiry handbook. Bedford Heights, OH: Lakeshore Publishers.