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Coaching or Leading in Challenging Environments

I thought I would dedicate this Blog post to coaching or leading in challenging environments, as I will be talking about this at the UK ICF Conference next week. I have decided to revisit the topic, even though I have covered it before. It seems to be becoming more relevant as  the world is becoming more “fractious”. I have written a paper on how it is possible to have coaching impact even in a hostile environment. One coaching associate commented that it is a bit like being a “Lone Wolf” or a light in a darkened room. As coaches it is OK to be a lone wolf, as generally we are acting as change agents, particularly at the start of any improvement process.

In my paper I highlight the characteristics of a hostile working environment, and particularly the behaviours of key staff and leaders. In isolation these may seem obvious or insignificant, but in combination they can be toxic and totally degenerative in terms of morale and personal energy. I rarely see one or two. I see considerably more as they generally “feed” off each other and become synergistic in a negative way. Typical examples are passive aggression, shouting, manipulation, shifting targets, inconsistency and cliques. Some may say that these have all but disappeared with more modern management approaches, but I have seen a rise which could be related to a number of factors such as work pressure, unrealistic deadlines and competition. I am also getting anecdotal evidence from associates that they are seeing it too. So think about this  statement, “Bring me solutions not problems”. On the surface a fair request, as solving problems is what work is about. However, the appropriateness of this request is based on context and the environment. If it is an irregular request with appropriate cadence, then it is constructive. If on the other hand it is daily, the timing is unrealistic, the recipient has no resources (human, experiential and intellectual), then this can be soul destroying, and seen as passive aggressive. It may be unintentional, but as leaders we have to be conscious and self aware of our own behaviours and the environment we are in.

In the paper I share some of the approaches that you as a coach or leader can deploy to counteract these behaviours and characteristics, but it will take a level of courage, and accepting that you will be challenging the normal practices. Please download the paper, reach out if you want to know more about how to be effective in these situations, or visit me at the conference.



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