The Power of Change Management & Professional Coaching: A Valued Partnership.

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to ACMP Global’s The Way Change Works podcast entitled: The Intersection of Change Management and Professional Leadership with Magdalena Nowick Mook. Magdalena is the CEO of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), which is the leading global organization for coaching and coaches. Here is my takeaway…

The topic explores the places where change management and professional leadership coaching intersect. This made me think… what a wonderful partnership this makes. As I continue to grow in my change practitioner role, I have come to realize that while I have many tools and resources such as The Standard, Prosci, Kotter, Bridges, Lean Change Management, etc. to draw upon to help me drive my change initiative – there are those times where I feel a roadblock emerges. What is it that I am missing? What can I use from my toolkit to allow me to move my change effort forward? As I reflected.. it occurred to me that these roadblocks seem to rise at those delicate times where the need for those collaborative conversations are required. And it made me think that the art of coaching can really play an important and critical role during these times in getting one over this hurdle. So… naturally, I had to listen to get some insight on how these professions interconnect.

The podcast begins by explaining how both disciplines of coaching and change management bring such unique skills to the table. And yet both professions focus on the same goal: to bring about a positive/transformative outcome where we are changing beliefs and behaviours of both the organization and its individuals. In the podcast, Magdalena speaks on how coaches see themselves as change agents – one that supports and is mindful of the traps and dangers a change initiative can sometimes undertake. She mentions that the coaching profession has a great respect for the work of change management and sees how these disciplines can work so well together. For example, when change management understands coaching, they can better support those conversations in terms of obtaining buy-in and/or resistance to change from their stakeholders. The vice versa applies as well. When coaching understands change management, there is the appreciation for the application of a structured process to be followed in the change space. She points out that by working hand-in-hand, we are creating a better outcome for our clients.

The podcast continues by stating that this strong bond and relationship between coaching and change management is already underway. Back in 2020, ACMP Global began to hold several ICF coaching webinars for ACMP members to help introduce how this field can help support them in their work. I attended these and found them very inspiring. In addition, a Joint Task Force of ICF and ACMP has been formed whose mission is to write a White Paper on the convergence of change management and coaching, focusing on how both areas can build together and support each other during those intersection points. Some examples include those different points in the change effort where coaching fits into change management such as supporting your sponsor and managing stakeholder resistance to name a few. The host of the podcast, Greg Vollier, Immediate Past President, ACMP, stated that ACMP understands and appreciates ICF’s approach in their work and wonders how we can continue to build key competencies in advancing the profession of change management. “What does this mean for our credential, and our discipline going forward?” states Greg.

Another joint study by both ICF and the Human Capital Institute was done on coaching and change management. The results found that change happens at so many levels and there were three elements attributing to the success or failure on an initiative: resistance, leadership, and communication. Interestingly enough, these elements were the most cited reasons why individuals seek coaching. In another research study conducted by Gartner (a well respected information technology (IT) research and consultancy company), they identified that employees today are worrying more and experiencing stress at higher levels than ever. This is resulting in employees becoming more reluctant to go their human resources departments, but will turn to their manager/leader for that needed support and guidance. So the question becomes, how do we equip those leaders at all levels with the support they need? Magdalena points out that what we are seeing is a significant trend emerging. There is a growing number of leaders and managers using coaching skills… not to be a coach, but to be more empathetic, to listen, to bring the buy-in, and to lower the fear of change during a situation. She states that according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (an international professional services firm), this is the fastest growing area in the coaching continuum. Many organizations are investing resources to train people in this field, as managers and leaders need to also resource themselves. Leaders are expected to lead in the face of what they don’t understand… and coaching can help here. According to Gartner, senior HR leaders are saying there is a growing effectiveness of strengthening organizational change management in order to get to those next levels.

The podcast ends with a takeaway for change professionals from the lens of coaching: “We are cousins, distinct, but yet able to work together, brining coaching into change management” says Magdalena. She goes on to say “We are seeing a little trend emerge. Change practitioners are getting certifications in coaching, expanding their own skillset and capabilities in developing themselves on what they need to be for their clients.” As I think about my own professional development journey and how I can become a better change practitioner, this merging and building relationship between coaching and change management excites me to know – that this profession I am truly honoured to be a part of is growing, just as I am. The power of change management and professional coaching is a wonderful holistic partnership that truly works in harmony. As Greg so eloquently states both fields are “impacting people, their behaviours, and their outlook in the world. And their lives.” I encourage you to listen to the 30 minute podcast, if you have time, as it is really is an insightful conversation. And watch for the soon-to-be released White Paper, the collaborative result of both ICF and ACMP. Wishing you much success as you drive change in your organization.

John Boylan