In 1964 Sam Cooke sang ‘It’s been a long time coming but I know a change gonna come.’ Sadly, some things are plus ça change. But, in general, change is coming at us at a rate never experienced before.
Adapting to the accelerating pace of change
The Tyrannosaurus Rex is, chronologically at least, closer to Steven Spielberg than it is to the Stegosaurus. The Wright brothers achieved the first powered flight in 1903, yet only 66 years later Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. In 2020, Covid-19 changed everything in just a few weeks.
In business, keeping up with this acceleration is critical.
‘The 5-year plan’ that was seen as a medium term outlook is now dead (OK, maybe just retired). Successful companies with wise boards are today built to be flexible. They know that living with change – adapting – is what matters.
Change is about people
And most people don’t invite change. Some people fear change, others just suffer from inertia. Either way, the status quo is the easy way to go.
Staying for life with the same bank that we signed up to as a student, the same utility providers, the same car insurance firm. It was just too complicated to change, too much of a faff.
Well, not anymore. The millennials won’t stand for that, and there are companies that will do it for you and incentivise you to sign up.
Apparently, it takes all sorts to make a world, and some like change more than others. Myers-Briggs tests use its cod psychology to construct its typology framework – ‘astrology for people who went to business school’ – but the clever thing it did do was come up with good qualities for everyone.
Most coaches often use DISC (dominance, inducement, submission and compliance) profiling when discussing managing people more effectively, promoting teamwork, handling conflict and raising self-awareness. The truth is though, that we are all unique.
Elon Musk has taken on the banks, the automotive industry and space travel – three of the most complicated, competitive and difficult-to-enter industries – and created multi-billion dollar companies in each one.
Anything is possible, even if you can be a bit of a dick at times. Genuine creativity, belief, research, listening, planning, communication, trust, empowerment and slick implementation obviously help.
Preparing for a journey of change
Most activities have been done before by someone. We ourselves will have at least done something similar to what we are trying to accomplish now.
These lessons are all valuable even though we really have no idea what will be possible in the future. What we must do is prepare ourselves for the journey through our outlook.
The role of a coach is to help people construct innovative plans to achieve specific goals through small, incremental steps, each beneficial in its own right. It’s also about overcoming the reasons that may be holding people back and shining a mirror on them.
It‘s relatively easy to see what other people should do. It is extremely difficult to apply this to our own situations.
For other issues that require resolution, relationships that need to be developed, or even a leap into the unknown, mentoring can provide powerful support.
Really valuable experience does not trap you in the tramlines of how it has always been done. It carries an attitude that is not ‘We’ve tried to do that before and it didn’t work’ but more ‘You’re right; it’s important we keep trying to make that happen. Here’s what I learnt …’
The power of coaching and mentoring combined
The most effective is an expert blend of both coaching and mentoring that does not impose pigeonholes on unique individuals. It’s very difficult to get the balance right, and not many practitioners can pull this off successfully.
It can be used in any situation and for any personality. It’s often lonely at the top – peers think that they should have got the job, and the boss wants results day one, as well as reassurance that they made the right decision in appointing you.
Your boss may also be a dick. Talking through issues that you are facing with someone not involved is extremely helpful. Really airing your ambitions for change and concerns on how to do it is invaluable.
I benefited massively from coaching when I became a CEO. I then learned the power of combining coaching and mentoring when taking a freediving course in Bali: I definitely wanted to be told what to do by experienced professionals but I needed to overcome the barrier that told me that I couldn’t hold my breath for four minutes.
My belief had to change before I could achieve anything.
Today, I still benefit enormously from being coached and learn something about myself every session – often things I knew, but wouldn’t admit to.
Change is the new normal
A change is gonna come, in fact it is with us now. It is with us always.
As Winston Churchill said: ‘To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.‘
The time has never been better – the Coronavirus pandemic has been described as a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
Looking forward is exciting and reversion is to be avoided at all costs. Change is now the new normal. To be successful, we must embrace it and live with it. A day at a time – but every day nonetheless.
And when it comes to the question of when to start: if not now, when?
David Roche, 2021