[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_color=”” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” center_content=”no” last=”no” min_height=”” hover_type=”none” link=””][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” class=”” id=””]Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Malcolm Nicholson.
Relationship coaching is an area traditionally associated with Life Coaching. Just as the family unit over the last few decades has become more complex than ever before, so have organisations. A two thousand-year-old command and control pyramid dating back to the Roman army is being swept aside with multi-dimensional, complex and often paradoxical working relationships. As each extended step family has to create its own rules, so organizations have to create their own rules and values.
If, as the saying goes, you can choose your friends but, you cannot choose your family, then it is even more difficult and complex to choose the relationships you have at work. Take one example. There is a truism that ‘People join companies but leave their managers’. The relationship with your boss can be one of the most important in your life, however, it is skewed by an increasing range of variables.
We are having to learn to work with far more memberships of groups and feeling part of them, as work relationships have to take into account the ‘multi-cultural’ element in its broadest sense. We appear to be hard wired, to be tribal (if in any doubt about this go along to a football match one Saturday afternoon). The paradox in work is ‘which tribe do I belong to?’ or ‘with whom do I identify?’… This ranges from geographic proximity like work area, floors of an office, office locations and national boundaries. Add on to this the role dimension ‘exec member, function head/member, departmental head/member, regional head/member; pile on top of this relationship question like ‘How do I work or manage remotely?’
The globalising of trade and employment markets means that more frequently people are working side by side with international colleagues. This can bring many unspoken relationship issues, especially as social and cultural norms for very many people are shaped by their family and a narrow geographically based socio-economic group. For example; the esteem with which a town Mayor is held may vary from town to town let alone when compared to the esteem with which Village Elders from another country are held, and that is just within the company. We haven’t even considered the competition, customers or concepts like co-opetition yet!! It is certainly unclear how well leaders, let alone employees are equipped for working in such complex environments.
Hall, Duval, and Salom define culture as a set of meaning frames. (1) They describe it as an evolving and dynamic process of collectively recognised rules, rights, responsibilities, duties, obligations, rituals, and powers that arise within a community. This system operates as the groups shared reality. So in their terms, our shared reality at work is evolving far more rapidly than we can cope with.
Whilst all these elements are in flux and being challenged, there can be genuine cultural differences that can exacerbate the differences rather than the common ground. I have coached a person who moved to the UK who until recently stood up when his boss’s boss came onto the open plan floor; a woman who gave up her management role because of the stress it caused at home as she and her husband were from a culture where the woman’s role was more subservient, and someone else whose career seemed stalled whilst waiting for the ‘tap on the shoulder’ to be told when to apply for their next role because that is what happens in the Philippines. Coaching assignments outside the UK have highlighted several local cultural norms that have been misinterpreted in international environments.
An inevitable bi-product of having people in close proximity is some form of conflict. This is generally handled according to the law of the land (generally!), the culture of the organisation as then interpreted and implemented by the manager. Accepted norms vary significantly by geographical region as well as industry. Disagreements in a lumber yard tend to be handled differently to those in the Bishop’s office…
Consequently the larger or more complex the organisation, then the greater the need for a framework to ensure consistent and appropriate implementation. This can narrow down the focus of leaders to that of following a process rather than one of ‘heads up’ flexibility and awareness.
We like certainty but now need to deal with this often paradoxical or conflicting meeting of social, religious and cultural influences which are all happening at different levels and ways. Proof, if it were needed, that the major leadership challenges lie not in the parts but in the interconnects.
This is where good coaching comes in. Leaders need to be able to bring a greater degree of cognitive complexity to their work. As Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety states; in order to deal properly with the diversity of problems the world throws at you, you need to have a repertoire of responses which are the equivalent – or more nuanced – than the problems you face. This applies to the outcomes the coach is working towards with their client, and consequently also to the toolkit that the coach brings, which should include a contextual understanding of the issues faced in the contemporary working environment.
Carving out reflective time has become a rare commodity as organizations continue to pile pressure on to overstretched on-line 24 x 7 employees, yet it is only by creating such space that significant learning will occur. We are all so busy doing, that it’s hard to be mindful of what we are doing.
There is also a significant body of research and evidence showing that achievers in all spheres actively seek, act on and develop as a result of feedback. You simply cannot assume that your intentions work, or that they accurately or adequately speak for you in your work role. Objective information adds to this process – Psychometrics and 360s help shrink the vector between people’s intention and interpretation.
Challenging questions will enable a coach to shine a light into the dark corners. As a leader, it is crucial that you are aware of the shadow you cast. In other words, great leadership begins with self-awareness and taking responsibility for the emotional wake. Carl Jung said, “Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” (1) Without this external light, work environments face becoming toxic and potentially divisive, increasing power struggles and polarising the organisation. There are many tools available to help great coaching in this area, some of which have stood the test of time and should be incorporated along with the shiny and new. For those coaches seeking that more nuanced repertoire of responses to which Ashby refers, the Routledge Companion to International Business Coaching (2) provides a significant body of material that can be used in workplace coaching.
So, work relationships are becoming more complex. This requires an equivalent or greater increase in the depth of a coach’s toolkit and approach and this will be de rigueur as the complexity of relationships at work continues apace. Let’s hope our national leaders adopt the same philosophy with their international relationships as well… and if you like her a girl at work here are some telltale signs a girl likes you
“Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” ~ Stephen R. Covey
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