How are you thinking about the big changes we are facing? There are no half measures – you need to bring it right across your coaching practice

By Alister Scott


Whether we like it or not, big change is upon us all. Globalisation, the speed of technological change, information overload, resource depletion, the impact of social media, political unrest, migration, environmental change…the list goes on.

The case for coaches thinking about big change can all too easily be made on a normative basis – in other words, you have to care about one or other of the big changes in order to be interested in bringing it into your coaching practice.

But this is only half of the picture – or possibly less.

We would also argue that coaches should be paying attention to big change for cold, hard, analytical reasons – it is happening to all organisations and the only possibility of a resilient response to the big changes that are objectively happening is to be on the front foot, turning challenge into opportunity, making big change happen.

Of course, big change is happening in all our lives as individuals, but organisations are especially caught in the crossfire – between the big waves of change that are happening ‘out there’ in the world on the one hand, and their stakeholders – individual staff, clients, suppliers – on the other.

People are looking to organisations to respond, and they are often finding them lacking. Take climate change, for example. Unless you have been living in a cave, or are wilfully shutting out the noise, you cannot fail to have noticed the real evidence of the seriousness of the climate challenge, both scientific and anecdotal.

Yet notice…in the organisations where you are coaching, what are they doing about it? Often very little. It’s not as if there’s nothing they can do – it’s easy enough now to buy clean renewable power, for example.

To do nothing is to be complicit with climate breakdown. But even crazier, there can be real advantages in acting – for the organisation’s reputation, staff and client engagement, innovation strategy… so why aren’t more organisations seizing the opportunities?

Part of the answer has to be the dominance of conventional thinking… “3% more next year will do”. This is DULL, DULL, DULL, not to mention stupid. Are you really brought alive by coaching that stuff? REALLY?

By contrast, post-conventional thinking is all too rare, which asks “why?” and does all the things that leadership texts like Good to Great* tell us, such as to “confront the brutal facts”.

This takes courage, energy, imagination, effort, organisation, for sure. Both theirs and yours.

But if we are sitting with leaders, supposedly helping them to think, and NOT having these conversations, are we not complicit in the dull, inward-looking, uncreative conventional thinking that ultimately leads many organisations to collapse?

If we fail to acknowledge the brutal waves of big change that are breaking upon us and our organisations – or are about to – how can we expect to survive and thrive?

How can we think we are truly doing meaningful, purposeful or even just effective work?

  • Dr Alister Scott is, together with Neil Scotton PCC, cofounder of The One Leadership Project. Their book and e-book, The Little Book of Making Big Change Happen (Troubador Publishing), is available from Amazon and other booksellers.
  • Alister Scott: alister@enablingcatalysts.com
  • Neil Scotton: neil@enablingcatalysts.com
  • www.enablingcatalysts.com*
  • J Collins, Good to Great, London: Random House Business, 2001
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