Major transitions are opportunities for learning- Coaching at Work conference

Kate McGuire


Too often we regard transitions as problems rather than opportunities for learning.

Seeing major transitions as opportunities to develop and grow, rather than as challenges to be avoided or survived, enables coaching clients to build their confidence and helps them navigate future life changes, said Siobhan O’Riordan at Coaching at Work’s annual conference on 1 July in London.

Remembering that each person defines the importance and impact of transitions differently is key – what seems insurmountable to one person might be relatively uncomplicated to another. Coaches need to work with the clients’ definition of the nature of the challenge.

O’Riordan helps clients to find balance between reflecting on the experience, and exploring options and taking action. Identifying an anchor – something in the client’s life that is stable, reliable and provides support – can help manage the emotional impact, as can assessing the resources available to the coachee to help them survive and thrive. Even a minor transition might need a lot of support.

O’Riordan shares the William Bridges transition model with her clients, to give them a framework to understand what they’re experiencing. She noted that people can sometimes experience transitions as a result of something happening to someone else in their life – a partner being promoted, for example, or close colleagues being made redundant. Clients often don’t explicitly identify transitions as the coaching issue, so coaches need to be alert to the possibility that this is what is really going on.

O’Riordan’s developmental transition coaching focuses on helping people to sit alongside their fears, change their relationship with the challenge, and learn how the barrier might help them longer term. She said that, underlying nearly all transitions, are issues around values, identity and purpose.

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