How can coaching help with managing change?

Managing change
People are often quite uncomfortable with the concept of going through a period of change, for all sorts of reasons. Because change brings about uncertainty, it can be difficult to experience, leading some to resist it or to feel extremely stressed and emotional as they go through it.

Coaching is often all about transitions whether between roles or between organisations, changes in terms of identities (e.g. maternity coaching) or changes in terms of personal or skills development. Offering support to people as they go through change can help them to acknowledge how they are feeling and ultimately, to accept the change.

William Bridges created a transition model (see his 1991 book Managing Transitions) which clearly illustrated three key stages of any change:

  1. Ending and letting go
  2. Neutral zone
  3. New beginning

Coaching enables clients to work through each stage of the change by exploring what it means to them personally. For example, to support a client through letting go of the old way of being (e.g. their old role) a coach may ask questions such as:

  • What do you need to let go of?
  • What do you want to keep hold of?
  • How might you celebrate this ending?

As the client then moves into the neutral phase between the old and the new, they are likely to need support to cope with the discomfort this brings. This time can offer a valuable opportunity to reflect on the future and explore what opportunities this change may bring about. A coach may invite the client to consider how they can take care of themselves during this time of uncertainty and to prepare for the next stage in their transition.

Finally, as the client gradually moves into the new phase, supporting them as they examine what this new beginning means to them can be immensely powerful. In my work as a maternity coach, this stage is often one of the most crucial aspects of my work with a client. Supporting a new mum as she prepares to return to work and integrate both her professional identity with her new identity as a mother helps her to gain clarity about her values and priorities and identify steps to take in order to take care of herself.

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