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The Vowels of Coaching: O is for Obstacles

Obstacles are for overcoming – right? That seems obvious but the challenge is which ones, when and how!

When implementing organisational change the obvious obstacles are those related to resourcing: people, infrastructure, money and time. While often challenging to overcome, at least you usually know what you are dealing with.

Cultural obstacles are less obvious but now acknowledged as more pervasive and difficult to influence and shift than resourcing obstacles. Obstacles are found in the key indicators of culture: the way people work with each and how respectful they are of each other and their contributions.

There are obvious parallels between organisational change and individuals who want to implement personal change. Firstly your resourcing:

  • How well equipped and skilled are you in dealing with change?

  • Are you ready willing and able to put the required effort, time and money into making and supporting the change?

If your responses to these two questions indicate that there are gaps in your skills, support or readiness then you need to deal with those first to make sure you can succeed. My experience is that private clients who fund their own coaching for change are highly motivated and ready to change. They are ready and willing. You need to be both. My role as coach is then to work with them to develop and support their ability to change.

Secondly consider how your internal culture influences your ability to change. What is your internal monologue? Does it focus on you being a success or a failure? Tim Gallwey in The Inner Game of Work describes how powerful that inner dialogue can be. He proposes a formula that he has developed based on his own research which shows that how well we perform is our potential MINUS that interference. Removing the interfering inner dialogue means that we create a new internal culture that is about supporting ourselves to be successful. Changing the internal monologue is often effectively achieved working with a coach.

The obstacles that you express in your internal monologue can often also be reflected in your communications with others. Being tentative – both verbally and non-verbally is an example. Verbally this can be your use of tentative language using words such as perhaps, will try to and possibly or your focus on describing the difficulties and obstacles that success depends on. Non-verbally your tentativeness can be demonstrated through awkward hand gestures, stance or presentation. Feedback from others and your coach can help identify and help you change such behaviours that are not working for you and your future success.

Susan David in her book Emotional Agility comments that ‘those who achieved the best results (…in achieving their desired change…) did so through a combination of optimism and realism. It’s important to believe that you can achieve your goal, but you also need to pay attention to the obstacles most likely to get in the way. … By imaging the future while assessing the present reality you can link the two to each other. This creates a mental pathway that includes both the obstacles and your plans for getting past them… (to)… lead from where you are now to where you want to be”

Working with a coach provides a space to identify both obstacles that are currently inhibiting your effectiveness and therefore future success and ways that you can best support yourself to create your pathway for successful change.

If this is something you would like to explore, contact Ann


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