While the last 18 months of the pandemic have been both heart breaking and incredibly challenging, we are about to enter an even more tumultuous period when business, and specifically, the leaders who manage people are going to need the support of expert coaches.
With many businesses returning to the office, it is clear that not everyone will physically return for the full five days a week. As a positive outcome, this allows employees to enjoy more flexibility and balance in their lives, not to mention the tremendous knock-on impacts of reduced travel from an economic and environmental standpoint.
However, these leaders will face challenges navigating leadership when some team members are physically present in the office and the rest are not. Inevitably, this difference threatens to create an ‘us and them’ culture.
As someone who has had the privilege to lead incredible teams, be a member of some amazing groups, and coach both leaders and teams, I can foresee the negative impact on leaders who are ill-prepared to tackle this new frontier in leadership.
Culture within a team sits on a dynamic spiral that can either spin upwards and create positive, thriving relationships or descend into a toxic environment that is detrimental to all who exist within it.
In this new era of hybrid working, coaching can provide a lifeline to leaders and help them support their teams to not only thrive but to relish the opportunity to lead and truly come into their own.
Post-pandemic leaders will need to lead with inclusion and compassion at the forefront of everything they do. Ensuring that team members feel included and heard, and have a sense of belonging, whether they are physically in the office or not, will be one of the biggest challenges for these leaders.
Leading with compassion is often overlooked, yet the pandemic has given employees a virtual window into the lives of their peers, allowing them to display a level of humanity from which we must not retreat. To close the curtain on reality and detract from the imperfect human interactions we’ve all experienced during the extended period of remote working would be a significant loss to the relationships formed.
Of course, there are other opportunities there for the taking if the leaders possesses humility and are open to learning more about themselves during this upcoming period of hybrid work environments.
The term ‘Psychological Safety’ is being thrown around so often that it’s becoming a buzzword in the world of organisational and personal development. Many understand that creating a psychologically safe environment lays the foundations for an innovative, creative and thriving environment, where relationships grow solid and individuals feel safe to challenge one another with respect and freedom to explore ideas. However not many understand that, according to LeaderFactor1, there are four levels to creating a psychologically safe working environment. The first level, is Inclusion Safety. Without inclusion safety as a foundation, the team stands no chance of reaching the heady echelons of the high-performance culture that psychologically-safe environments can enable.
Having inclusion safety within a team means that individuals feel accepted as human beings, are included within the group and share a sense of belonging with the team members. Leaders may hold it within their remit to prioritise inclusion safety. However, they can only achieve this by demonstrating specific behaviours that ensure that this environment is created.
Coaching is a hugely powerful way of creating an awareness of problematic behaviours, and supporting and championing a leader to move forward by helping them shift those behaviours.
What’s more, as is often the case, coaching creates a ripple effect. In this context, it positively impacts the rest of the team when a leader adapts their behaviours to promote inclusivity. When team members feel included, the bonds within the group are strengthened, and it can open the door to the next level of psychological safety, which enables individuals to feel safe to learn.
As my twin 5-year olds tell me, the only way to learn is to make mistakes, and this ethos — that not only is it safe to learn, but that it is also ok to make mistakes — is something that needs to be granted by the leader. This means, the leader is demonstrating vulnerability to generate trust within the team. Once granted permission to show vulnerability, team members will do the same, which then solidifies the level of trust.
It may sound simple but trust me; this is no mean feat. Most organisations don’t even achieve the first level of psychological safety. Only about 36 per cent of business professionals believe that their companies foster an inclusive culture2. But for those that do manage to make it up the ladder to achieve learner, contributor or challenger safety, the results can lead to improved innovation and sustained success, not to mention a more engaged and happier workforce.
Changing the behaviours of leaders is the fastest way to effect this kind of culture change, and coaching supports this impact. Coaching holds up a mirror, creating accountability and championing the leader along the way! When you add a positive psychology lens within the coaching and focus on what is right with individuals rather than what is wrong, the coach can quickly lend support to the leaders to leverage their existing talents to shift their behaviours and lean into what will work naturally for them. This also enables the leaders to shift their behaviours in a more authentic manner, which will naturally be received more positively.
As with all transformations, there will be highs and lows, but the leaders who have the support of a coach will be better equipped to deal with these challenges and be in a stronger position to support their teams to thrive.
So, while the hybrid working pattern is likely to become the norm, the new behaviours that leaders will need to embrace will also need to become the norm, and, as we know, coaching is the best tool to support this shift!
Watch Judy’s story and discover how coaching can help leaders and teams in your organisation reach new heights
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest organisation leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering coaching’s role as an integral part of a thriving society. Founded in 1995, its 40,000-plus members located in more than 145 countries and territories work toward common goals of enhancing awareness of coaching and upholding the integrity of the profession through lifelong learning and maintaining the highest ethical standards. Through the work of its six unique family organisations, ICF empowers professional coaches, coaching clients, organisations, communities and the world through coaching.
In India, ICF is represented by six vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi NCR, ICF Hyderabad, ICF Mumbai, and ICF Pune.
The author, Michelle Horgan is a leadership and team development coach with over 12 years of experience leading business development and organisational change. She is passionate about helping businesses optimise their culture and helping individuals realise their full potential. A retired Premiership rugby player, former scientist and business transformation specialist, Horgan draws on an eclectic mix of skills and knowledge to support entrepreneurs, athletes, organisations and professionals to achieve their goals by leaning into their natural spheres of excellence. Along with her ICF Accreditations, Horgan is a Certified Strengths Finder Coach, Certified Psychological Safety Coach, NLP (with Neuroscience) Practitioner and Co-Founder and Executive Director at Captivate Coaching and Consulting.