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Going the extra mile can be the difference between Success and Failure

February is known as the shortest month of the year and is also a time when many reflect about what is happening within their lives. Maybe this has something to do with the long, cold days, or maybe it’s just how humans operate. All of this got me thinking about my personal experiences of helping others break through the noise and remain focused on leading their people through change.

As a Change Management Professional and a Life/Business coach, I am often asked for advice or coaching on a variety of topics ranging from how to lead a team through a difficult change that may have no obvious immediate benefits to the people who are impacted, to how do I get my spouse, boyfriend or kids to listen to me (and there is a huge spectrum in between!). One of the things I love most about my job as a Change Manager is building relationships with my stakeholders and becoming the “trusted advisor” which luckily often grows into genuine long-lasting friendships.

As a Change Manager in business or ERP projects, the lines are usually clear – I am engaged to support the organization and its leaders, so they can lead their change. Sometimes, however, stakeholders will migrate the need for help into more personal areas which I am still happy to listen to and provide support or coaching where possible. In either situation two things are always top of mind:

  1. I am not a therapist, even though sometimes that is what it feels like.

  2. I need to be able distinguish when the person seeking advice is looking for consulting or when they are looking for coaching.

Fact: A Change Manager or Life/Business Coach is NOT a Therapist

This can be a slippery slope and it can be tempting to act like a therapist. But it is vital that the distinction and line is clear. Consulting and coaching are not, and cannot, replace therapy or counselling.

Fact: It is important to be able to determine when someone needs Consulting vs. Coaching

These two are also tricky at times, especially when wearing both the consultant hat and coaching hat for a client. Consulting is just that – providing consultation, advice, proposed solutions and the plan or steps for how to achieve the desired solution regarding a particular problem or change. Often as a consultant I will also be involved in actioning, supporting or leading those changes.

A coach, according to Tony Robbins, is someone who helps a person identify goals and develop an actionable plan so that the person requesting coaching acts to achieve them; someone professionally trained to help another person maximize their full potential and reach desired results.

Confused? Basically, a consultant provides direction and often does much of the work, whereas a coach provides guidance on how a client takes ownership and is the sole player in their own change.

As mentioned, one of the true joys of working with stakeholders through business or people change are the relationships that are built – the trust and bond that come from working so closely with people. This bond and trust often migrates organically from a business focus to something personal. I have had, on more than one occasion, people whom I was working with on a project ask for my advice on how to handle {insert personal topic here}. I always make time to listen, because I believe that as humans, most of us do not turn off our personal lives when at work; our kids, our spouse, our personal finances are all topics and maybe burdens we carry with us. I often find that to help someone through the process of embracing a business or work change, they need to reconcile and balance it with what is going on in their personal lives – the change at work can sometimes be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so understanding what else is going on is sometimes critical.

I once worked with a key stakeholder who was integral to the success of the procurement process for the organization. She was smart, no doubt. But she was not only hesitant, but almost hostile to the change. I collected some data points. Everyone, from her direct manager to her peers and even some senior leadership said she was by far the most knowledgeable person when it came to the company’s procurement process. But something was causing her to sabotage the project and her own career. At one point, the sponsor of the project suggested she be let go and get someone in who had a better attitude. I was not convinced. There was something there – call it spidey senses or sixth sense or intuition. I just felt like there was more to her story. One day I asked her to join me for a coffee. I had to encourage it a bit, but finally she agreed. Once I got her talking through asking some pointed questions she let it all out. She talked for over two hours. I listened. At the end, I had a much better understanding of what she was going through personally and why she was behaving at work the way she was. I asked her some tough questions and made her take a lot of accountability for what she was feeling. But I also listened and let her talk through some of the personal things she was facing which were directly impacted by the changes she was experiencing at work. Long story short, she began to see her part in her own story – that while she may not be able to control many of the things happening in her personal life at that time, she was in a position of control of her experience at work and could actually curate a better work experience by being more engaged and involved. Within a week everyone noticed a difference in her attitude and her output. I later found out, a year after the project went live that she is now a VP with that organization and is leading her people following much of the same coaching principles I employed with her.

Working with people and supporting them through change is not hard, but it does take time, a genuine interest and an arsenal of tools.

Fact: You need to follow a process regardless of the issue or the change that is required.

  1. Observe. Observe the people involved, and the surroundings they are in. A lot can be learned simply by observing.

  2. Listen. Listen to the problem, or the concerns, or feelings.

  3. Ask questions. Ask questions that will help understand what a person (or people) is going through and what they are actually looking for in the way of help, guidance, support, advice etc. Also consider that they may not want help – and that is also okay.

  4. Determine the right support. Determine if a consulting hat, or a coaching hat is required, or if more specialized support is needed.

  5. Have a conversation. Discuss with them the type of help that can be provided (or not provided).

  6. Develop an action plan. Based on the type of support that best suits the situation, come up with an action plan and define the steps and due dates to ensure progress. Make sure they are willing to own their part.

  7. Follow-up. When an effort has gone into reaching out to someone and building a plan with them, follow-up and help keep them on track. They may have the best of intentions, but change is hard. We all need a coach, a cheerleader and sometimes a drill sergeant to keep up the momentum of the change to reach the full potential.

Change is happening all the time, to all of us, every day. Sometimes we can go with the flow and handle or cope. But sometimes we need help. And sometimes we don’t know how to ask for the help or don’t know what to expect when we do ask for help.

If there is anything I have learned over my career is that everyone is going through something – always. It may not seem big to you or me, but it could mean the difference between success or failure for someone else. Compassion, humility and understanding will go a long way when supporting others through change, as will a genuine interest in understanding when someone is struggling or when someone wants to talk about a personal issue that may or may not seem related.



Krista Schaber-Chan Managing Partner Toronto



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