Leadership coaching for projects involving large-scale change
Coaching leaders to unlock their organisation’s potential is key for digital growth, says The Dot Project’s Cat Ainsworth
An important aspect of the support service we provide for the Digital Fund grantees is leadership coaching. We see coaching as a process to focus leaders and teams on the ‘here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future and to unlocking their potential to maximise their own performance and delivery. In this fast-paced digital age, being resilient, adaptive and feeling prepared for change is a must, but in reality this is hard to achieve.
Enabling organisational culture
Competing priorities, a lack of resources and the perceived inability to take the time to reflect and explore mean that leaders, particularly within charities, are forced to constantly compromise. Leaders tend to be in ‘delivery mode’, acting reactively and working at a fast pace due to the constant noise around them. Digital can only be transformative to organisations where the people within them will thrive through the change. Successful digital projects are born out of an enabling organisational culture, managed by teams who understand their environment and led by confident, competent leaders who themselves are supported to lead.
We integrate coaching into our digital support offer because people are the most important part of a digital project. Our coaching focuses on success rather than failure, constantly analysing situations and information and translating it into action. At its core our coaching approach centres on the idea that, with the right support, charities have the capability to plot and navigate their own digital journey. Our coaches all have specific skill sets, often as digital practitioners themselves they bring a combination of digital appreciation combined with the integrity and energy necessary to enable others to take progressive action, capitalising on strengths and using problems as an opportunity for learning.
Through the Digital Fund many of the grantees are being supported through coaching in one form or another. Sometimes this coaching takes the form of one-on-one coaching with a digital lead or senior leader, sometimes we use group coaching techniques to engage stakeholders and co-create a shared direction.
What we’re learning
Here’s what we’re learning is important:
Getting to the root of the problem: the process of coaching often uncovers the deeper root of a problem or challenge. Time to reflect on how to resolve systemic challenges or deep rooted blockers can transform the way an individual manages a situation, and influence how an organisation deals with change. This is why it’s important our coaches understand digital and technology, as they may uncover ways to practically improve digital approaches and technology management. This reinforces the importance of creating adequate time and creating a safe space to reflect.
Creating the space is key: by providing the time, space and coaching/facilitation, teams are able to pause and think about where they are and where they want to go. It is so usual for these groups to be working at pace and juggling one activity after another that it comes as a positive relief to use parts of the Digital Fund to reflect, set direction and focus on unlocking challenges. This is building the confidence of people and not only focusing on the tech enablement.
It’s important we find the right fit: because our coaches take a holistic approach, focusing on the whole person, the chemistry fit between coach and coachee is important. We take the time to get to know the individual or group who would like support and find a coach who suits their rhythm and personality.
Wider benefits of coaching for an organisation: through coaching, teams are engaging with tools and practices which can impact far beyond their digital project. For example, ways to improve the management of stakeholder relationships to engage the Board can have far reaching effects. Through effective engagement of the Board one of the grantees has enabled board members to see that they require more human resources both to deliver the Digital Fund programme and support front line services. Coaching supports people to build confidence in themselves and expand their abilities which benefits the whole organisation.
Building confidence to lead the way: to lead an organisation into new territory leaders need to feel confident. Leading in a digital age is not about becoming a digital expert, it’s about setting a direction and bringing in the right skill sets and partners to achieve your goals. Leaders need to expand their toolkit to cope with evolving needs and the pace at which an organisation changes when digital takes a leading role. Coaching supports leaders to build their confidence to prioritise, set a direction and lead the way within their organisation.
For many this is the beginning of their coaching journey and we will continue to assess how coaching can benefit the organisation through the major change these digital projects will bring. Whilst the individual coaching interventions we provide remain confidential, the Digital Fund project enables us to provide coaching to a cohort of grantees. This provides DOT PROJECT with a unique opportunity to assess trends and understand how coaching can strengthen organisations wherever they are on their digital journey. We are finding that there is huge value in the design of the Digital Fund for grantees — the support team can be ‘hands-on’ in our approach translating the purpose of the Digital Fund into actionable packages of support which are flexible and responsive to the needs of grantees.