6 Ways to Coach through Transitions

Transition word on a road sign to illustrate change, improvementCoaches often are called upon to help people transition to the next thing. Sometimes clients don’t even know what the next thing is, only that it’s time to do something different. And sometimes the choice is not theirs but is being imposed on them. For many of us, it’s not so much the change that is stressful, it’s the transition between what is and what will be.

Last year I moved from my home of 25 years. Fortunately, it was my choice to move. Still, the process was exhausting. Step one was making the decision to let go and take the leap. Then came the endless details – listing the house, doing repairs, letting go of most of the things that had been accumulating for all of those years. The house sold on the first day, which was both good and bad news. We had 30 days to pack up and get out. I lost ten pounds in the process, so it wasn’t all bad! Next was making the new place home, which was actually easier than I thought. We now live in a small mountain community and could not be happier. In this case, the stress of the transition was well worth it.

How can coaches help people through times of transition? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Help clients focus more on the positive aspects than on the stress. Invoke their imagination by co-creating an image of the future state. What do they see? How do they feel? What are the benefits of the change? Help them mentally leap over the bridge between what is and what could be.
  2. If the client is resisting the change (and who doesn’t resist change, at least at first?), ask them some high-octane questions to help them out of their numb state. What is the cost of maintaining the status quo? How can they trust themselves more? How might they see this change in a more positive light?
  3. Once a client has made the decision to change—or if they have no choice—they’ll need help going through the process. How can they clear the deck of optional activities that take time and energy during this transition? This is not the time to go it alone. It’s time for them to call in the support system of friends and family.
  4. The client needs to have a plan, but should expect surprises—some pleasant, others not so much. It’s all part of the process. How can they increase their capacity to handle ambiguity?
  5. Encourage the client to make time for stress management. Most people get so caught up in the stress of change, they forget to take time to take care of themselves.
  6. Team with the client to help them keep their forward velocity. Encourage them to celebrate the steps along the way, not just the final outcome. When they get derailed, be there to help them get back on track. Keep moving toward transformation.

Transitions are tough. A coach can provide the energy and perspective needed to help a client successfully move to their next thing—whatever it may be.

About the Author

Kathleen Martin

Kathleen Martin is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Martin’s posts as a part of Coaching Tuesday here at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

2 thoughts on “6 Ways to Coach through Transitions

  1. Thanks for the post Kathleen – you shared some great insights that really resonated with me. Especially loved your idea of asking some “high-octane” questions to get someone moving during a change.

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