Information overload: Is coaching the golden key for talent & development leaders right now?

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in content sharing over the past months – news articles, webinars, podcasts, working from home policies, instructions for how to stay safe, Zoom etiquette and home-schooling-while-working tips…the list goes on.

The irony is not lost on me – this blog is a case in point. So, when is all this content helpful and when do we need to take a different tack to best support our people? And, could the impact of coaching be more valuable now than ever?

I was recently listening to a live debate between global L&D leaders, hosted by the ever-refreshing David James. One of the perspectives shared, almost without exception, across the group was “the new normal for talent, learning and development leaders is now, not something that will happen ‘when we get back’”.

The consensus was that content continues to be important where knowledge-building is required – taking on new information that’s helpful to me and my role. However, the key role of L&D in successfully aggregating this content and contextualising it is becoming more crucial.

Speaking to talent and learning leaders in my network, many are trying to help their people navigate the overwhelming fountain of ‘stuff’ coming their way. They describe rapidly trying to make the most pertinent content easily accessible on their internal platforms – content to help employees operate successfully in a new environment, guidance on how to look after their mental and physical health and opportunities to continue with professional development.

There’s no doubt this will be extremely helpful for many employees – enabling them to access quality content from a trusted source, as and when they need it.

So, what’s missing?

An interesting anecdote that rang loudly in my ears from the debate I referred to earlier was “E-learning was never the perfect solution before and it isn’t now, simply because we’re in lockdown.” This is, however, a great time to ‘question everything’ – to get clear about the outcomes we’re trying to achieve for our people and our organisations, and challenge ourselves on how we can best apply the rich spectrum of learning and development ‘tools’ available to us.

What might it be helpful to consider?

  • What sits in the camp of ‘knowledge/information sharing’ and how do our people want to access and consume this?
  • Where do people need to develop new skills and behaviours, and how can these best be learnt, challenged, supported and embedded?
  • What can wait for a scheduled date and what is needed ‘in the moment’, for best effect?
  • Where is community and learning from others most powerful?
  • Where is dialogue (rather than ‘delivery’) the best method for accelerating the desired learning outcome?

It’s the last point that brings me to the potentially electrifying impact of coaching today, perhaps more so than ever.

If we take the widely held view that the most powerful learning available to us is about the context in which its set rather than the content itself, and that context is changing every day, it becomes about helping our people at their time of need in their area of need – meeting them where they are now.

It’s about what that ‘now’ means to me as Julia, in my role, on this day, with the factors impacting me at home and at work, with the people I need to engage with and the tools at my disposal, with the way my past impacts me and my current mindset colours my perspective, with my aspirations and the outcomes I want to achieve for myself and my organisation, with my habits, my doubts, my challenges and my talents.

This came to life before my very eyes just a week ago when I was on a video call with a close network contact. She was what can best be described as ‘stuck’. She was anxious and overwhelmed by the whirlwind of ongoing changes impacting her – team members being furloughed, fundamental changes to content of her role, impact on her working pattern and financial situation, demands from stakeholders to re-hash and pivot on her plans. And, what was evident was that her usually clear thinking was disrupted. Strategic and important decisions that she would usually cut through like a laser where jumbled in her mind and she was ‘spinning’.

By simply articulating what I was noticing and asking her some coaching questions to help her find her own navigational compass, the change in her emotional state and ability to think clearly shifted fundamentally in the space of 30 minutes. It was visible in her face and her whole demeanour, and evident in the way we managed to come to some great decisions at the end of the call, that a metaphorical cloud had been lifted.

It was when she commented, “Thank you – I didn’t realise I needed someone to ask me some coaching questions and listen to me. I think everyone would benefit from having a coach right now” that it brought home what coaching can do for us all.

I’ve known this for many years – experiencing and observing the power of coaching for myself – but I think its place has only been amplified in 2020.

If you want to find out how we’re working to make coaching available to the many, not just the few, click here to learn more about our adaptive coaching services.
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