Game On! - Support - Coaches and Players

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

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In my last blog - 'Game On! - Sustainment - Managers and Coaches' -  I described the relationship of sustainment between the Managers and Coaches that I believe is needed if organisations are to survive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. In this world change is constant.

I used a soccer team analogy to describe the roles that are needed in an organisation subject to constant change.

The following paragraphs are a recap of the roles. If you have read these in a previous post, please jump to section 'Game On! - Support'.


Managers determine the strategy that is going to be played out and direct the gameplay. They provide instruction and motivation. Managers ensure that Coaches are receiving education and training, support, coaching and mentoring, so that they can effectively and efficiently transition Players through change. Managers ensure that Coaches and Players alike have all the sporting equipment and facilities needed to be a winning team.

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Coaches ensure that Players are game fit.  They develop the skills and capabilities of the Players.

They communicate the strategy and game plan that Players are being asked to fulfil.

They are change sponsors supporting and reinforcing the change.

They will receive feedback from the Players and determine if changes need to be made to the game plan. Coaches will identify resistance and establish the cause of the resistance. In conjunction with the Change Manager, remediation will be undertaken. Coaches need to keep an eye out for change fatigue and respond accordingly.

Players are ultimately the people that will win or loose the game. It is the Players that actually make things happen. They use the gameplay and capabilities with which they have been equipped to win

Change is constant for Players. Every match played is different to the one before. Players are faced with new opposition, different weather conditions, and different playing surfaces.

Players also have to rapidly respond to changing situations whilst play is underway. The opposition may change tactics that requires a change in the way the game is being played.  For Players, change is constant. New Players may join the team mid-match and playing positions may be adjusted accordingly. One minute, a Player is playing as a mid-fielder and the next minute they are in an attacking position. Team numbers may depreciate at any time due to a red-card decision by the referee. The Players have to adjust again to compensate being down in team numbers.

The sports team and the roles within it can be applied to any organisation trying to deal with constant change.

Game On! - Support

In this post I would like to explore support – the relationship between the Coaches and the Players.


The Coaches                                                                                                                         

Change coaches are communicators, advocates for change, and they coach the Players to be resilient to change. They identify, surface and manage resistance, as and when it occurs.

Coaches are equipped with both the skills and capability to effectively support Players in a world of constant change.

Managers ensure that the Coaches are given the skills and capability to effectively transition Players through change. Managers also ensure that Coaches have the resilience to thrive.

Coaches help promote a culture within the organisation that embraces constant change as the norm.

The Players

It is the Players who are at the coalface. They are the people best placed to provide feedback about what is working well and what is not to both the Managers and Coaches.

They have been given the autonomy (and guiding principles) to change the game plan whilst the game is taking place. They do not wait until half time and then inform the Manager that they had a great idea to turn the game around but wouldn’t make the decision without speaking to the Manager first. Players will exploit opportunities as they arise and innovate in order to win.

Decision-making has been delegated to the Players who are trusted to do the right thing.


Coaches need to provide unrelenting support for the Players.

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Players are operating in times of instability and uncertainty, which is not going to change anytime soon. They need the ability to remain highly effective under intense pressure.

Coaches need to continually check in on the well-being and health of the Players. Coaches also need a lot of empathy and excellent listening skills to determine the support Players need at any point in time.

Support must be provided in a timely manner that meets the needs of the Players.

Support from Coaches to Players consists of six key activities - communicate, advocate, coach, resistance management, liaison and networking.


Coaches use their experience and expertise to share knowledge and direct players in the right direction. Their communication skills include active listening, empathy and analysis. They look for clues as to why players are not moving in the intended direction and take remedial action as required.

Coaches will actively listen and encourage players.

Coaches have an unwavering ability to articulate compelling reasons why the organisation has to be subject to constant change. They carefully craft and customize their messages to increase their chances of inspiring and motivating Players. They communicate clear and unambiguous messages. They stimulate meaningful conversations.

Communication is 2-way with clear channels for feedback and to ask questions. Coaches’ communication aims to help Players manage through the complexity and uncertainly that is today’s world.


Coaches have to speak up in favour of constant change and keep the focus upon it. They are advocates for change! They acknowledge that constant change is the new black, and that without constant change the organisation will not survive.

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Coaches garner support for a world of constant change and engage Players to actively participate. They also keep beating the drum of constant change when everyone else is busy with other activities. Coaches are vocal and persistent.

Coaches not only embrace constant change, they will evangelize it! They walk the talk.

Players can direct their questions and concerns to the Coaches.


Coaches will coach Players in regards to managing in VUCA world.

Coaches provide players with ongoing coaching. They enable learning and development to take place and therefore Player performance to improve.

They coach the Players to become leaders of change in their own right. Every one leads. Change is everyone’s business.

Coaching can enhance morale, motivation and productivity in complex and uncertain times.

Coaching aims to create a safe environment in which Players see themselves more clearly. The Coach does this by listening, asking focused questions, reflecting back, challenging, and acknowledging the players reality.

Manage Resistance

Managing Players through constant change, requires all the communication and leadership we can muster.

In a constantly changing organization, a Coach can help Players embrace instability and complexity as a positive state of affairs by clearly and passionately articulating what the organization is trying to achieve.

Coaches ensure that players understand that change is the new norm. Coaches never let Players assume that once any single change is completed, the organization will solidify into a new form. This will not happen now!

Players need to understand that even as we adjust to a change, we should be getting ready for the next one which is already on it way if not already upon us. It is the new reality.

Transparent communication with all Players is critical if we want Players to understand the economic realities of today, the real driving forces behind constant change, and how their actions impact the success of the organisation.

Where resistance is surfaced resulting in the game not being able to continue to be played as per Managers direction, the Coach will remove the Player from the game of play and work to surface the underlying cause of resistance.

The Coach will put in place tactics to manage the resistance and continue to reinforce the need for constant change once the Player returns to the playing field.

Change that is unrelenting with constant changes in direction can cause change fatigue and resistance. There the Coach is critical in early identification of resistance and its ongoing management.


Coaches are a liaison between the Players and the Managers (but do not prevent direct communication from Managers to Players).

As on the playing field, Coaches liaise with Managers to determine strategy and direction and convey that information to the Players.

Feedback from Players in regards to playing conditions, fitness, health, opposition, understanding of strategy and direction, recommendations for changes, information regarding changes and decisions already made, are passed back to the Managers via the Coaches.

Coaches can make decisions and changes based on the feedback from Players.

If needed, Coaches can liaise with Managers for additional guidance and direction.


Coaches will be central to the organisation’s informal network.

Informal connections give Coaches access to information, knowledge, opportunities, and personal support, and thus the ability to mobilize others.

Due to the complexity and volatile nature of change that is likely to be divergent, Coaches will build bridging networks, connecting to players who aren’t connected to one another.

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Benefits are that Coaches get access to novel information and knowledge instead of hearing the same things over and over again.

Coaches control when and how information is passed along. Coaches can adapt messages for different Players in the network because they’re unlikely to talk to one another.

In building the network, Coaches will seek out Players that will make excellent Coaches and facilitate that transition. Coaches will actively grow and enhance the coaching network.


So many organisations are talking ‘disruption’ and ‘transformation’ but not taking the actions required to truly embrace a world in which change is constant. They are still using organisational change management approaches that are based on Kurt Lewin’s ‘unfreeze – transition – freeze’ mantra which has little or no place in today’s world.

Without the luxury of taking breath after each change and preparing for the next one, we have to build an organisation comprised of Managers, Coaches and Players who embrace the new world and for whom constant change is just the way things are around here.

In order to survive in a world of constant change we need delegate power and decision-making. This will involve a flattening of the organisational structure and reducing the bureaucracy that is hierarchy.

My next series of posts are entitled ‘Kill the Hierarchy’ and will explore how we flatten the hierarchy in order to achieve rapid and decentralised decision-making, employee engagement, high levels of collaboration, widespread autonomy, trust and respect, and an environment in which everyone leads.


More posts on their way over the coming weeks and months exploring how we need to take a fresh and radical look at organisational change management, and the changes we need to make if we are to thrive.


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Karen FerrisComment