The Best Time to Learn and Change?

Have you ever noticed how much more motivated you are to learn when you are faced with a crisis? Some of my best learning experiences have been during times when I was pushed outside of my boundaries and unable to rely on my past experiences for rescue.

With age and an accruing number of life experiences, I’ve come to embrace periods of instability simply because I know that new learnings will come out of this experience.

As an example, I encounter periods of instability at the end of every work contract. Stress and anxiety begin to build as bills keep pouring into my mailbox with no apparent source of income to pay them. These feelings increase exponentially as I watch my kids frolicking in the living room. (For the parents reading this post, it’s all about the kids, isn’t it?). The silver lining in this situation, from my perspective, is that these pressures make me behave and think differently. I start thinking out of the box in order to find my next opportunity. I begin reaching out to people I otherwise would not have contacted. Then something wonderful happens, things start moving. I find myself accessing different market spaces for my skills and ultimately landing another work opportunity in an area of interest. One of the greatest outcomes of this process is that I continue learning about myself. I discover that some of the boundaries I had were self-imposed and that there are fewer boundaries than originally perceived.

My advice to anyone reading this post is to never let a period of instability go to waste. It’s a period of time when you can discover new ways of doing things and shape your behaviour into something that makes you better.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger – Friedrich Nietzsche

So go ahead, embrace your next challenge.

SherpaTO – an interactive change management expert system (coach) in the cloud


I had the opportunity to get a tour of the SherpaTO application offered by Brio Change. SherpaTO is an application that coaches managers and team members through their change initiatives. This application was built in collaboration with HEC Montréal, an internationally recognized business school.

So what is SherpaTO exactly?
SherpaTO, as described by Brio Change, is “the first virtual coach for your organizational transformations”. It’s an interactive tool that is accessible 24/7 in the cloud. Based on the context and traction of your project/ initiative, SherpaTO will provide you with recommendations for next steps. The automated recommendations can be selected and added to a custom (and personalized) action item report for ease-of-use.

At a high level, the tool presents a 5-step approach to managing change called C.A.P.T.E. To date, SherpaTO encompasses 14 tools, 3 action plans, 5 progress indicators, 1 executive dashboard and 1 post-mortem. Did I mention that there is no need to involve your internal IT department because the application is in the cloud? (I can hear people flocking to this application already).

What value will SherpaTO bring to your organization, you ask?
Here is a short list of how SherpaTO may bring value to your organization during times of change:

1) An expert system that can be utilized by novices or experts (It doesn’t discriminate)
SherpaTO lessens the blow of having more novices than experts on your change management team by providing real-time feedback and recommendations for the next steps of your project. SherpaTO provides real-time recommendations based on the context and momentum of your change initiative (over 300 tried and true recommendations in their databank).

SherpaTO is one of those rare applications that actually helps managers and employees improve their skills on the job. This reduces (and possibly eliminates) the high cost associated with skilled resources and consultants in change management.

2) 24/7 accessibility to change management expertise
SherpaTO is a browser-based application/ service that is accessible from the internet 24/7. You can access and work on the change initiative anytime and anyplace. It’s ready when you are.

3) Standardized practice of change management for greater simplicity and clarity
SherpaTO helps to standardize the entire change management process by providing a common language, a common approach and a set of common tools/ deliverables to propagate change in a familiar way for all of your change initiatives. The greater the number of projects utilizing this software, the greater the number of synergies that will be generated as a result. SherpaTO reduces the plethora of excel spreadsheets used to manage change in your organization.

4) One-click for an executive overview of your change initiatives
Selected executives will be able to get an overview of project statuses with the click of a button.

SherpaTO has been able to do what I think many companies will be attempting in the near future – creating an application that can really coach individuals to be better at their jobs. I tip my hat to Brio Change and their partners for leading the pack in creating the first generation of artificial intelligence tools in the change management space. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

If you’d like to know more, please navigate to their website: Brio Change

A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan (Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy)

It is much easier to implement change within an organization when the change is led by internal resources (check out my previous post: Building the Engagement Strategy). The coaching stream is incorporated into my change plan when internal leaders have not yet acquired the skills, knowledge and capabilities to effectively lead their employees through change.


What is Coaching?
Coaching is a teaching process by which a coachee is getting support from a coach while learning to achieve new capabilities. I personally believe that the single most important element as a coach, whether it be in sports or in business, is caring. If you genuinely care about the person you are coaching, you will be able to unlock their full potential.

How is coaching different from training?
It is very easy to confuse coaching and training. Training has more to do with teaching people new concepts and hands-on skills. Coaching, on the other hand, has more to do with utilizing their new-found knowledge (and existing expertise) to awaken their full potential. I typically provide training opportunities on change management prior to coaching individuals through leading a change effort.

A disclaimer – coaching is a two-way relationship
There is a certain level of chemistry that is needed for a coaching relationship to take place. Without positive vibes felt by both parties, the coaching relationship will not happen. This is ok. You can’t expect to have a perfect balance of coaching relationships on every change effort. Just be thankful that those that do connect well will make the change initiative a little easier. As for the other leaders that aren’t so lucky, a different set of tactics will need to be adopted to move the change in the right direction.

So what’s my coaching strategy?
I usually follow an informal approach to coaching leaders and managers through a change initiative. Coaching is one of the five streams I utilize to move a change initiative forward. It’s not my full time job (Not yet anyway). Full time business coaches follow a more formal approach which incorporates such things as a written agreement between the coach and the coachee. The written agreement, or contract, captures the objectives and goals of the relationship, the preferred interaction/ communication between the two parties, the duration of meetings, the coaching program, metrics to measure improvements, confidentiality, legal agreements, etc…

My coaching strategy is simple. Once I’ve taken a stab at identifying all impacted stakeholders in the company (as explained in one of my previous posts – A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan), I identify all of the leaders, managers and team leaders that are in a position to lead the change. Once I’ve pinpointed these individuals, I look at ways to start a dialogue with them to understand their level of understanding and experience in managing change. With this information, I’m equipped to produce a personal coaching strategy that is catered to each of the targeted change leaders needs. For example, one individual may prefer to discuss their performance at the end of the meeting when everyone has left the room. Another individual might prefer a weekly call to review their activities and questions that have been collected in a note book. Different strokes for different folks.

In Summary
Here is my informal coaching strategy in step-by-step format:
1) Identify the change leaders – (often based on stakeholder impact assessment)
2) Keep an open dialogue with the leaders impacted by the change
3) Evaluate (informally) the management competencies of the change leaders
4) Identify tactics and approach to increase change management capabilities for each of the targeted change leaders
5) Create an environment that invites a coaching platform. Formulate supporting mechanism for coaching opportunities
6) Identify the activities and metrics to measure change management coaching success

Hope this helps in formulating your next coaching strategy. Another post will describe the coaching plan often generated by this strategy. Stay tuned for my next post on building a transition management strategy.

Posts related to this series – Change Strategy:
1. A Practical Guide to Creating a Change Management Plan
2. Part 2 – Building the Engagement Strategy
3. Part 3 – Building the Communication Strategy
4. Part 4 – Building the Training Strategy
5. Part 5 – Building the Coaching Strategy
6. Part 6 – Building the Transition Strategy

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Mentorship: The Ultimate Change Relationship

When I was young, soccer was my life. I was the kid who showed up early at practice to juggle a ball or shoot on net. I was lucky enough to have found a soccer coach that had the expertise and determination to turn me into a decent player. Thanks to him, I was good enough to earn a soccer scholarship at an American University.

I owe a lot to my old soccer coach. Without him, I would not have had the drive nor opportunity to play NCAA Division 1 soccer – nor the opportunity to be the guest coach at Sheffield United’s youth soccer practice. What an opportunity that was!

As the years go by, I’ve realized that true mentor/ mentee relationships are rare. Mine happened by accident. It just happened that our paths crossed at the right time and the right place. If you’ve come across such a scenario, hold onto it and never let go. It’s an experience you will never forget.

When the right working relationship strikes between two individuals, a mentor has the ability to motivate the mentee in ways that others cannot. It is as though they are connected by an invisible force, a shared purpose, if you will, that is strengthened by time and trust.

What is a mentor?

Mentors facilitate learning and help people through change and transitions in three ways. The first is coaching. The second is advisement. And the third is counseling.

Mentors as coaches
In this role, the mentor helps the mentee set goals for achievement. Repetition in behaviour is initiated and instigated by the mentor so that the imagined new identity becomes reality.

Mentors as advisors
In this role, the mentor supports the mentee with expert judgement. It is in this role that the mentor shares his knowledge and experience on the subject.

Mentors as counsellors
In this role, the mentor provides guidance to the mentee through interactive discussions that guide the mentee in the right direction.

Please note that these three components are inter-related, with one relationship style dominating another in a specific period in time. But above all else, the most important component is the trusting relationship. Without a trusting relationship, nothing can be accomplished.

For years, I’ve attempted to find a mentor that would be able to guide me to the next level of my career, but have repeatedly come up empty handed. My search has been by no means diligent; perhaps because of my trepidation towards such a powerful working relationship. Or perhaps it is because my last mentor has left some pretty big shoes to fill.

Thanks Tony…