“There is nothing wrong with her, is there?”

Whenever I start a coaching engagement and do a round of stakeholder interviews, there is almost always someone who asks me this question about the person I am coaching. Involving the stakeholders is an essential part of my coaching.

Why would you involve the stakeholders when it is about the leader who is being coached?

Perception is reality: that’s one of the reasons. As is with the example of the stakeholder mentioned above. His perception is that there needs to be something wrong with you to be working with a coach. For him, that is reality.

Involving the stakeholders over time in a coaching process also helps to influence their perception. They know that you as a leader are working on your development and they will notice your improvement more easily by being involved.

The same happens when you want to buy a new car. Once you have an idea of the brand and model it should become, you suddenly see them everywhere. Back to the leader’s development: once the stakeholders are involved and thus being reminded of the leader’s development, they will notice the improvement more frequently.

A second reason to involve stakeholders is that they are an excellent source of information. When you involve them regularly and ask for their suggestions for improvement, your stakeholders will act like your personal advisory board. Every time you involve them, they will realize that you are actively working on your improvement. A new perception will become reality.

To solidify the change you are seeking to create, you will need time. That is both when you work on personal change and even more so when working on organizational change. Change needs time. Yet, progress makes change easier and involving your stakeholders will drive the flywheel even more.

Change will come with ups and downs. Some required improvements will go well and some will not stick. Perhaps the solution is not right, or someone is sabotaging your solution (I know, that never happens in your organization). Whatever the reason, the downside will urge you to find new ways to continue your journey for the better. Did you know that change with ups and downs will go faster than linear change? 

Perception is reality and change needs time. You can hardly change in one conversation or change someone’s perception in a simple conversation. Except for the example of the stakeholder mentioned before. To the stakeholders asking these questions, I explain that the leader hired me to coach her in order to become better at what she does. I also explain how that benefits both the leader and the company. The perception of the stakeholder changes almost always into an admirable one about the leader and her coaching.

Working with a coach will help you to utilize the wisdom of all the wise people around you for your improvement. Whenever you are in doubt if coaching is for you, then take a moment to read Atul Gawande’s article.