Coaching: a helpful support to a successful socio-ecological transition


Authors : Monique Cumin et Florent Duchêne

“We are on a road to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the opening of COP 27. Since July 28th, we have been drawing more resources in the Earth than it is capable of regenerating.

Despite the promises, the current trajectories of companies and governments are largely insufficient and today have little chance of respecting the Paris agreements. Our business models are no longer sustainable and need to be rethought. This is surely the most complex challenge of our time.

Our conviction at Seedlings: coaching has a major role to play in helping organisations transform themselves in depth. Why ?

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Understanding environmental issues through training is a very important prerequisite, but unfortunately it is not enough to take action and change our business models and behaviors in a sustainable way.

Faced with a situation that puts the survival of humanity at risk, our most basic needs for security and connection are threatened. We feel powerless and alone in the face of the scale and complexity of the problem, which calls for a profound questioning of our systems. Where to start ? Isn’t there an enormous risk in being a pioneer if one is not followed?

The positive narrative of successful change that benefits everyone has yet to emerge. However, neuroscience confirms that our brain is mobilised above all by the positive, the hope linked to actions that make sense to us.

Some of us would like to change, but need to feel supported. They don't want to feel they are "alone against all" in their company, when they ask for vegetarian meals in the canteen or don't want to fly anymore in business trips. The challenge is to transform the collective culture, embarking the whole organisation in a major paradigm shift.

But where does coaching fit into all of this?

The difficulty and complexity of the obstacles to overcome require a higher level of leadership with qualities of courage, exemplarity, ability to influence positively and create a stronger cooperation. For this, deep personal work is necessary, among leaders, but also among managers and all Talents able to drive change, especially the younger generations.

The coaching of leaders, their teams and their organisations brings unparalleled depth to the support of the ecological transition: by reaching out to the Human Being, the Parent, the Citizen in each of us, by creating a strong alliance and exploring more radical and lasting options, unleashing the power of collective energy.

When coaching is included in leaders’ support, a space of trust emerges, where deep and authentic conversations can take place. Coaching allows the expression of our emotions and vulnerabilities, our fears, which are often swept under the carpet in a business setting. We make the connection with our own identity, our life mission, our deep desires for connection to others and for positive impact. A profound change in mindset most often occurs when we are personally impacted: by heart-to-heart conversations with the younger generations, by the personal experience of an extreme climatic event, through a reflection on the planet that we want to leave to our children.

The coaches, although trained in the challenges of the transition, give up providing ready-made options. Faced with the complexity of the issues, there is no single, simple, easy and obvious solution. If this were the case, companies would be much further along in their transformation. Humility is needed. The coach’s posture makes it possible to use questioning to challenge positively and get out of "business as usual". And the solutions that emerge come from the participants, which greatly facilitates the move to action.

Systemic coaching tools help design the transformation project in a much broader way by integrating all stakeholders: current and future employees, shareholders, customers, the entire value chain, the environment , ecosystems, future generations. This gives rise to much more innovative solutions, such as coalitions where the various competitors cooperate to change the entire supply chain.

Throughout the coaching the Head, the Heart and the Body are involved. The Head for the cognitive aspects, the science of planetary boundaries, the quantified analysis of impacts, the definition of indicators. The Heart for the expression of emotions, empathy towards each of the stakeholders, understanding of needs, mobilisation of energies. The Body for the concrete actions that allow us to move forward. Relying on others through collective workshops or co-development sessions is essential to maintain your energy.

Coaching nurtures hope and empowers people. Because it believes in the infinite potential of women and men, coaching is by nature energising and optimistic. Through powerful experiential workshops, which challenge while maintaining a secure framework, the magic happens. Energies are mobilised to imagine other possible futures and to give ourselves the courage to face the unknown. Active and lucid hope is reborn. Inspiring projects emerge collectively. The action makes it possible to garner initial successes which lead to a virtuous spiral.

The challenge is to transform the leadership culture at all levels of the company. Coaching has its place in the development of new skills for more courageous, conscious and responsible leadership, which is based on shared values ​​and inspires employees in these transformation projects. For the most seasoned leaders, the difficulty is to unlearn the ingrained reflexes that have allowed their success so far.

Technological innovations will not be enough to solve the multiple crises we are going through. At Seedlings, we are convinced that ecological transformation is also a cultural and societal revolution, an opportunity to deeply rethink our purpose, our values, our models and behaviours. Coaching has its place in facilitating these transitions.