Increasingly over the last few months, I have come across the word “disruptive” being used in an organisational context.  Change is, as we know, inevitable in both our work and home lives, but the idea of being purposefully disruptive is not one that sits naturally with me.  The word “disruptive” conjures negative thoughts in my mind, and I find myself grimacing when I think of it.

However, I have recently been thinking about my role as a coach and how that role sometimes requires me to be disruptive.  Whilst, by nature, I like the calmness of the status quo, my role as coach is often to challenge clients to think differently and look at themselves/their actions in a different light.

Additionally, I am coaching clients who are faced with disruption.  Increasingly they are asking for slightly shorter coaching sessions to fit into their busy work schedules, and we don’t always have the luxury of extended conversations to explore more transformational topics.  I get frustrated by the transactional nature of some coaching sessions, but recognise that (in this VUCA world), this is what some clients need from me.

Disruptive leadership has been common in organisations for a while, and Donald Trump’s team have infamously focused on (in the words of former White House strategy chief Steve Bannon) “the deconstruction of the administrative state”.  And it isn’t always a bad thing – bringing about change for the better and not just sticking with business as usual.

In a recent coaching session, I have been talking with a client about a big change happening in their organisation.  As the head of the organisation, my client is trying to protect their team from some of the disruption and upheaval caused by the change, supporting them to continue in their job roles.  This made me think that disruption from a leadership perspective may be common, and part of organisational change, but doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) lead to the dismantling of existing relationships.

So much of organisational life, and the role of leaders, depends on building and maintaining trust which can be damaged by too much disruption.  And can be an interesting topic for a coaching session!

I recognise that my role is sometimes to disrupt – to challenge and create a small amount of discomfort for a client to help them along their journey.   I am starting to see “disruption” in a more positive light – and not simply something a school teacher may say about a naughty pupil!

I would be interested to know your thoughts – how do you view disruption and is it simply a new term we need to get used to in organisational life?