The Inner Game of Change Leadership

Tim Gallway was the first person to coin the phrase the ‘Inner Game’ in his best-selling first book the Inner Game of Tennis, which sold over 2 million copies. Tim noted that there is always an inner game being played out in your mind, no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are about this inner game can make the difference between success and failure. Tim went on to write several books applying this insight to several fields of human endeavour, including the world of work and I recommend you explore his work.

In my work as a coach, trainer and consultant to change leaders around the world I have also noted that the challenges faced by leaders embarking on change can be categorised into Outer Game and Inner Game issues.

The Outer Game

The Outer Game issues are focused around the mechanics of the change challenge the leader faces. Understanding the hierarchy of change, the change curve, crafting a change strategy and influencing key stakeholders are but a few of the topics covered in this value space. Whilst important to understand, many of the insights needed here are available at the click of a mouse.

The Inner Game

The Inner Game is a different place entirely. How leaders show up and react to the change challenge they are presented with is a very personal space indeed. Helping leaders thrive with their Inner Game is where coaching and mentoring pays substantive dividends.

The first step is to ensure leaders mind-sets are in ‘growth’ not ‘fixed’ mode. This can be a challenge and present as counter-intuitive to many leaders. The confidence that served them so well in getting them into their leadership position in the first place, can work against them when faced with a change challenge about which they know very little.

It was Ghandi who wisely said ‘For things to change, first I must change’. Working out what Change Leaders need to change in themselves if they are to succeed is the first step in playing the Inner Game well. The things to work on can be a daunting list at first glance, but the most important step is the one that takes leaders into the Inner Game in the first place.

Entering the Growth Zone

Leaders who have the humility to realise what they don’t know they don’t know, dwarfs in scale what they know they know have entered the personal Growth Zone.

My coaching and mentoring support is designed to create a safe space for leaders to explore their Inner Game capabilities. Using profiling tools to tease out personality traits and personal proclivities is an impactful way to deepen leaders understanding of their blind spots. The insights they provide can also help leaders identify personal habit changes that will be needed to nudge their leadership impact towards the vision they want to deliver.

Giving leaders the capabilities and confidence to coach their colleagues and subordinates with compassion, remain resilient and mindful in the face of change resistance and to flex communication and leadership styles to optimise outcomes, is the playground where the Inner Game is won or lost.

My experience of coaching change leaders over many years has taught me that helping leaders to win the Inner Game is by far the best way to equip them to be self-sustaining and capable of facing any future change challenge.

If you would like to learn more about my work in this space then please contact me and we can start a conversation.