A Differentiating Strategy for Agile Organisations: A Coach Training Program for Leaders and Managers
By Dr Darryl Cross (Institute for Leadership Coaching)
& Stephen Dowling (ETM Consultancy & Training)
Leadership is many things to many people (see https://leadershipcoaching.com.au/leadership/), but what is clear is that leadership now needs to be quick on their feet as it were and be able to source flexible solutions. Of course, we all know that life is fast-paced, but most leaders will now say that in business, it’s becoming frenetic and relentless. Some will readily admit to almost drowning in it all especially in relation to issues such as time management and work-life balance.
Furthermore, futurists such as Gerd Leonhard warn that once upon a time, business could be good enough, but now if that is the mantra for business, then it’s dead because the future is fuelled by digitisation, mobilisation, augmentation, disintermediation, and automation for example. It is experiencing unprecedented change.
In fact, the radical change that is upon us has been likened to an analogy of all the various trains (technologies) pulling into the station ALL at once. For instance, ‘Quantum Computing’ will fuel ‘Big Data’, the ‘Internet of Things’ will fuel ‘Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & Deep Learning’ which in turn will fuel ‘Robotics’.
So, bottom line, the latest thinking is that the level of change which has been seen over the last 30 years is nothing in comparison to what is coming. If this is true, the last 30 years of technological change will seem like a water feature, compared to the technology change of Niagara Falls which is coming over the next three decades.
In short, leadership therefore has to do something. Something different. Maybe something radical. The rules of the game are changing and the way we have worked in the past will not be suitable for the future. We need new ways of thinking and working which will allow us to better cope with the realities of the external environment. Leaders can no longer just be “Captains” and instead, they need to learn to be “Coaches” as well.
Captains cannot afford to be the “boss” any longer, being authoritative with centralised knowledge, trying to do everything right and therefore not maximising and unleashing the capability of their people. Of course, they want to be as “right” as much as they can, but now they can’t do it all themselves.
In contrast, they need to adopt a “Coach” mindset that will enable strong bonds of trust & loyalty to develop across the organisation, and allow for the sharing of knowledge, innovation, experimentation and some imagination.This is scary for some, but in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), no one person is going to get it all right anyway. No one person has all the knowledge and skills to make it all happen. Besides, because of the rate of change across countless arenas, no one person can be across it all anyway.
If organisations want to be able operate at speed, attract & retain the best talent they need to develop a culture of coaching within their organisation. This a way of building a protectivewallaround their highest performers. This will create strong bonds of trust & loyalty and will provide a critically important strategic defence in a very competitive marketplace.
Management has a responsibility to control the work within organisations. If the world is changing very rapidly and we need to be able to move at speed then our old historic rules-based mechanism (stop/go) of control will not always work effectively. We might think we are in control, but in reality, we will have less control!
If we use a traffic-based analogy, organisations will need more roundabouts to be able to better effectively control the work. Here we will get real time information, and to be able to make fast decisions, however, a key assumption being that we will have competent people driving the cars!
Instead, it’s about empowering our people and relying on our teams. But you say that business has always relied on its people & teams. True, but in a Captain style, not a Coach style.
To survive & thrive, all organisations need the ability to be able to sense & respond to a rapidly changing environment. This is the essence of ‘Business Agility’. So, what do organisations need?
Firstly, they need a suitable business model & business strategy in place, and, then the organisation needs to be able to do 3 things continually well:
(1) Delight their customers
(2) Delight their employees,and
(3) Have the ability to adapt.
Then, if we can do these 3 things continually well, we will have an organisation that can survive & thrive in a rapidly changing environment.
The companies that embrace agile & lean thinking & working will be heading down the right path to be able to do this. The foundation of all of this is to put in place a coaching ‘mindset’ starting at the very top of the organisation, and invest in imbedding & sharpening leaders & managers coaching skills which is a critical element.
DigitalOcean for example, a New York-based start-up focused on software as a service (SaaS) infrastructure, has engaged a full-time professional coach on-site to help all managers give better feedback to employees and, more broadly, to develop internal coaching capabilities. The idea was that once one experiences good coaching, one becomes a better coach. Not everyone is expected to become a great coach — those in the company who prefer coding to coaching can advance along a technical career track — but coaching skills are considered central to a managerial career.
Procter & Gamble, too, is intent on making leaders and managers better coaches. That’s part of a larger effort to rebuild training and development for supervisors and enhance their role in the organisation. By simplifying the performance review process, separating evaluation from development discussions, and eliminating talent calibration sessions (the arbitrary horse trading between supervisors that often comes with a subjective and politicised ranking model), P&G has freed up a lot of time to devote to employees’ growth, development and support and ultimately to productivity and the bottom line.
A Case Study
Closer to home in Australia, the Perth-based company, the ABN Group embraced coaching as a major HR initiative in 2013 by specifically training leaders and managers in how to coach and develop their people. They already had a positive culture based on effective communication and continuous feedback, but embarked on introducing a coaching culture.
This would bring about more focused, regular and constructive conversations. This meant that managers were closer to the real action and could be quicker in their reactions and their support. This meant that it was more of a united effort between manager and employee as they both journeyed together in terms of product or services refinement and improvement. No one person always had all the right answers, but the manager would coach about where to perhaps find those answers or where to look. It meant that employees would often go outside their area of expertise to consult, find out new information or perhaps innovate in ways to try out new things with their manager coaching them to do so.
The ABN Group looked to achieve the following:
(1) change the mind-set of leaders from being “Captains” to “Coaches”
(1) “fast track” the development of coaching skills for senior managers and leaders
(2) assist in the leader development program by growing leaders and “rising stars”
(3) increase staff engagement and retention
(4) create a high performance coaching culture in the organisation
They did this by implementing a comprehensive 12 month training program to bring about real change and then followed up in Years 2 and 3. Approximately, 20 leaders and managers completed the coaching course in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
It was recognised that real change would not occur over a one or two day workshop. Such courses are largely for entertainment value and do little to really add value and ensure that the training sticks. “Stickability” is critical. It was important for the Group to create new mind-sets and new habits with leaders and managers and this meant a sustained training program over time.
There was a follow-up in the second and third years to ensure that the change was being maintained.
Currently, talent mappingwithin the organisation continues to occur and those staff recognised as future leaders now are required to have mandatory coaching by one of the trained coaches within the business. Coaching is tailored to the individual with input from both the line manager as well as the employee themselves to set the coaching goals.
The HR department is now also involved strengthening internal processes and policies to ensure that coaching continues to flourish and that it meets the Board’s expectations regarding ROI. Specific software for example, is being instituted throughout the company to allow for greater ease of coach and coachee communication and tracking which also provides system statistics which can monitor coaching activity.
What’s the ROI?
Surveys from the ABN Group in Perth & Melbourne (turnover $1.4 billion per year with 1500 employees) show the following:
- In relation to improvements at work, 92% of Coachees and 70% of their Managers ‘Agreed’ or ‘Strongly Agreed’ that coaching had enhanced the coachees’ performance at work.
- In relation to goal achievement, 83% of Coachees ‘Agreed’ or ‘Strongly Agreed’ that they were consistently achieving their coaching goals.
- In relation to increasing staff engagement and retention, 64% of Coachees believed that as a result of coaching they now had a stronger desire to stay working within the ABN Group.
- Assessments conducted both pre- and post the course showed that participants increased in emotional intelligence, leadership skills, and listening skills, and managers rated participants higher on the 12 core characteristics of effective performance coaches.
- Testimonials from ABN Finalists for “Employee of the Year” points to coaching being a significant reason for their presentation and nomination by staff.
For more information, see https://leadershipcoaching.com.au/leadership-coach-training/the-abn-group-as-a-case-study/for the main video describing the program and its benefits as well as specific shorter videos relating to various aspects of the course.
Did this program bring about a coaching culture more readily able to adapt to changing conditions?
As people experienced professional development and growth, trust grew as did self-disclosure and openness and as a result, so did productivity.
It also broke down silos, in that coaches from different companies and sectors got to know each other well. Thirdly, they coached outside their own field and arena and into other companies which allowed the coaches to not only understand other areas of the company, but to call on the varied expertise if necessary.
Fourthly, it provided opportunities that arose for staff to work in other sectors of the company. HR for example now “partner” with the various areas within the Group and actually sit within the teams rather than in any head office arrangement in order to add better value in relation to people operations.
Fifthly, there was a preparedness to have courageous conversations and a willingness to give clear and constructive feedback. Finally, because the coaching built up a culture of both trust and loyalty, it helped build a wall around the rising stars in particular and increased their retention in the company.
The senior executive team as well as HR are committed to bringing about both personal and professional change as well as organisational agility which will continue to ensure that the coaching culture is sustained over time within the ABN Group and the group remains viable in a rapidly changing world.
Make no mistake, the world is changing very fast, and we believe it’s a very dangerous assumption to assume that what has worked well in the past will continue to work well into the future. We desperately need new ways of thinking and working which will allow us to cope with the realities of the external environment we face. Once we do this the future will be exciting, but if we don’t, we are destined to exist in a world where we will all keep struggling, working longer hours, getting more stressed, less time with our families and bottom line less happiness, fulfilment & satisfaction in society. And, we might kill off our business altogether.
Senior leaders have a huge responsibility to put in place a suitable ‘systems of work’ which will allow the organisation to cope & operate,and we firmly believe a great starting point is to embed a coaching mindset to help unlock the secrets of what this needs to look like for your organisation.
Developing a culture of coaching will help to unleash the full potential of your people, as well as providing the foundation for organisations to be agile,and be able to operate at speed. It will enable strong bonds of trust & loyalty to develop,and,it will provide a strategic defence by buildinga wall around your greatest people. Coaching competencies will providetangible outcomes for both the organisation & the individuals,and,it’s our strong belief that the best companies in the future will use this a key ‘strategic differentiator’.
[Dr Darryl Cross is a clinical and organisational psychologist as well as a credentialed executive and career coach. He is also an author, facilitator, international speaker and guest university lecturer. Dr Darryl assists people to find their strengths and reach their goals. He works with businesses to facilitate communication, create positive cultures and trains leaders to be effective coaches. Further information on Dr Darryl can be seen at www.DrDarryl.comand www.LeadershipCoaching.com.auand he can be contacted at [email protected]
Stephen Dowling is the Director of ETM which is a privately-owned niche organisation passionate about helping people & organisations make sense of our fast changing & complex world. ETM works extremely very hard to simplify the complex down to what you need to know and how you apply it in the real world. Our number one primary goal is always to ensure participants walk away from any of our programs with a full understanding of the important concepts and have some practical tools & techniques which they can confidently start trying to apply immediately. Since our formation in 2011, we have a proven track record of providing ‘best of breed’ training sessions across a number of different areas (Agile, Lean, Complexity, Creativity & Problem Solving, Project Management and Risk Management) always with, the ultimate goal of empowering our clients to deliver the best outcomes possible.www.etmmanagement.com.auand https://etm-online.shop/]