Are you aware of employees who feel out of their depth, disengaged, or who are failing to perform at the level expected of them?
Can you think of team leaders who struggle to find ways effectively to communicate with some of their direct reports?
Is your organisation going through a period of re-structuring or change that some employees are finding it hard to come to terms with?
Are your staff turnover and sickness rates higher than you think they could be?
As an accomplished HR professional you are probably aware that coaching is one of the most effective strategies at helping you address all of these issues.
According to research by CIPD, 51 percent of companies now consider coaching crucial to their strategy. Over 70 percent of organisations say they benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills, and 86 percent report they have more than recouped their investment in coaching.
Research shows that productivity, retention, morale, and employee relationships improve dramatically when training is combined with coaching. In case studies where coaching was added to training, productivity rose 88 percent. Without coaching, productivity rose only 22 percent.
Training leaders in coaching skills provides a way to create a safe, focused, and supportive environment for productive conversations. Research by Manchester Consulting shows that the use of coaching principles significantly improves working relationships among supervisors, direct reports, and their respective teams and demonstrates a 5:1 return on investment.
Executive coaching encourages leaders to take a step back and gain objective feedback, then challenges them with new ways of thinking and behaving. As a result, leaders are better able to focus on strategic areas of self-improvement such as actions or attitudes that may limit their influence.
Menzies Law believes wholeheartedly in coaching, as evidenced by the fact that we invest in it ourselves! And having experienced the benefits first hand, we are now adding coaching to our suite of services we can offer our clients. We work in association with a small number of professional coaches, who we would be delighted to introduce you to.
Just a few examples of what can be achieved, courtesy of our Associate, Sarah-Jayne Marriott…
Rachael had recently been promoted onto the senior leadership team of the environmental consultancy she had worked at for three years. She was the youngest member of the SLT by at least five years, and was also younger than all but two of her direct reports. While naturally outgoing, confident and competent at the technical area of her work, Rachael found she had low confidence in her ability to lead her team and a sense that she was an ‘imposter’ at senior leadership meetings.
At the beginning of our work together Rachael received a 360-degree report on her unique strengths and qualities as a leader (using Strengthscope®). This formed the basis of structured conversations in which she was able to recognise and acknowledge her own strengths and how they complemented those of others on the SLT. She was also able to identify how she could best capitalise on these strengths to develop her own unique leadership style.
Working for a family business
Rebecca is a member of the Senior Leadership Team in a small but growing family business. When we started working together she had recently been promoted to take on wider responsibilities and to manage new staff. She was feeling under-confident in her abilities to demonstrate the leadership qualities required of her new role, and to initiate the changes she felt needed implementing for the benefit of the business.
We discovered early on that some of her reticence and self-doubt came from the difficulty she had with separating out her professional identity from her personal one. She is the youngest in the family, and has always felt like the ‘baby’. Colleagues at work, some of whom were family members or friends of the family who’d known her since she was a child, used her nick-name at work and, she felt, didn’t take her seriously as a professional.
We worked together over a six-month period, meeting once a month for an hour and a half. Using structured conversations and exercises we worked to help Rebecca recognise the thinking that was impacting on her confidence, experiment with new ways of behaving and communicating at work, and in so doing to identify and capitalise on the strengths and resources available to her to become more confident and effective in her role. By the end of our work together she was routinely chairing monthly staff meetings, had developed with her managing director (older brother) a framework for structured weekly meetings, and had initiated changes in staff recruitment and induction processes.
When Simon began to work with me he was facing a challenging relationship with one of his direct reports, whose performance had taken a nose-dive over the past six months. Simon expressed a mixture of exasperation at the amount of his time being taken up managing performance, confusion as to what had led to the decline, and concern for his colleague.
Through structured coaching conversations we explored Simon’s beliefs about his own responsibilities and capabilities as a leader. We also carried out some exercises that allowed Simon to see his own leadership style through the eyes of his colleague. Simon came to a growing awareness that some of his own insecurities about his capabilities could lead him to be over-controlling and unable to trust in the capabilities of his subordinates, something that was exacerbated by a belief that the poor performance of a team member reflected directly on his own capabilities. He also realised that he was taking full responsibility for the performance management of his staff member, feeling it would be unprofessional to bring his own line manager into the process.
Through the course of our work together Simon felt confident to let go of some of the sense of responsibility he had, with the result that he communicated more effectively both with his line manager and with his team member. The team member responded positively to being shown more trust, but also felt able to be more honest about the situation outside of work that was impacting on his performance. In the end, the team member did apply for a new job outside of the company, but his performance during his notice period was back up to standard.
Hugh is the CEO of a UK based charity. When he came to me he was feeling unsupported by his board, tired of the responsibilities facing him at work and at home, and questioning how to bring more joy and purpose into his life. Hugh invested in a series of six coaching sessions over four months. Conversations and exercises helped him to him re-connect with his core values, identify his strengths (both realised and unrealised), and identify ways in which he could do more of the work that energised him and draw on support to help him address the aspects of his job he found de-energising. He also identified ways to communicate more effectively with the Chair of his board, with the result that what had felt like a hostile relationship once again became one of supportive challenge.
Joan is the HR manager of a rapidly growing consultancy firm. She is relatively new to the HR profession, having learned on the job as assistant to her predecessor. The organisation has grown from fewer than ten staff to over seventy in four years.
When we met, the organisation had recently moved to a Matrix style of management, and Joan was aware of the challenges being faced by many staff now having to take on team leadership responsibilities in addition to their technical roles. She also knew that many staff were feeling overwhelmed by the added complexity of their roles and the uncertainty around career progression and the development of the business. Major disagreements between two staff members had ended in them both resigning in the past year, and a third was threatening to resign due to the changing nature of his job. Joan had done a lot of research into potential ways of easing the transition and boosting staff morale and competencies. She had a number of ideas of ways forward, but was finding it difficult to prioritise strategies and identity where to start.
At this point we were able to develop a stepped process to help her and her Managing Director with the design, and then delivery, of a cost-effective approach. The design phase began with a staff survey across the organisation, and one-to-one interviews with members of the SLT and the current leads of the five biggest project teams. This led to the identification of key common themes of concerns, hopes, fears, and uncertainty that were pertinent to staff across the organisation. These themes were presented back to the senior leadership team and a facilitated meeting over two afternoons was held to identify strategies to address each of them. The second phase of the project involved investing in 360-degree Strengths profiling for all members of the SLT and the key project leads using Strengthscope®. Each team member had a structured de-brief on their strengths, and a coaching session to identify how to capitalise and build on these, how to recognise when they were using strengths in ‘over-drive’, and how to use strengths to mitigate their weaknesses. Simultaneously, Joan herself invested in four coaching sessions, to help her work through the priorities and best ways forward.
A second phase to this work is now being planned, which will involve the development of an in-house mentoring scheme, and a coaching programme for newly promoted leaders, and for those returning to work from parental leave.
Senior Management Team of an organisation in transition
The client was the senior management team of a marketing agency that had recently been created by the merger of two sister companies. The team members (eight people) were busy getting on with the day job of pitching for, winning, and delivering on contracts, but at the same time were getting to grips with what their newly merged entity meant for them as individuals and as a team.
Using ICS Connect, a Jungian based psychometric, each team member became aware of their own and their colleagues’ working styles and communication preferences. Through this they developed a common lexicon of working styles, and a realisation of how they could support each other to ensure that all aspects of their different strengths were drawn upon as appropriate to lead the new agency.
An externally facilitated off-site workshop helped the team reflect candidly on any regrets they had about what they’d ‘lost’ from their previous agencies, their hopes and vision for the new entity, and to co-create a way of working together effectively as a team through and beyond the agency’s transition. Each team member also had three one-to-one coaching sessions following the workshop, as the new systems were embedded.
As a result, the team members each said they felt much more able to work effectively and openly together, and that they were able confidently to communicate a unified agency vision to their own direct reports.
Coaching skills training for managers
The client, a tertiary education college, wanted to develop coaching skills in the senior management team. The idea was to foster a culture whereby leadership at all levels of the organisation was non-directive and empowering, in keeping with the college’s ethos and approach to developing self-sufficiency and motivation in its students.
The programme we designed introduced delegates to a number of coaching styles and approaches, and then gave them lots of opportunity to practise.
Day one of the training looked at different coaching styles, what works when, the different tools and techniques they could use and gave them the opportunity to try them out.
Day two gave delegates the chance to try out their new skills. We designed some case studies, typical of the situations in which they find themselves, and encouraged them to use these to act out the scenarios. Participants then practiced coaching each other on how to proceed with each scenario. It was a very immediate way for the participants to see the effect of their actions.
As a result of the workshop, participants gained an understanding of different coaching styles and the benefits of the non-directive approach. The programme increased their confidence in, and willingness to, coach their staff.
More about Sarah-Jane…
Sarah-Jane Marriott is a specialist in personal and organisational change, offering professional development coaching for individuals and teams, and consulting in strategic planning and evaluation.
Sarah-Jane’s academic background is in Psychology (BSc), and Demography and Global Health programmes (MSc) Having spent the majority of her professional life working in the field of international development and social programmes she has gained invaluable experience in helping people to recognise their strengths and move forward towards their goals with a positive attitude.
“Sarah-Jane is professional and rigorous whilst remaining warm. Her intellect is sharp and she astutely observed many things to which I was blind or avoiding, and yet she never held on to being “right” about me. It felt good to be recognized but not judged!”
Angela Davenport, coaching client, September 2014