Democratizing the Coaching Experience
As professional coaches, two of the biggest notions we need to shift are that:
- Coaching is prohibitively expensive and reserved exclusively for executives.
- Coaching is most effective in one-on-one scenarios.
As coaching professionals, we know that these statements are inaccurate. The most effective way to address these misconceptions is to help organizations democratize the coaching experience. Democratizing coaching extends the benefits of the professional coaching experience to a wider audience. Anyone in an organization who is looking to develop their leadership skills should have access to a professional coach.
A great example of this democratization is in an organization I worked with in the Canadian banking space. This organization’s leaders/stakeholders changed their mindset on who in the organization was given the option to partner with a professional coach. Their decision to make the coaching experience increasingly accessible delivered immediate and tangible results.
In under a year, the organization surpassed its competition in acquiring great talent, deepening its leadership bench for succession planning and positively impacting employee productivity and engagement. What follows is the background on why this organization decided to democratize coaching and where in the organization they decided to begin.
Before my tenure with them, this mid-sized Canadian bank did not offer coaching to the leaders who were responsible for large and diverse customer–facing teams. Starting here offered a significant opportunity, as these teams and their leaders were subject matter experts on how the organization got work done. They were also where the wider organization often looked to secure its talent. These customer–facing teams routinely promoted individuals who were experts at transactional processing and their leaders were asked to develop others in the same way. This type of rote learning focusing solely on the business objectives rather than the personal aspirations resulted in a lack of engagement, high turnover rate and inconsistent performance.
Individual team members who were successful as subject matter experts were now expected to deliver that same level of performance through the teams they were leading. As individuals, they delivered on objectives because the job itself, company and culture were a perfect fit. However, they were now working with teams that had different skillsets and levels of engagement. In some cases, their teams weren’t as naturally curious or the organizational fit wasn’t as ideal. This is when the bank decided to invest in professional coaching. The initial goal was to help their leaders develop new ways of connecting with their employees while simultaneously driving improved performance.
We set off to show these leaders how developing the whole person would continue to accelerate personal performance and that of others on their team. Though offering one-on-one professional coaching was not initially an option, bringing in coaches to facilitate group coaching was an agreed upon compromise.
Overview of Coaching Relationship
Our coaching sessions began with a focus on tone of conversations between leaders, their business partners and their teams. The coaches introduced self-reflection, melding personal and business priorities and forging a better understanding of the leaders’ decisions impacted the organization. The result? People came to work eager to learn, and the performance and benefits of improved working relationships were recognized across the broader organization as well.
Once leaders were encouraged to place their teammates’ personal goals at the center of each coaching conversation, key metrics such as attendance, quality of work, employee referrals and productivity dramatically improved. In addition, the number of ideas brought forward on how to improve operations increased, as did the number of employees who began voluntary participation in company benefits like the employee stock option plan. Employees began believing in their company leadership and wanted to share in their organization’s success. This change can be and was traced back to the introduction of professional coaching to leadership teams within the organization.
Show, Grow, Sew Model for Implementation
We introduced the “Show, Grow, Sew” or “SGS” model to these leaders. First, we shared why a new approach was needed and the benefits these leaders would experience with coaching. We took the time to show them how to implement what they were learning. The process was designed to be as visceral as it was intellectual. Then the process and experience needed to grow so that they as leaders could step into this new learning and pass their experiences onto others. Lastly, it’s imperative to sew the new approach into the corporate culture so that employees/the organization don’t become outdated, irrelevant or reverted back to previous habits.
Sustainability was our final focus. Though nothing can replace the benefits of personal coaching and the empathy and human elements it allows us to deliver, there are ways to help organizations maintain momentum across large and diverse groups. With group coaching, we focused on systems thinking and cross-departmental relationship building. Also, with the introduction of live coaching supported by artificial intelligence, we learned to optimize our personal talent by using more widely available technology-driven reinforcement tools.
With this mid-size Canadian bank as an example of the good that coaching in organizations can do and the success it can bring, professional coaches can begin to change outdated views on the benefits and accessibility of coaching.