Following are a couple of case studies from organizations that have used coaching to support change. When you are supporting coaching for change it is important to recognize that every individual and organization is unique. While you may find similar situations or circumstances it is really important that you explore the reality of the situation and that you listen carefully to individuals and never make assumptions based on past experiences.
The real joy in coaching is using all your experience to focus on the needs of others, to act as a guide or a facilitator in enabling others to discover their full potential.
Within the Opticians business of Boots, there was a need to grow sales by differentiating our customer service, in an increasingly competitive market place. One of the barriers to this was a history of a primarily autocratic management style used by most of our managers. We needed to change this from 'tell' to 'coach', to release the potential of the store teams and to empower them to serve our customers better and deliver more sales.
Personal service needs empowered decision making, to be able to give all customers what they need - it can't be done by formula.
There was lots of latent potential within our professional staff (optometrists, opticians etc), who reacted badly to a 'tell' management style, usually from someone younger, with less knowledge and paid considerably less.
The business model that was being implemented was that inspiring leadership leads to motivated staff, which leads to satisfied customers, which leads to increased profits - one key element of 'inspiring leadership' was deemed to be a coaching style.
There was poor staff satisfaction across the organization especially amongst the professionals who constantly had issues with the ethics of their profession clashing with a selling culture.
There was a history of 'GROW' coaching, although often used inappropriately and manipulatively, so it was building on existing knowledge and skills.
Our program was based on the philosophy of 'increasing ownership to release potential'. This was also the most effective way we knew to sustain something in a business. We therefore:
Implemented the coaching program top-down cascade, and also did it with specific groups of managers to speed up the implementation. This meant the executive directors and senior managers going through it first. A planned cascade, followed with enough flexibility to put specific targeted groups of managers through whilst this was happening, to get the best possible results.
Identified and trained a large group of internal tutors, who then went on to implement the programme. Our role then became one of review, feedback and ongoing development of this tutor 'community'.
Used a specific version of coaching (the Inner Game) that defines coaching as getting someone to focus attention to unlock their potential.
Used upward feedback as part of the roll-out, to give individuals specific feedback from their subordinates, to identify the pressure to change. This was completely confidential to start with, and was then repeated annually and included in their performance review.
Changed the management structure to support the roll-out.
Ran our bi-annual stores conferences in a consistent style to the rollout, i.e. used a coaching approach rather than theatre-style tell sessions.
Introduced Operations Excellence as a program following it, which built on the style change and got ownership for basic retail standards.
Giving it enough time to become embedded as a changed behaviour - 'sticking at it!'
Protecting people whilst they were changing - removing the threat, making it safe to change, 'nurturing'.
Keeping stakeholders on-side during the inevitable 'hockey stick' of performance, as people experimented with a new or enhanced skill.
The reward culture recognized old behaviours and couldn't be changed fast enough.
Changing the focus of the business from head office to stores, when this meant the people sponsoring the program lost power/control of things themselves.
Tutors took some time to come on board and we needed to manage the resistance more quickly and effectively.
The 'hard' benefits will always be difficult to quantify as they are influenced by other factors. However, there was a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction results from those stores where the management team had been through coaching. There was a significant improvement when we re-measured staff satisfaction and upward feedback. The other benefits that were achieved were:
Personal development for the tutors.
Extra life skills for all involved.
Implementation of huge subsequent change with minimal HR support - the business became more self-sufficient.
Meeting effectiveness improved dramatically, becoming focused more quickly and getting clearer action at the end.
A major restructure, including numerous redundancies, was handled with greater dignity, empathy and all-round listening, resulting in the change program being held up as an exemplar within the Boots group.
Coaching isn't just a skill - it is a belief about how humans operate at their best and therefore works best as a larger culture change programme.
You need a senior-level sponsor for the work, who is prepared to fight the corner when impatience for quick results happens.
Coaching isn't a quick fix - it takes time to change behaviours.
Ensure you get enough investment in time and money agreed before starting the programme.
It is harder to get results when the required change is a 180-degree shift in management style.
You need to take a whole systems approach to coaching and look at the other elements that will affect its success, e.g. management structures, reward mechanisms, career progression etc.
Don't underestimate how much time and money it will take to maintain the skills for new and existing people.
Build opportunities to apply the skills into the programme.
I run emotional development training courses for schools and colleges with the aim of helping teachers, tutors and support staff to deal more effectively with emotional situations and challenging behaviour. During the program I run a short coaching session where I demonstrate how to help people broaden their choices when faced with an emotionally challenging situation. When most people are faced with a potential threat they naturally respond in one of two ways, fight or flee, i.e. they become aggressive (fight) or they become fearful (flee). In today's workplaces neither of these responses is effective in the long term, or appropriate in a context of professionalism.
An example of this approach was a client from further education who found that when faced with challenging behaviour her natural response was to 'flee'. She readily admitted that she lacked the confidence to assert herself around others.
As a result of the coaching this client discovered at both a psychological and emotional level that she had more options available to her than she previously thought or felt she had. Rather than having to choose between fighting and fleeing situations, which were both physically and mentally uncomfortable and harmful to her in terms of stress levels, she soon learnt that she could develop a range of options in between fight and flee, which we labelled the 'flow' state. The result was that she not only felt empowered in this state, but she also felt calmer and more balanced in herself and was able to think more clearly and creatively when she reviewed past examples of challenging situations. More importantly she was able to feel more positive and encouraged about facing challenging situations in the future.
Because my client from a very early age has tended to respond passively to 'threatening' situations, she has formed habits of thinking, feeling and describing her perception of life events in ways that maintain her passive nature. As well as shifting her thinking, the coaching also needs to create an emotional shift too. The skill of the coach to move people through emotional experiences in order that they reconnect with the thoughts and feelings associated with each state is key. The nature of the event meant that I only worked with her on a one-to-one basis during a one-day course; it is now up to her to practice what I taught her and continue developing what she learnt from the experience. This requires self-discipline and self-belief, as is true of all forms of development - academic, physical, etc.
Firstly I helped my client create the desire to want to change by making her aware of the consequences of not changing and outlining the benefits of changing. The coaching process creates a shift at both a psychological level and an emotional level that creates a very powerful and long-lasting learning experience. She has a supportive group of people around her who can encourage and motivate her when her ability to encourage and motivate herself is lacking. She also has a link with me via the Internet, which she has used to update me on her progress and enables me to encourage her from a distance.
She informs me that she has approached situations at work (eg public speaking) in a more assertive and confident way and in so doing is developing her ability and improving with each situation. Outside of work she has also made progress. I received an e-mail from her describing how, while taking part in a charity run with her daughter recently, she found the inspiration and the assertiveness to break away from her group who were gently jogging to the finish line to sprint the last 50 metres despite everyone else's reluctance to 'show themselves up'.
Emotional coaching as with all forms of coaching requires you (as the coach) to go first. It's no good standing on the opposite side of a ravine shouting 'jump' to your client. Effective coaching requires you to bridge the perceived gap between where the person is and where he or she wants to be. There is a multitude of tools and techniques available for coaches to use in order to help someone through transition. The most powerful, however, is the coach's seemingly natural ability to transfer empowering states of mind and feelings that inspire and encourage others to make that leap by example.
Today we are fortunate to be able to study, reproduce and further develop another person's 'seemingly natural' ability using studies and modelling techniques from fields such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
September 2003 saw the introduction of a Global Coaching Program for first-line managers. This was part of a major change process launched in 2002, a change process with three main vectors - strategy transformation, establishment of a balanced matrix business model, and people excellence.
People excellence, as a complement and counterpart to business excellence strived for via the other two vectors, consists of four interlinked projects designed to blend leadership and involvement in a balanced form of 'distributed leadership' suited to both the balanced matrix and the network organizations of the future, especially in service companies dependent on people rather than products (see Figure 8.1).
'Leading from the top' involved the executive management team in establishing key strategic principles to guide the company over the next three to four years. This was flanked by 1,000 appreciative inquiry interviews at all levels of the organization. The interview results served as the 'dough', which 300 managers kneaded into our Mission, Vision and Values at the international management meeting in November 2002. The same managers walked the talk during 2003, both in town talks in 25 countries and in cascading workshops to anchor the vision and values in relationships and behaviour.
'Leading from the front' picked up the strategic guiding principles - strong leadership, active responsibility, intense cooperation and top performance - as the focus of a staff survey in early 2003. Six hundred reports were generated. Action learning sessions created the follow-up and implementation, leading to more than 400 actions documented in our knowledge management system.
'Leading from the center' started in November 2002 with drawing the local unit managers (ie those in the crosshairs of the matrix responsible for P&L) from 40 countries into a development community based on peer coaching and their experiences in running international and/or cross-business-unit deals. This was followed up by launching the Global Coaching Program in September 2003. In many change or transition processes, middle managers are often either overlooked or deliberately left out, since they are perceived as a source of resistance to change. Our approach was to bind them in by establishing coaching as the key leadership style in the company and developing first-line managers as the highest priority. The program (seven days, three modules, distributed over six months) focuses on personal effectiveness and performance, combined with implementing the strategy at the customer interface and living the vision and values in staff relationships.
The biggest challenge was and is developing a common culture after eight years of constant mergers, reorganizations and acquisitions.
The second challenge was winning investment for a purely people-centered program when the company had suffered losses year on year from 1996 till 2001.
The third challenge was to make clear to top management how the four projects dovetailed to change the company culture, and to convince them that patience was important, as it would take three to five years to reap the benefits.
The final challenge was shifting the mindset of top management on coaching from a 'remedial' view, through a 'me-too, individual developmental' view to a genuine 'distributed leadership' view aimed at equipping middle managers to coach first their people and then the organization - in other words, to act as the 'transmission belt' of strategic change.
By engaging the executive management team in writing individually an 80-page homework book called 'Framework for Renewal', and deriving with them the strategic guiding principles as their common mindset.
By involving them in appreciative inquiry interviews - each executive interviewed five people in the organization for two hours and was interviewed by those five for two hours - to discover how to leverage the guiding principles. These two approaches led to a strong commitment to walk the talk.
By involving the entire international management (plus more than 2,000 employees via an intranet questionnaire) in establishing our vision and values.
By consistency of message, surfacing the areas for improvement related to the four guiding principles via a staff survey, which 14,000 employees took part in, and over 400 documented actions arose relating to leadership, responsibility, cooperation and performance.
By successfully forming a networked community of local unit managers to design their own development and show the advantages of peer coaching across a matrix organization.
On the basis of the above, by convincing top management that a coaching, dialogue and feedback culture is essential for success in a service and people company.
Fiscal years 2002 and 2003 showed a profit for the first time in the company's eight-year history.
'Distributed leadership' is being established as a mindset throughout the company, and as the most effective and efficient way to leverage the balanced matrix.
Within this concept, coaching has come to be regarded as the core leadership style for the company, leading to piloting the Global Coaching Program for line managers from September 2003 till March 2004.
Via 360-degree feedback and other metrics, the 36 participants from 11 countries have shown measurable results in ROI with regard to productivity, quality and the bottom line.
As technology and price become more similar, as the options for customers and consumers increase and as cost cutting is finite if you do not want to strangle a company entirely, the importance of ROHI (return on human investment) becomes key.
Investment in people in terms of meaning, in terms of distributed leadership, in terms of values will make the difference between success and failure. Balancing sustainability and strategic flexibility, continuity and change, the cathedral and the bazaar, is the big challenge for all organizations of the future. Investing in individual and organizational coaching holds network organizations together, while allowing them to breathe with change and transition.
I run a workshop for Vodafone UK focusing on work / life balance and transformational leadership. It takes the form of coaching a group of 15, accompanied by individual coaching sessions where necessary. The purpose is to enable each delegate to achieve an effective work/life balance that provides maximum benefit to both the company and the individual. For the benefits to be maintained it is imperative to ensure the learning is something each delegate takes on board as a true behavioural change, rather than just being a methodology that has to be consciously applied. Three months after the end of the program the delegates have to write a report explaining how by improving their own work/life balance and personal satisfaction there has also been a considerable financial benefit to the company.
This case study looks at the experience of Debbie, who is a regional retail manager and a single mother of three. She was spending a lot of extra hours on work in order to feel she was on top of it, and consequently fewer hours at home with her children. This case study contains perspectives of the process from both Debbie and myself.
Putting into practice the theories and models used to manage work/life balance.
Time management - actually creating the time to make it work.
Understanding the impact of how it could change my lifestyle.
My own personal fear that by using the new practices my life could have been a lot better balanced before - so there was a lot of soul searching and acceptance that life is all about learning and it never stops, and it's not that I was doing it wrong before but that a new way is just more effective.
I had used work as a crutch for a long time and would now be having to deal with 'real life'.
Accepting constructive feedback on my own style, on me.
Taking on board others' comments, instant perceptions of me and what impact I could make/had made.
Learning to listen, stop, reflect and act - and actually making the time to do it.
Learning to like myself - my personal life affecting my self-esteem and morale, and actually hearing that I was OK and that by liking myself and not personally berating how I managed work, family, friends I could actually improve all my relationships and be a better mother, daughter, partner, friend, manager, colleague.
My dedication, focus, time had been around work and I had ignored, even though I was aware of it, the importance and impact my closed approach to personal matters was having - if I stopped then I would have to deal with it and that is where the initial fear comes from - stopping, taking stock and realizing that the priorities had been in the wrong areas of my life.
I can do the work day job - what if I couldn't do the personal balance? Being competent, recognized, accepted in my work life made me question could I really do the life/personal job - juggling it was the norm, but actually dealing with it?
Could I do it?
Debbie's cynicism of the benefits of life coaching.
Her fear of changing a well-honed strategy of control that covered up stress and dissatisfaction, to replace it with one that would force her to look at other options that she hadn't tried and tested.
Her negative opinion of herself and her abilities, and her low self-esteem.
My coach overcame these by:
Having faith in my abilities and communicating them back to me.
Understanding my fears - even when I hadn't articulated them and even when I sometimes wasn't certain what they were!
Making it all clear, simple, practicable and user friendly.
Questioning - me, my lifestyle, my goals and aspirations.
Giving me the time to make my own decisions.
Using various models and theories and allowing me to choose the ones that fitted. One example was exploring a person's behaviour versus their intention. This blew me away. As a simple thought process it allows a better, calmer approach and understanding of an individual/group interaction and has most definitely helped me develop and understand people's behaviours.
Allowing me the time for trial and error.
I overcame her cynicism by building up her trust with me - allowing her the time to see that what I had to say made sense, and allowing her to go away and think about it. By having her create a realistic and personal vision of what things would be like for herself, the company and her loved ones if she carried on as she was, I helped to overcome her fear of leaving some of her old strategies behind to take on new, more effective ones. I run an exercise that has people realize that they can control what they do with their time, and that time is precious. It is a big motivator to ensure people are filling their time with activities that are meaningful for them. Debbie says about this:
the scariest moment was the review of our life - the walk and where are you now. Because it was made into a physical exercise it brought home the reality of what we can accomplish with the time we have left and there being very little of it, so time is a precious commodity and one that we effectively waste each day.
Having Debbie take personal responsibility for her choices and their impact was the key to turning everything around.
My whole demeanour has changed:
I'm calmer, more approachable, most certainly a better time manager, focused, don't procrastinate, more proactive, better listener, more aware of others around me and what impact I can have by my personal language patterns and also my behaviour.
I care, genuinely care, about others, what they can offer and what I can give back.
I don't make assumptions until I have explored, listened and questioned.
I bite my tongue - a lot! This is good for others around me.
Actually having a work/life balance and enjoying it.
Professionally working smarter but not harder - effective in the time I am paid to work (still not got down to exactly 40 hours per week but managing the day job in under 50!).
Displaying better behaviours, which are now commented on by my colleagues, staff and line managers.
I have more financial control! This has been achieved by better planning, being more organized - no guilty purchases for working late and having to buy the affections of others!
I don't squeeze time (ie by not doing five non-effective store visits per day but one very productive and effective store visit) - I work with the time I have got - priority management.
Personally - have met my children halfway - we all own our family relationship and they now do creative planning, mind mapping, are calmer and more supportive - I feel less guilty, for when I work I can concentrate on the task and know that when I am home I am there in body and mind! Not as previously just the body!
I have a new man in my life - one who had been there for nine years and I had never noticed!
As well as the observable benefits to Debbie, any coaching (however quick and informal) I do with her now is so much easier for me and for her. The process becomes faster and smoother.
For people to change the way they are doing things there has to be a genuine desire for something else. If there isn't, then the motivation for working at it won't be high, and the chance of maintaining the results will be low. Ensure clients are in a state where they are truly hungry for what you are helping them towards. Individuals may express a need to change for all sorts of reasons that aren't about true desire, e.g. peer pressure, doing what the boss says, boredom, and in those cases the coaching process usually won't work very well. That desire will come from something deep inside people, and there will be an emotional response to the thought of it. If you are not sure your clients have a real desire, or have the right attitude, to personal change then first find the emotional 'hook' that will facilitate it before starting on the process of getting them there.
Certain models had the greatest impact and are tools that I genuinely use daily.
There is a range of models and techniques that I use frequently to help move clients forward as quickly and effectively as possible, but those alone do not create personal change. It is the flexibility of their use and application, the selection of the right technique for each unique situation, and the sensitivity towards the client as an individual that create success. It is the skilful combination of those things that make for a great coaching outcome.
As part of its broad objective of supporting organizational learning, the United Nations Development program (UNDP) launched the Learning Manager Network (a global network of learning coaches) concept in October 1999 as a way to better support the global development of staff competencies, with individual self-directed learning as the anchor. Three years on, over 95 per cent of all 140-plus country offices had learning managers/learning coaches. As participants in specifically designed action-learning-based learning manager workshops, the majority of learning managers have undergone coaching training to equip them with the basic competencies required for their challenging role as change agents for learning. In that context, newly appointed learning managers, most of whom were totally new to the concept of coaching, were coached one to one, experienced group coaching and had an opportunity to practice coaching themselves in order to learn how to coach their clients back in their duty stations as opposed to becoming merely experts for learning. At all times, the learning manager function is supplemented by support from headquarters as well as through exchanges and peer support within the Learning Manager Network (LMN) itself. The LMN has become a community of practice that has evolved into one of the most vibrant and largest of UNDP's networks. The LMN is a determined group of learning coaches who have volunteered (and been nominated/supported by their managers) to support and advocate for staff learning in addition to their other functions.
Creating a largely decentralized and virtually operating network where ongoing trust was the underlying source for successful reciprocal learning and mutual collaboration.
Resisting the temptation of planning every detail and enforcing the implementation of every planned detail on the list in the roll-out of this project as opposed to going with the flow. For example, ensuring the natural growth of the network based largely on interest of the (self-nominating) learning managers as opposed to enforcing top-down nominations of candidates.
Respecting the diversity of the group and allowing for different learning manager approaches in different cultures, by different people with different skills and in a different work context.
Ensuring continuous collaboration amongst all the members of the network after their return to their duty stations.
By embedding the learning managers into a learning process where they begin to experience the power of the network from day one of their nomination, and bringing them together for the action-learning-based face-to-face workshop (a completely customized workshop designed to address the needs of each and every participant) and their coaching training very early in the process.
By establishing broad goals, like the expected coverage, with learning managers, and at the same time responding quickly to emerging detail issues even if they were not on the initial plan, such as support to a regional meeting or quick and unbureaucratic support to a new learning manager who has replaced somebody who had just been trained. Also being willing to let go and respecting silent periods or virtual disappearances.
By emphasizing that each learning manager has the right and duty to determine, based on his or her personal situation, what can be done on the ground and what can't. The corporate learning function provides the framework and support mechanisms. Rather than mandating the implementation of certain activities across the board, which often leads to frustration, this sort of situational performance management approach leads to an empowerment of the incumbent and to a motivation that results in a much more dedicated effort (self-directed), ultimately with much higher impact.
By providing continuous support to the network via electronic media, from telephone to collaboration technology. Making staff time available to deal with emerging issues and at all times modelling the behaviours expected from them. Ensuring quick turnaround when support is requested. Undertaking occasional visits to country offices and giving pep-talks about learning to support the learning manager role. Enhancing the visibility of the LMN in the internal and external context. Fostering sub-regional collaboration amongst learning managers: the management of the project needs to stay in touch with the group as a whole. Making uninvited contributions to the network, sending out documents, sharing information, commenting on something positive that happened elsewhere in the LMN.
The support the members of the network have been giving each other can hardly be expressed other than in the stories from the trenches but it has been very, very real. The activities within the network vary from a quick 'Happy Birthday' note, to a recommendation for a consultant, to badly needed moral support in a difficult situation. From an impact point of view, the learning managers by now have become strong allies of the central learning function and, on top of delivering ongoing learning support on a global scale but locally adapted, they are increasingly called upon to get involved with corporate initiatives such as the roll-out of a new performance assessment process, the roll-out of the online computer driver's licence (ICDL) and the 360 feedback program. Thanks to their dedicated work, 59 per cent of UNDP staff confirm having spent at least 5 per cent of their work time in 2003 on learning (up from 53 per cent the year before) and they answered yes to the question as to whether they receive the training needed to do a quality job in the Global Staff Survey 2003. A total of 66 per cent now say 'My supervisor encourages me to take advantage of learning opportunities', as compared with 62 per cent last year and only 50 per cent two years ago.
Managing such a network is like coaching an extremely diverse group of people at three different levels at the same time, namely individual support, group support and a focus on creating organizational impact. Trust the process and provide ongoing support (yourself and your team) at all of these levels simultaneously with a view to empowering the whole group rather than solving their problems. In the end, this will be a perfect approach to solving your main challenge: ensuring the enhancement of organizational learning.
All learning managers are fully aware that change happens at different levels - individual, group and organizational. Therefore they are each trained to find their personal entry points for best results at any of these levels. Since the situation in each country office is different, it is important to accept that what represents the challenge in one office might already be an achievement in another office and vice versa. This is exactly where the power of the network becomes most obvious. Sharing and mutual support in their everyday functions, at any of the three levels, are at the heart of the LMN. Whether the challenge is of a personal nature, such as becoming a better listener, whether it is related to the group/office level, such as how to best promote the use of learning resources in a particular office, or whether it is organizational, such as how to advocate for the 5 per cent of staff time for learning, the learning managers can safely rely on the respectful support of their peers.