Growing a coaching culture with action learning
A global pharmaceutical company had undergone significant transformation including a global merger and increasingly matrixed global reporting structures. This required managers to take a global perspective, leverage networks, and influence often without formal authority to deliver excellence across boundaries.
Throughout, the organisation maintained a commitment to develop and retain its senior leaders. Despite significant investment in a week long leadership program, leaders were not applying their learning on the job. A strategic goal emerged to create a culture of managerial coaching at all levels to support staff to adapt, engage, and perform.
Maximise Consulting designed and implemented a leadership program to help participants apply high impact coaching practices, over time, on the job. The focus was on peer-peer skills practice, collaborative social learning, sharing tacit knowledge and experience, and application to real work.
Small cohorts met for 2 hrs, once a month over 7 months to practice coaching skills applied to real-time people and performance challenges. To date over 50 leaders have participated in the program, including middle to senior roles from diverse functional disciplines.
Favourable feedback on the program’s value has enabled its continued success. A number of cohorts continue to meet to practice and grow their coaching mastery, and to use each other as a confidential sounding board.
Participants were introduced to highly practical tools and frameworks including deep listening, powerful questions, and meaningful feedback to encourage others to find their own solutions to learning and performance challenges.
The program also encouraged participants to apply reflective practice, collaboratively coach each other and receive feedback from a master-coach. The experiential discovery learning approach was less about text book theory, and all about practice and application, working with emerging themes from the cohort.
“It was powerful to hear other’s issues and to examine the richness of realities around the table to apply to my situation.”
“The focus is on us as role models to encourage a tipping point for us to become a coaching culture”.
Leaders also work in pairs between face-face sessions developing high trust to test approaches to real leadership scenarios, safely and confidentially. Participant’s managers also play a vital role in modelling the coaching practices and supporting learning transfer.
Program cohorts have developed a routine of practice and focused application of skills on the job. They have also identified practical tactics to address complex people and performance challenges. Individuals have through the help of their peers found the experience transformational.
“The program has helped me in a non-threatening way to change my own behaviour – tell less, and ask, listen and engage with people more.”
“I have really improved the quality of my one-ones, created better relationships and more open conversations with the team.”
“I find I am more efficient now through getting higher ownership for delivery. The team is more engaged and working a lot harder.”
“The tools were valuable and portable across work and home. I’ve improved my rapport with people and increased the accountability in my team.”
Highly collaborative partnerships across the business were formed and sustained beyond the program structure. A number of cohorts established an ongoing peer support community of practice to address emerging business challenges.
A language of coaching has highlighted the business imperative for having constructive people and performance conversations that encourage independent thinking, meaningful feedback, growth and ownership for change.
A leadership program was designed with a strong focus on peer-peer skills practice, cross-functional collaboration, sharing of experiences, application to real work and learning transfer. Leaders are applying high impact coaching practices on the job to bring out the best in their people through deeper listening, curious questions and feedback as a fundamental way of working. The program has continued to deliver value over 5 consecutive years.