Having worked with Corine in the past, Kevin Parry knew the difference coaching could make to a team. So when BladeRoom took on a huge new contract he recognised a need for a number of people in the management to step up, he approached Visibly Different to help out.
What was the challenge?
With extra work on the table and a need to take a more strategic overview himself, Kevin identified some key candidates as very “important cogs” that needed to both step up individually and also come together to understand more about what they needed to focus on together. Having been promoted quite rapidly and in some cases quite recently, there were some leadership skills that needed developing as well as general confidence issues to overcome.
Kevin describes the issue as “very much a nagging feeling.” There was nothing concrete he was worried about, he just felt there was a perceived need to support these guys in making an upwards step to ensure the company succeeded moving forwards.
So, what was the answer?
By his own admission, when Kevin engaged Corine, he wasn’t at all sure exactly what he needed for the team. He knew they could all benefit from help in different ways, but he couldn’t really put his finger on exactly what was required.
“I knew we needed a system that was quite flexible and could deliver training, mentoring and encouragement to help the guys find their own feet. I was thinking along the lines of training. But I’m not a big fan of standing in front of our people to train them unless it’s very purposeful; very specific and aligned to our goals. The thing is, I don’t think any of us quite knew exactly what the goals were. Obviously, I’d heard of coaching but the penny didn’t quite drop in terms of this is what we needed.
“ I think the idea of bringing someone like Corine in was to help define what the guys’ roles were, and define them as leaders. To lift the fog for them a bit. It was allrounder type stuff that was needed. And the only way of doing that was having someone who could talk to all five of them, develop a relationship with all five of them and find a process that worked for them all, individually and collectively.”
Corine suggested the idea of Stakeholder-Centred Coaching, explaining what it was about and how it would work perfectly in this situation to help develop a team of people with different needs but who also worked in an interconnected way. Kevin could see the possibilities for building on the skills of not just the individuals but the team as a whole.
“I was a little nervous about the idea to start with,” says Kevin, “mainly because I realised it would take a certain amount of bravery on their parts to really throw themselves into this and open up to it.
“Also, in our industry, and with the little sceptic on my shoulder, I realised we couldn’t have any gushy ‘coaching’ language around this and we’d need to measure the outcomes. We needed some metrics to prove the approach was working. Luckily the process really leant itself to that and we had lots of discussions about how we could make it work specifically for our team.”
Did the team buy into it?
Early on, Kevin identified a need to get everyone on board and bought into the concept of the coaching. To do this, we ran a launch event at Gloucester Rugby Club – offsite on neutral ground. This allowed the programme to be given the importance it deserved and to allow the team to see it was something that would be taken seriously.
“Of course, some guys were more receptive than others and we always knew it would be a challenge to get them all moving through the programme at the same time, alongside their day jobs and doing something they’d not done before.”
That’s where Corine came in. Through regular weekly check-ins with each of the candidates, as well as quarterly reviews, she could begin to help them identify the areas that needed work as well as strategies to start trying out as they went about their day to day business.
“I also felt that having an outsider around who was freely accessible to them all was, if nothing else, a great opportunity for them to cry, vent, seek advice etc. I partially sold it to them in that way to be honest. But it was, of course, a lot more than that in the end.”
How much involvement did you have?
“I made it my responsibility to get the guys invested in everything. Because my scope was quite broad I really relied on Corine to identify priorities with each of them. I wasn’t privy to those conversations. Of course, I caught up with them individually to make sure they were getting value from the process, but aside from that I tended to let them get on with it.
“I met with Corine monthly, myself, in order to talk about some particularly important themes, relevant to what was going on at the time. Broadly these were staff retention and attraction, how to create genuinely valuable one to ones, strategic thinking and also leveraging the programme of coaching to create more of a culture of improvement. Something the Stakeholder Coaching leant itself particularly well to.”
Kevin identified that measuring results was an important feature of their culture. So at the mid-point of the programme, we decided we headed back to the rugby club to see how everyone felt about how things were going.
“It was a risk, of course, they could have all turned around and said it was a load of crap. Luckily they didn’t. We all took a lot from the meeting, looking at where there were trends, joint improvements, things everyone needed to work on.
“Actually, it was the best thing we did. It was all overwhelmingly positive, so we realized that yes it was a challenge to get the ginormous wheel turning and the meetings and stakeholders on board. But now they all saw the benefit, it meant during the second half of the programme we all knew what we were doing and that it was working. It also helped that we had some of the Directors in the room who couldn’t believe what they were hearing and could see the changes.”
“It turned it from possible subjective L&D guff into something that was tangible.”
So what tangible results were you seeing?
“The one that sticks in my head is the comment that Andy made, he was our Finance Director at the time and was supposed to be moving into the role of Global Head of Finance. He gave Rob, a programme participant and finance manager, the target of removing 40% of the finance tasks from Andy’s diary. It was a number, it was a challenge, it was something tangible and real. That target was hit shortly afterwards and Rob was promoted to Finance Director and Andy had his role changed. So at that halfway point there was a real target that we could see and identify from one of the guys, it was real and there was a lot of backing.
“I felt quite vindicated. Professionally I thought, this is working we made the right choice, which was backed up by the Directors in the room. That’s from a business commercial view. My personal view was hooked on the concept of coaching and how it can be beneficial if it’s done well.”
And by the end?
The whole point of Stakeholder-Centred Coaching is to make positive changes, review results and refine in a dynamic, peer-reviewed way. So there are surveys, and to some extent metrics inbuilt into the process. We looked at ways of making the improvements even more tangible by sharing them with the Board.
“We came up with an idea: why don’t they all present to the Board? The candidates created a presentation to discuss in a session with the Board. They all had a consistent presentation to show where they were, where they’d got to and what they’d learned. That led a valuable conversation trying to find common themes about L&D, what needed to be done and the risks of not covering off this stuff considering all the challenges that are coming our way. And that has now turned into an L&D strategy and other stuff. So it’s good, very useful.”
But it’s not just that, Kevin has witnessed great and positive changes within all five of the candidates.
“For example one of them has always had some self-doubt. He’s literally come from a person who was on our factory floor to now being the Factory Manager and having more people under him than everyone else. The word imposter syndrome comes screaming into my head at this point. I visibly saw him change. And the very fact he stood up in front of the board to say, and more to the point, show this ability was incredible. Plus, the other managers noticed it and now there is no question that he is absolutely worth his weight in gold. (Which we always knew anyway!)
“It’s also helped to identify what challenges we have to address to keep this stuff going considering the company is continuing to grow. It’s something that’s on my mind and on the board’s mind. You bring in 30 extra people into a company of 90 and it’s huge. It requires some strategy and joined-upness around the change. This has given us more understanding of ways to make it work.”
Now some time has passed, what are your thoughts?
“The programme has benefited the wider team and it’s benefited me. The company has some big challenges coming, we’re living them at the moment. First and foremost, we know we’ve got five better managers in the key positions, so that supports things. And now some of their stakeholders are in line to begin something similar.
“On reflection, the programme has done a good job of setting in motion some momentum about coaching within the company as a culture thing. It’s set off good habits with our managers in terms of engaging with people, and that was another reason I wanted to do this.
“When I bought into Stakeholder-centred Coaching I was thinking about succession. If these guys are engaging with the people below them they’ll get better habits too. I hoped that would ripple outwards and it seems to be happening.
“It just feels like it was a ‘bloody good tonic’ at the right time, handled very well, I think we did it well because we focused on it and did the hard work to make it happen. But it’s not the only thing that massively benefited the company I think there are other things that contributed to these guys’ development and other L&D. But it certainly is a very, very positive thing to have happened in the last year. I think we found it was easy to lose momentum when things got busy. But all in all I was honestly surprised by how good the results were at both the half-way point and the end.”
“I’m very pleased with the programme, I’m very pleased with Corine, I’m sure the guys would say it’s been extremely useful. They deserve massive credit just for doing their jobs properly, facing the challenges they’ve had. But it’s been great to know they’ve had support in doing it. I can’t say for certain that without this programme it wouldn’t have happened, but I do know that it fast-tracked a lot of what we were hoping to get – so it’s been bloody useful for the guys and for the business. “
Want to know more?
If you’d like to explore the idea of stakeholder coaching for you or a member of your team, feel free to get in touch for a chat