A leading global financial services firm
The financial services firm recognized that it was facing a new economic and regulatory landscape comprising a myriad of interconnected complex internal and external challenges. In order to respond to those challenges, the firm wanted to develop a culture of continuous learning and development. The firm needed the agility and resilience to adapt in order to remain competitive. The firm had, until this point, used coaching on an ad hoc basis, with no real structure in place and with mixed results.
SOLUTION Designed and developed a Global Coaching Strategy and Culture. Critical to the development of the coaching culture was the development of a co-created, dynamic Coaching Strategy that supported change, built leadership capacity, and aligned with and supported the broader mission, vision and strategies of the firm. It was important to ensure that the coaching strategy was supported by an effective Coaching Infrastructure, this included: a strong sponsorship/steering group; a management group to drive, integrate and co-ordinate the various coaching activities; and a community of practice committed to ongoing learning and development. The next step was to work on the 7 key components of creating a coaching culture.
The Key Components in Creating a Coaching Culture
- External Coaching – Interviewing and selecting a pool of quality external coaches was an essential component of developing the coaching culture. Whilst there are, necessarily, many desired coaching competencies, critical competencies of those included in the pool, included, a deep understanding of: 1) the theories, methodologies and techniques fundamental to coaching; 2) the psychology and adult learning principals that underpin behavior change; and 3) business, organizational behavior, and the dynamics of working with groups, teams and systems.
- Internal Coaching – Developing a community of internal coaches. This comprised: a number of full time internal coaches; and a number line managers who would coach those in different parts of the firm on a part time basis. The coaches were selected in consultation with the firm’s senior HR leaders. We designed and delivered coach training, and provided on-going supervision and professional development.
- Leadership Support – Senior leadership support, commitment and encouragement are critical to the success of a coaching culture. Given this, we trained the firm’s leaders to use a coaching style in their own leadership as a way of engaging with all staff and stakeholders.
- Team Coaching and Organizational Learning – Recognizing that coaching is a key aspect of high performing teams, Team and Peer coaching were piloted throughout the firm. We also designed processes to coordinate, consolidate and integrate feedback and learning from the firm’s coaching conversations. This ensures that coaching becomes part of the cycle of ongoing learning, development and emergent strategy of the firm.
- Embedded in HR & Performance Management Processes – The coaching then needed to be aligned with, and integrated into a firm’s HR, performance management processes and competency framework. In this way, developing coaching capabilities and enabling the growth and success of others become critical KPIs.
- Dominant Style of Management – To advance the use of coaching throughout the firm and to support the competency framework, we designed and delivered both Leader as Coach and Manager as Coach programs. The aim of the programs was to develop the workplace coaching skills in both leaders and managers so that they could coach their teams more effectively.
- How We Do Business with All Our Stakeholders – Finally, the firm was taught how to adopt a coaching approach to the way it does business with its various stakeholders, including clients, business partners, suppliers and the communities in which it operates This included how they relate to, engage with, and address stakeholder’s current and future needs.
The CEO reports that that the culture of coaching and learning within the firm allows it to respond effectively and more creatively to its ever-changing context. Metrics have also demonstrated higher levels of engagement, motivation, performance and productivity. Coaching is now recognized as an essential element all management or leadership roles within the firm. Developing the capacity to work with and through others is a core competency. Coaching helped focus learning on the day- to- day challenges of the firm’s practice, in the context of its critical imperatives and the capabilities needed for success. Hesitant at first, the firm experimented with using a coaching style with a number of its important clients. In a subsequent client survey, this was identified as one of the firm’s key differentiators, elevating it’s Trusted Advisor status to that of Strategic Business Partner.
30 Managing Directors at a global financial services firm
The CEO and the senior leadership team had had positive experiences of working one on one with an executive coach. The coaching had not only had a positive impact on their own individual performance, but they also saw a positive impact on the performance of their direct reports when they attempted to use a coaching style in their leadership. Recognizing this, the firm decided to include coaching skills into its competency framework.
To formalize the use of a coaching style and to support the competency framework, we designed and delivered a Leader as Coach program targeting 30 senior MDs. The aim of the program was to learn or further develop the participant’s workplace coaching skills so that they could coach their teams more effectively. The program was results focused and evidenced based. It covered both the “how” of coaching (fundamental principles of coaching) and the “why” of coaching (how and why coaching works). The program was highly practical – the participants observed demos, engaged in coaching practice and were provided with individual feedback. Following the program, the MDs formed small peer coaching groups. Each group met twice a month to provide each other with support in perfecting their skills and learning from each other. We participated in those sessions to provide guidance, advice and coaching supervision for the first three months and subsequently on an “as needs” basis.
Three years after the Leader as Coach program, the peer coaching groups were still in place and going strong. By this time they met less frequently, usually once per month was sufficient. Despite reporting that a change in style and approach was a little uncomfortable at first, with practice, the MDs found that a coaching approach became their natural and default style of leadership. They believed that this not only had a significant impact on their own performance but reported higher performance, engagement and productivity from their direct reports. The direct reports said that felt supported and challenged to grow every day – they felt more competent, empowered and valued in their roles, and saw a longer- term future with the firm.
Head of Emerging Markets at Leading International Consulting Firm
The coachee was a powerful individual contributor. The emerging markets team was the fastest growing area within the firm and was undergoing significant change and transition. While the coachee was in the process of building a strong team around him, he still behaved like a heroic leader. As the team grew it would become increasingly important for the coachee to lead more collaboratively, to learn how to work more effectively with and though others, and to support the development of a high performing team. 12 months earlier the coachee had participated in a relevant internal training course followed by 6 one-on-one coaching sessions. At first the training and coaching appeared to be having a positive impact. However, despite the fact that the coachee was both motivated and committed, within 3 months of the conclusion of the coaching assignment the coachee had reverted to his earlier behavior.
Executive coaching initially focused on developing an appreciation of the value, and indeed necessity, for a more collaborative leadership style in the context of the firm’s strategic needs, business drivers and key challenges. Even with the development greater insight and self- awareness, the coachee was still not maximizing his full potential – he effectively had one foot on the gas and one foot on the break. Using proven evidence based techniques and approaches allowed the coachee to identify competing commitments, actions that were holding him back and ultimately helped him overcome self handicapping behaviors (such as avoidance of risk and perfectionism) that were preventing behavior change.
360-degree feedback had been obtained at the commencement of the coaching assignment through semi-structured interviews. Up to date feedback was obtained at the conclusion of the coaching assignment and again 6 months post coaching. This feedback indicated that the coachee was embracing a more collaborative leadership style and was delegating both effectively and efficiently. Direct reports indicated that they felt a greater sense of empowerment, increased motivation and enhanced satisfaction in their work. At the conclusion of the coaching engagement the coachee was promoted, and within 9 months the emerging markets team became the highest performing team within the North America business.
50 partners selected from the North American practice of a leading law firm
The law firm was experiencing high levels on interpersonal conflict, burnout and turnover coupled with low levels of engagement, motivation and productivity. The firm was divided along hierarchical lines with a strong “us” and “them” mentality operating to create mistrust and a lack of cohesion between the partners and associates. This impacted how the work was getting done within the firm and the maintenance of important client relationships. Measures of engagement and motivation were at an all time low.
Designed and delivered a training program for the partners centered on the use of Self Determination Theory (SDT) in their leadership approach. Many change programs designed to enhance motivation and engagement are lengthy, expensive and often ineffective. SDT on the other hand, identifies and supports the development of simple changes in the behavior of the leaders and people managers within an organization – these behavioral changes are small, but there impact can be far reaching. To facilitate these behavior shifts, the partners were provided with an overview of the theory and other related positive workplace practices, undertook practical exercises and experiential learning activities, and brainstormed ideas for incorporating their key learning into their overall leadership approach. They set specific targeted goals and developed detailed action plans to take back to the workplace. Each partner was provided with 3 months of one-on-one coaching post training to embed the learning, support the development of the skills and capabilities required to foster a culture of high performance, and to ensure long-term behavior change.
The program was evaluated both through qantatitve measures and qualitative feedback. The impact on the individual partner, their direct reports and the wider organization was measured through a Network Analysis. This identified a significant “Ripple Effect” throughout the firm, comprising higher levels of engagement, motivation, work satisfaction, self-esteem, performance, psychological and physical well being, and lower levels of anxiety, stress, emotional exhaustion, burnout and interpersonal conflict. One year later, Partners, Associates and support staff reported that the environment and climate within the firm had improved significantly, and that this in turn, had had a positive impact on collaboration, productivity and client satisfaction.
A senior leadership team within a international professional services firm.
The organization had developed a number of initiatives including a “one firm” strategy and a cultural change program to enhance collaboration and co-operation within teams, across functions and through a network of international offices. Many, but not all of the senior leadership team recognized that any change process started with them.
Using a Systemic Team Coaching approach, worked with the senior leadership team over a 12 month period to build trust, develop interdependence and to enhance cohesion and collaboration. We used an integrated, evidenced based approach that goes beyond traditional team building. It aims to enhance key relationships and helps a team work, relate and learn better together. It also takes a systemic perspective that recognizes that the team’s ability to implement change and radically improve performance is influenced by both internal and external factors.
This resulted in the senior leadership becoming a high performing, committed team – who developed collective leadership capacity and shared responsibility for leading, executing and delivering on the organizations strategic initiatives. The team felt better equipped to step up in response to client and stakeholder challenges and reported significant improvements in both internal and external relationships. The senior leadership team also became a role model for the rest of the firm.