Denise: It makes really good sense to them. Frontline and middle managers can be neglected in terms of leadership development. Organisations are changing their expectations of managers in relation to leadership: they are now asking every manager to be a leader. Making that sort of change is not as easy as flicking a switch: you need to drive it with appropriate interventions.
Andrew: People are good operational managers but understand that they need to think more strategically. They also want to communicate better and get more from people. My experience is that the managers I work with see and grab the opportunity in coaching.
Mark: I agree, the overwhelming feedback is positive. It’s often the only one-on-one that they get, and there’s a huge advantage in it being someone outside of the organisation. We bring in new ideas about what leaders are and do. The coaching gives managers a sense of control over their leadership job.
Jane: A lot of managers have never had structured leadership learning. I had one manager who was quite sceptical, with a kind of defeated mindset about what wasn’t working for her. The coaching gave a respectful opportunity to unpack some of the issues, and with this she realised the benefits. Now she’s a convert!
How does coaching change what people do as managers?
I also think that the ‘I-WE-YOU’ leadership model we use in the coaching is critical in driving change. It enables the coaching to focus in on what is the greatest development need depending upon where the leader is on their leadership journey. ‘I’ is about formulating your own leadership identity and self-management. ‘WE’ is about building skills and influence with others. The ‘YOU’ is about strategic thinking – getting ‘off the dance floor and onto the balcony’, and asking, ‘how does my leadership help us meet our business goals?
Andrew: Jane’s right about more strategic communication and I’ve seen also people develop more strategic thinking. And related to this, I’ve also noticed an increased ability to interact with people outside their group and break down the "silo" mentality. This is very beneficial for the organisation as a whole.
How does the coaching enhance the manager’s experience of the organisation?
Denise: It changes the manager’s perspective of their role in the organisation: they feel more involved in leading the organisation. Also, the coaching is an important demonstration of recognition and acknowledgement of their role.
Mark: Our before and after Leadership Capability Assessment Tool (LCAT*) shows a jump in managers’ self-perception of their ability to be promoted in the organisation. Previously they were unsure. This has implications for career pathways and retention.
Jane: I think it re-energises people. They appreciate that the company wants to invest in them as a leader.
Andrew: Yes, and I think people get a greater understanding of what they do and how it fits into the bigger picture. The managers I work with are thirsty for this understanding.
Finally, what about the overall impact on organisational culture?
Jane: Often it’s the small things that make the biggest difference to the impact of individual leaders. For example the leader realises that they don’t have to create strategy on their own – they can create it with their unit or team. Then everyone feels that his or her ideas are valued.
Mark: I think there’s a discernable shift from ‘I’ to ‘WE’ with the managers I’ve worked with, and of course there’s a flow on through their teams.
Andrew: This is difficult to answer because I only see a snapshot and cultural development is a long-term thing. But I’m getting a sense of a tighter culture, more rapport and perhaps less purely transactional interactions, in the companies I’ve worked with.
Denise: I finished a Coachlive program with a client the other day and there was a suggestion that the cohort stay connected and share stories, issues and ideas. I thought this was a great idea to come from the organisation as a way to embed cultural change from the program.