Lorraine Poole faced a challenge. As HR director at DBS Financial Management, one the UK's leading financial advisory networks, she was charged with transforming the company into a more people-focused organisation. She recognised that the key to change lay in having managers who understood how to coach and develop themselves and their staff - something that the company had previously lacked.
"About 80% of what our staff do is handle complex and technical information relating to compliance and procedure. So, one of the main issues was that most of our managers had become managers because of their technical ability, not necessarily because of their people skills," explains Lorraine.
Maynard Leigh provided a tailor-made programme called Leadership Through Coaching for seventy members of staff and the board of directors. Staff were spilt into inter-departmental groups of twelve, and took part in three modules over two days, with a gap of six to eight weeks between each. "The main point of the programme was to introduce staff to the idea of coaching, get them to feel comfortable with taking on responsibility and build their coaching skills over time," explains Phil Peacock a senior Maynard Leigh consultant and coaching expert. "It was very hands on. Everyone was expected to try things out and talk about them afterwards."
The first module introduced the concept of coaching as a management style and explored leadership issues. It also introduced one of the most important aspects of the programme - developing insight.
The second module developed these concepts and the exercises involved practising coaching techniques, while also exploring feedback techniques, relationship building and effective ways of questioning people in order to get results.
The third and final module dealt with how to motivate staff through appraisals, and how to sustain change through coaching combined with appraisals.
Maynard Leigh also helped DBS introduce a buddy system in which "people were communicating with members of staff from different departments on a regular basis," says Lorraine. "I think it's reflective of how valuable everyone saw this programme that they actually took the time out to develop the skills they were learning."
"There were obviously other things going on as well, but I think that the work that Maynard Leigh have done here has been instrumental in helping us achieve our goals," says Lorraine. "It not only enabled managers and team leaders to develop their coaching and leadership skills, it helped us develop a common language and a clear definition of the role of a manager at DBS. It was also very much a team building exercise. Taking people out of the workplace and encouraging communication across departments has helped foster an environment where people are more open to discussing problems, issues and asking colleagues for advice. This cultural change has had a positive impact across the company and raised the standard of both external and internal communication, so our customers have also reaped the benefits."
Lorraine feels that the investment has certainly been worth it. "I almost got cold feet before we started. I knew we were about to embark on a very different approach to training and that it would be very challenging and take people out of their comfort zones. We knew it would either be perceived as the best thing we'd ever done or fall flat on its face - I was banking on it being the first. I had a limited budget for development training, but decided to invest the majority of it on Maynard Leigh's programme. In essence, I wanted to do one thing really well, not try and do too many things badly. The modules were very challenging for everyone, which I think is one of Maynard Leigh's strengths. They really make you look at things differently and question a lot of your assumptions. To be honest, they were a breath of fresh air."