Being challenged, searching yourself, and stepping out from the ubiquitous "comfort zone". Cynics may argue that company directors expect this from others, yet side-step the uncomfortable process themselves.
There's no truth in that for Westminster Drugs Project. On a hot July day, their Chief Operating Officer sat before seven colleagues, listening to feedback on his style of communication, uncovering his Achilles Heel, which he was asked to work on.
Bold and unusual? Perhaps. But WDP knew this was what was needed to achieve the necessary culture change required to support their growing workforce. Between 2005 and 2007, their team grew from 100 to 250 employees.
"WDP started with ten people, where everyone knew what everyone else was doing, and there was room for stand-up debates, feedback," explains Antony Heaven, Learning and Development Manager at WDP. "But as we’ve become bigger and more professional, we’ve had to ask ourselves how we can keep that level of engagement and interaction between people in a way that is also supportive."
At this point of time, it wasn't just WDP who were facing growth - the entire field of rehabilitation was growing. This meant that people joining the organisation, while talented, would often not have experience of working in a similar field. Therefore, they would need additional support.
WDP worked with Maynard Leigh associate Terry Holmes to find a solution, and decided to bring coaching into the organisation. Coaching by Antony's definition would mean an approach one person would use to help another become more than they could be on their own.
Complications arose, emanating from questions such as how often to deliver coaching, how to make its impact last, and how to make sure everyone benefited while keeping costs down. The answer was to develop a course that trained every WDP manager to become a coach. This in turn would enable each manager to receive coaching from a colleague themselves, thus creating a "trickle-through" effect that would ultimately serve everyone. The ideal outcome would mean that the impact was felt not just internally, but to WDP service users as well.
Back in that meeting room in July, COO David Bamford was submitting to the same process he hopes many of the people at his organisation would go through. His coaches then went through that process themselves, reflecting on their habits and practices as coaches while simultaneously receiving coaching and feedback for how they came across in that moment.
Each of the eight people on the one-day workshop had already attended a three-day coaching session with Terry. From receiving coaching, they were now beginning a series of six monthly sessions on becoming coaches themselves. This monthly cycle of "coach and be coached" was intended ultimately to spread the supportive and creative effects of coaching throughout the organisation, and beyond it to the relationships that WDP has with its service users.
One participant told us that the workshop felt "like really good, safe laboratories." That to us is a clear summation of the experience we had in tailoring the workshops to what worked best for WDP, as an organisation that will fly solo as a 250-strong entity which coaches itself to coach.
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