For the past three years I have been working as a consultant and coach trainer for Southern Housing Group in Horsham and London. They identified coaching and mentoring as being vital methods for supporting staff and encouraging potential for middle and senior managers. They wanted to build strong foundations and create a coaching culture throughout the organisation. Their objectives were to motivate and encourage staff to take on more senior roles, to reduce stress and sickness and to ultimately save money on recruitment.
They began by selecting me as a coach consultant to advise and suggest robust ways to embed a coaching culture. They had identified a core group of staff to train in the ILM Level 5 Coaching & Mentoring Qualifications using a unique methodology, David Grove’s Clean Language and symbolic modelling. We set this up over a period of eight months, training two cohorts of 12 and 10 participants. All these members of staff were successful and they now have a core group of trained coaches to support staff. In addition they decided to train a group of 9 senior managers in the ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching and Leadership Mentoring Qualification. This was so that the core leadership team would be leading from the top and supporting middle managers to step up to more senior roles.
They found the clean language methodology particularly useful in removing assumptions and misunderstandings from daily communication. Using the two core questions in meetings and one to one appraisals enabled far greater clarity. Checking out with the developing questions ensured that there was very clear communication both written and spoken. There was less time wasted, people took more responsibility for tasks and the atmosphere was one of mutual support and collaboration.
Just digging a little beneath the surface of day to day communication can make a considerable difference.
Take Mike as an example:
Mike is head of marketing and manages a team of approximately 8 staff. He asked two members of the team to promote the annual conference internally. His email outlined the process and this is an example of one sentence:
“Please ensure all members of staff are notified and encouraged to actively engage in the conference”
This is a perfectly reasonable request however huge assumptions have been made. Mike may have in his mind exactly how he wants people to be notified. He probably also has an idea of how to encourage and engage staff in the conference. Unless more information is both given and requested the outcome may not be as he imagined or wanted. Unless the two staff members check understanding they may go off at a tangent or be less focused on the key areas of ‘engagement’ Mike has in mind. Their interpretation of ‘notified’ and ‘engagement’ may not be the same as Mike’s. Time will then be wasted in correcting the possible misunderstandings.
The key words here are ‘notified’ and ‘actively engage’
Using clean language the two members of staff could simply check:
And when notified, is that as usual through the newsletter, or did you have other methods in mind?
And when people are actively engaged, what kind of actively engaged do you mean?
And in your opinion what needs to happen for them to be actively engaged?
With just three simple questions there is more clarity and better communication. Less opportunity for mistakes and Mike’s team will deliver the outcomes having clarified what Mike had in mind. They may very well add their own views and ideas so that communication is collaborative and there are no mixed messages.
Across Southern Housing Group coaching conversations is now the ‘way we do things around here’ there is robust supervision once every two months for all coaches. New and returning staff are offered a coach as a matter of course. The coaching for managers with high potential is proving to be highly successful. This is re-enforced by the recent recruitment survey showing over the past two years that £37.000 has been saved due to internal recruitment and retention of key staff.