Research Paper By Catalina Neacsu
(Life Coach, ROMANIA)
A journey of transforming HR group into a team through coaching and coaching it forward
Few years ago I was appointed HR Managing Director in multinational company in the energy industry – huge career opportunity!
I was working in the company for 10 years already, in Internal Communications, PR and Marketing area, and the rumors had it, that HR department was lacking the human: low professionalism, delays, lack of communication, and through my direct experience with HR, even I had the belief that HR team seeks only company’s interests not employee interests. Luckily for me the job opportunity came few months after I enrolled to ICA certified coaching program.
My very first action as head of this team of 35 people was to set 1 to 1 meetings with all of them regardless their position in the department.
My 1st learning from coaching: Be curious!
I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. Albert Einstein
I developed my own 1 to 1 questionnaire (please see attached at the end of project) to get to know each other, to better understand the relationship dynamics of the team, their needs, goals and dreams.
I structured the questionnaire in 5 areas:
- About the Company – I wanted to understand how our HR people perceive the company and its culture
- About Team and Relationships – to understand the dynamics of team members
- About HR Department – how they see it
- About – People – themselves and their wishes and needs
- Their Expectations toward me
* In the questionnaire I used open ended questions, I played with visualization, asked their opinion, checked their feelings and made it personal ** The first 1 to 1 sessions took 2 to 3 hours with each person. Took me 1 month to run them. *** The source for questionnaire was all mighty google
Mapping the 1 tot 1 questionnaire to coaching:
- Build Rapport & Trust – establishing agreement, building trust and intimacy, showing that you care
- Explore the current situation – checking in on their general happiness and business acumen
- Find out about beliefs, values and goals – individual and group
- Explore options and make them contributors – talking about ways to improve the team and the company, career development
- Check the expectations & commitment – giving and receiving feedback
Ask questions! Listen!
1 to 1 meetings play a massive importance to any leader or team member relationship. What you talk about and How you talk becomes a game changer in the performance of your team with huge impact on team’s morale and engagement.
Partnership, ask, listen! Be curious to know them and their story. All you need to do is take an interest in them as people. Dig into their responses and really explore their answers, ideas, frustrations, and feedback by asking questions. By learning what’s important to them you build more and more trust, rapport, and loyalty. Find out what’s important to them and what their interests are. Start by getting to know them and then revisit asking about the things they care about in future 1 on 1 meetings.
By asking questions, you’re building partnership, working together to make things better. It creates a partnership contract between the two of you to both keep your promises.
First big outcome of this 1 to 1 exercise was that the meeting itself was a game changer!! Had impact from the beginning! The people were unspoken! They were full of frustrations! And most of them were coming to work only for the income!
All 1 to 1 meetings ended with people saying “thank you! For listening to me! For asking me about how I am, what I do, how I feel, what I want!”
It was that moment when I realized I will be even more successful if I would be able to extend my coaching knowledge to the entire team. So, I started coaching my front-lines. The team leaders. I started coaching it forward by bringing at the table all the knowledge I’ve got from my coaching experience, creating coaching conversations instead of checking the boxes and making a project status.
If you get, give. If you learn, teach. Maya Angelou
The 1 to 1 meetings became our coaching moment. The approach was not directive but collaborative. All team members were encouraged to listen and ask question. To help people become better versions of themselves by holding space for them to solve problems and accomplish goals. They were encouraged to become business friends, to say thank you and always focus on the positive aspect.
At the next 1 to 1 meeting (only with team leaders this time) I gave them a template of my 1 to 1 q and asked them to start having regular 1 to 1 meeting with their direct reports. I also draw a set of rules, the 10 amendments!
Coaching can also be defined as “a process where individuals meet on a regular basis to clarify goals, deal with potential stumbling blocks, and improve their performance.” One can help people become better versions of themselves by holding space for them to solve problems and accomplish goals.
It took me one month to roll all the 1 to 1 discussions. Within the next month I started working on a conclusion rapport with which I was going to put back HUMAN into HR. Below mentioned only the findings where coaching was applied (the full original rapport can be provided if required)
A pre coaching initiative, a 1 to 1 questionnaire can help to initially measure an employee’s level of competence, identify their goals, values, beliefs, find out what they already know about a situation.
After several months, when 1 to 1 meetings started to become more of a coaching conversation that a status meeting and the team “started to heal” simply be listening to each other and working on their communication skills we became more aware of our team strengths and weaknesses and started to see opportunities. Group coaching sessions held by professionals helped us bring to surface even more of our real potential, as individuals and as a team. In almost one year we developed a sense of belonging and partnership and wanted to have impact inside the company, so we decided to coach it forward.
The aim was to start a coaching culture within the company, build a culture of feedback and growth organizationally. Employees to see coaching and development as part of the culture.
Vision – A workplace where every person is living and working to their full potential.
Mission – Helping people discover their career potential and supporting them in making changes to bring this potential into the world.
Tactics – HR to become internal coaching provider, Senior management to become endorser
For senior management we launched a unique Program of Improvement – PI program, which had in its scope personal, team transformation and goals achievement.
The goals for the executive team
Listening. Learning to pay attention and demonstrate to others that I value what they have to say. Use active listening, open-ended questions, body language, and eliminate distractions that get in the way.
Coaching instead of managing. Shifting leadership style from always directing and telling. Learning to guide and develop direct reports.
Collaboration. Improving relationships with peers. Become a better partner, understand others goals and need, and learn to work together to help achieve each other goals.
Within a year the HR team dynamic has changed significant, in the sense that people became more flexible, understanding, listening to one another and speaking the same language, but most of all communicating in a positive way, with consideration to one another! Although it may seem like a fairy tale, of course not everything is pink and full of unicorns and rainbows, the process is ongoing, but the work environment members have significantly improved. Engagement and enthusiasm is present! It became more fun to come at work and contribute!
With little steps the coaching approach starts immerse into company’s culture as well.
My experience of 1 to 1 meeting was an effective method for showing teams how to reduce conflict and improve their working relationships. The team then focuses on its real work, to achieve its business objectives.
I strongly believe that a coaching environment at a company is a game-changer. By encouraging people to pursue being their best self, not just to complete their tasks within a specified time period.
Coaching is about guiding individuals to transition into high productivity with aspirational growth as a driver. Leaders with coaching skills actively seek out opportunities to care about others’ personal development, challenging that individual to grow and outperform their best. They help their direct reports become empowered. This means the individual being coached is able to pass the acquired knowledge onto the next person, transforming into a coach themselves. Coach it forward!
It all started with ICA Balkans! Thank you!
Sometimes the simplest idea can make the biggest difference.
Important notes! This is a real story; therefore, I would kindly ask for it not to be published due to company confidentiality agreement. Although I haven’t give people names, the project names are real. All the questions in my 1 to 1 questionnaire and amendments are not an exact recipe! This were my own views, ideas and perceptions in the given context and time frame. There are multiple approaches to this and questioning styles. I did this in my early stage into coaching. However, I trusted my gut and went for it.