Research Paper By Tanya Patrella
(Business Coach, UNITED STATES)
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.― Ernest Hemingway
Over the past twenty-five years, I have been fortunate to work with a progressive company and some amazing people. Twelve of those years were spent in the role of “Coach”. This is the story of the evolution of my coaching journey and some lessons learned along the way.
My first exposure with coaching came in 2001 when my boss, mentor, coach and owner of our company asked his staff to read, “Reengineering the Corporation” by Michael Hammer. He had a vision for changing the organizational structure of our company from a typical hierarchical structure to a Process-Centered Organization (PCO). We had a weeklong off-site meeting to hear more about his vision and how we might use Hammer’s concepts to design an organization that was structured in a way that would help us cultivate a more positive and productive workplace. By the end of that year, we implemented our version of a PCO. Within the new structure, there was a new role of Coach and I was going to be one of them.
A brief definition of a PCO and its associated roles:
Michael Hammer defined three managerial roles for a PCO:1
- Process Owner: “an individual responsible for ensuring that we (the company) have a high performance process;
- Coach: “someone concerned with providing the organization with the people the processes require”; and
- Leader: “an individual charged with designing and shaping the overall environment in which everything else takes place.
We redesigned Hammer’s roles for our PCO as:
- Process Engineer: Responsible for designing and documenting their process, educating and coaching the process for team members, working with Coaches with associate performance problems and advocacy of the process.
- Coach: One who sets associate’s process assignments, counsels Associates, performs associate reviews, determines compensation, and does the hiring and firing. They were responsible for developing the skills of process team members, developing Associates, long-term focus on growth and needs of organization and Associates, assessing present and future demand for process team members with a particular skill, allocating resources, guiding and mentoring Associates and intervening to help resolve performance problems.
- Leader: The Coaches & Process Engineers were also the designated leaders of the company responsible for the overall vision for the business, shaping the thinking and attitudes of the Associates in the organization, and knitting together its processes so that they succeed not only individually but collectively.
- Changing roles from “manager” to “coach” is not easy. With nothing more than a small list of tasks and responsibilities and no experience or coaching education, the other newly appointed coaches and I were charged to develop the concept. Oh so fun, but daunting, none-the-less. We not only had to change what we did every day, but how we did it. We found it took a whole mindset shift…leading from the heart rather than the head.
- Much of coaching is based on creating trust with your clients. It is more of a challenge to create trust with clients who know you are responsible for their performance reviews, compensation and firing. It was a challenge, but not impossible. We developed trust by DWYSYWD (doing what you say you will do) and by trying to be more consistent with messages (answers/responses) to our Associates. The Coaching Team spent a lot of time together to come to having “one voice”. We communicated and made decision from a place of knowing that people are good, want to come to work every day and contribute to something greater than themselves. The Leadership Team worked intentionally to cultivate a community of people working together toward a common goal of making enough money for our company to continue while enjoying each other and our work.
- We needed to learn a lot more about coaching.
After one year of this experience with our PCO and Coaching, I was asked to take on the role of Process Engineer for the Human Resources Processes in addition to my Coaching role. I was grateful for the new role while feeling more than a little apprehensive about learning the HR process and then leading it. I spent a little over a year learning about the traditional HR process which included: strategic workforce planning, organizational design, compensation and benefits, performance management, recruiting, career development, setting goals, training and development, government compliance and administration. At the end of that year, the HR group and Coaches worked together to combine HR and coaching and developed a new Process called Associate Development & Resources (AD&R). Our Mission was simple: Attract, Develop & Retain Associates. Our objectives were to balance the needs of our Associates and our company to meet business strategies, inspire trusting relationships to enable collaboration, continually develop and improve Associate skills, provide consistent counsel, ensure compliance with government labor laws and regulations and maintain competitive wages and benefits. We had two HR generalists and five coaches in the group. It was truly unique and rewarding to work for a company that would dedicate the resources to provide seven people to the AD&R Process to focus on the 400 people in our organization.
To inspire trusting relationships, we got rid of our strict Attendance Policy that was very time-consuming to track and never resulted in better attendance. We replaced the Policy with an Attendance Guideline which briefly outlined the company’s need for attendance and being on time. It simply required that Associates log on when they were working and log off when not working, and let your team know if you can’t be there so they can cover for your work. It took a while, but the change resulted in improved trust, better attendance, improved processes and a more comfortable working environment. When attendance problems occurred, the Coach addressed them right away.
There are advantages and disadvantages to combining HR & Coaching into one process
- Coaching is not as “pure” to an individual’s development as an outside coach may provide
- Trust is more challenging with the coach managing pay and firing
Challenging to balance how much HR knowledge a coach needs to be in compliance with federal, state and local laws while working with Associates on sometime sensitive and personal information
- The role of Coach in an organization can provide some needed space for personal development of Associates
- The Coach has the opportunity to help individuals align with the needs of the company and their process
- With clear expectations for each process and task, Coaches can align Associates’ wants and desires with the needs of the Company
- Leading and Coaching to cultural changes requires tenacity and a strong belief that you are headed in the right direction for the people you are leading. If you don’t wholly believe in the vision, you cannot stay the course.
- The majority of federal, state and local government compliance requirements most often go against a company’s efforts to create trust. I believe that laws, rules, regulations and policies are put in place to replace “human trust”. There were many times the AD&R team wanted to get rid of divisive and contentious policies but were required to maintain them due to government regulations. This fact is disheartening, but with diligence can be overcome, even in today’s extremely overregulated world.
- We still needed to develop our Coaching Skills.
The following year, I was asked to take on the role of Coach for the Leadership Team which was comprised of 17 process engineers and coaches with good educations, backgrounds and experience. They were smart, self-motivated and, along with me, learning while continuing to evolve our company. Again, I was grateful for being asked to take on this new role while a little more than anxious about the responsibilities the role carried with it.
The Coaching Group wanted to continue to learn and develop so we worked with our long-term consulting group, The Center for Creative Leadership (ccl.org), to establish a custom program to learn more about for Coaching for Development. CCL’s model for coaching is Assess, Challenge & Support. The time together resulted in profound learning for the Coaching team. It changed our perspectives and re-framed everything for us. Seven of us spent four days learning more about coaching: what it is and what it isn’t. We paid special attention to the awareness of Coaching vs. Convincing or Advising and “seek first to understand, and then to be understood”. We were learning to be more coaches than managers…to question rather than tell.
During the week together, we also got clear that we needed to focus on creating more of a learning environment. We presented our initial ideas to the Business Strategy Team and created a week’s offsite meeting to have the entire Leadership Team (including the Coaches) develop the concept. Basically, we wanted to continue toward cultivating an environment beyond fear; where everyone has a desire to learn and the freedom to do so; is open and safe, comfortable and fun; and where processes work together seamlessly.
We also got rid of performance reviews and replaced them with Individual Associate Development Plans (IADP) in an effort to focus on the present and future as opposed to past performance. When performance problems occurred, Coaches responded to them at the time they occur, not weeks or months later. By setting very clear expectations, it was easy to coach to them.
In addition, we had four people certified to do the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to establish awareness of the diversity in the way people communicate – their differing needs in receiving and giving information. We created ½ day programs for the MBTI results and discussion of their meaning and how they could use the new understandings in relationships with others. This also took a while….but it worked beautifully! When we were told,I get the MBTI at work, but your saving my marriage, or relationship with my children or parents, we knew we were on the right track.
- I love learning and I believe others do as well as long as they believe there is value in the time spent.
- The potential for coaching in organizations is incredible. It can provide a much needed balance for “being” integrated with the ever present “doing”. The culture in the U.S., especially in manufacturing industries, has too long focused too much on the doing. Coaching provides the space to balance doing and being.
- It’s easier than you think to get rid of stuff that doesn’t work. Break through the fear and just do it! Make changes along the way and continue to evolve.
- Awareness is the first step to any desire for change and to change, there must be desire. Coaching can provide the awareness and support the changes and evolutionary shifts.
After twenty-five years with the company, I knew it was time for a change…a big one. Young people in the organization needed the headroom to grow and I wanted to do something different and evolve myself. At the same time, one of my daughters was also looking to make some changes and called me one day with great excitement…she was going to learn to be a Life Coach. Through much research, we decided on the International Coaching Academy (ICA) and both signed up for the Certified Coaching Program. While continuing to transition from my “job”, I started learning at ICA.
As I finish this last requirement to graduate from ICA after 16 months of classes, coaching practice, being a client, establishing my own coaching model, I am excited at the prospects that lie ahead. At the same time, I will miss the incredible global community of coaches, instructors and students. What an amazing journey.
As a Client in ICA:
- How important (critical actually) it is for a coach to be comfortable with silence, especially with an introverted client. As an introvert myself, the silences that my peer coaches (and sometimes instructors) provided during sessions really helped give me time to access my intuition, memories, feelings and thoughts.
- With a coach specializing in body and cosmic energy, I learned how to “drop in” to myself – my higher self — with several incredibly simple exercises. With his extraordinary patience and guidance, these methods have been interwoven into my daily life and my coaching practice as well.
- With a spiritual coach, I learned how to process negative feelings through the pure love found in my own heart and created daily affirmations. I now have a daily routine which includes some sort of movement exercise, yoga and meditation for my body, mind and spirit. Taking the time to nurture myself in these ways provides a better space for the clients I coach.
- I will always have a coach. May not always be the same person. They will change over time as I learn and move forward. One thing I know for sure….having that one (less than close as family) person who is trained and gifted in listening, without judgment, and who genuinely cares about you as a human, is precious.
As a Coach in ICA:
- To listen with all of my being while remaining emotionally detached, yet lovingly present.
- To gain more confidence and comfort providing silence for my clients. The silence provides clients time to access her/his intuition, memories, feelings and thoughts. I found introverts are a little more comfortable with the process and extraverts often learned a lot from a rare experience…..holding space. The space is not only good for the client, but for me as a coach to truly listen and be with the client and trust the right next thing will come….from me or my client.
- That how I show up as a coach with every client in every session sets the tone. This means it is critical for me to ground and center myself and drop the rest of the day and access my higher self before meeting my client, whether that is in person, video call or telephone.
- That to take care of myself first with a daily routine including some sort of movement exercise, yoga and meditation for my body, mind and spirit allows me to be more present with love and light for my clients.
- Once again, in one more learning environment with instructors--those instructors who start out “annoying”, end up teaching you the most!! Yep, it happened again….several times.
And the most important lesson learned:
Coaching is a journey of continual evolution and I love it!
1 Hammer, Michael, 1996, Beyond Reengineering, HarperCollins, New York, NY. P.106