Coaching and mentoring as a way of developing leadership skills
Employee surveys plus an analysis of harassment and bullying complaints revealed that many staff thought their manager had poor people management skills. The Directorate set out to improve managers' people management skills stating that all managers should have leadership qualities that is the ability to inspire their staff and a willingness to take responsibility.
There was no additional money to fund this leadership development programme. The Senior Management Team decided to stop funding MBAs and instead use the budget released to build a leadership development programme. The building block for this programme was to be one to one executive coaching. The idea was to give managers more insight into how their behaviour effected those they managed and thus help them use this to develop their people management skills. I think the fact that it was called executive coaching gave it a status which helped in getting the pilot of the ground.
The pilot with senior managers
In order to lead by example the senior management team agreed to pilot a form of executive coaching operated by two management consultants who they had previously worked with in team building exercises. 360 degree feedback questionnaires were issued to colleagues and direct reports. A management consultant observed each member of the senior management team in a range of management situations, team meetings, board meetings, addressing large staff groups, making presentations to multi agency groups, influencing and shaping strategies and negotiating with partner agencies.
The consultants spent the equivalent of two days with each member of the senior management team over a period of three or four weeks. The consultant then sat down with each individual and discussed the outcome of the 360 degree feedback and the management interactions they had observed.
There was initially some apprehension as senior managers are not accustomed to getting direct feedback on how they are perceived by colleagues or a detailed assessment of their observed performance.
The feedback was well received even though some of the messages were blunt e.g. "talks too much", "needs to listen more", "needs to recognise the need to move at the pace of the slowest ship in the convoy", "can come over as demanding and impatient". This was balanced by plenty of positive feedback around individuals being supportive and making their expectations clear.
A detailed case study of introducing coaching and mentoring into a large local authority is published in Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by www.russellhouse.co.uk