Episode 54: Embracing a Coaching Culture

Lauren Gibbons speaking with John LockeJoining us today are two DHG coaches, Lauren Gibbons and John Locke who discuss how DHG is embracing the concept of coaching as a valuable developmental tool for employees. Effective coaching is crucial for DHG employees to grow in their careers and prepare for next levels of leadership.

Episode 54 Transcript:

AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison your host and I love this venue because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us – flexibility, careers and of course, our people.

Last year when we rolled out PEP, our performance enrichment program, we began normalizing the idea of having a coach to help us progress in our career. You may have even heard us talk about developing a coaching culture here at DHG.

Our journey has just begun, and in the next six to 12 months, you’ll begin to hear more and more about this and even better, we’re all going to begin to benefit from working with and having coaches right here at DHG.

Speaking of that, joining me today are two DHG coaches, John Locke and Lauren Gibbons. It is no coincidence that they are joining me, as we celebrate International Coaching Week.

So, without further ado, welcome John and Lauren.

JL: Hey Alice Grey, thank you.

AGH: It’s always super fun to have several people on the call. I feel like it adds a great energy to the podcast. John, I’m going to start with a question for you and I’m going to start really basic as I don’t know a whole lot about coaching.

Until we began our journey with PEP last year, I always thought of coaching as something negative. Like I was doing something incorrectly, I wasn’t doing it right, someone was going to “coach” me to help reset my direction. Really, that’s not what’s meant by this. Can you help explain what’s meant by coaching and having a coach?

JL: Yeah Alice Grey, thank you. This is an exciting opportunity for DHG as a firm because for the first time we’re starting to really embrace this whole concept of coaching as a developmental tool for people throughout the firm, and one of the biggest misconceptions that has existed since I have been in this role, which has been now for a little over three years, is that coaching is something that’s brought in when there is a problem.

It is exactly the opposite and in fact, coaching is actually brought in at a key moment in the developmental life of a DHG professional such that they can have a relationship with an individual to help them on this journey towards the next level of achievement.

It’s interesting because you know, when you think about coaching in its global view and definition, the National Coach Federation actually describes it as partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Nowhere in that entire definition do you hear “Save your job, get it right, figure it out,” none of that stuff, right?

AGH: Right.

JL: This is all about moving people to the next level and fortunately, that’s what we’re using it for here at DHG, we find people at key moments in their developmental cycle here as the firm and we say, ‘You know what? With a little bit of extra time and effort and investment, you can really benefit dramatically. To be prepared for your next level of leadership by having a coach.”

AGH: Wow, that’s really great that DHG has put such a strong emphasis on this and resources behind it to help all of us progress in our careers. Lauren, let me ask you this next question. When we talk about coaching, is it one-on-one, is it with a group, is it both? How is this conducted?

LG: That’s a great question, Alice Grey, and my answer is that it really can be both. I have experienced one-on-one coaching, I have experienced group coaching and I have facilitated one-on-one coaching. The interesting thing is, and the ICF definition that John shared is far more articulate, but basically that coaching is about finding and being your best self.

The work that happens to get there, it happens when somebody’s reflecting on their own. That can be prompted in group discussion and group coaching and then people walk away and really think about how to tap into that for themselves or in a one-on-one situation, I think both are powerful vehicles. Historically, we’ve done more one-on-one coaching at DHG and I think group coaching is probably one of the things that we’ll tap into as a way to make this scalable and more accessible to others in the organization. Those can be highly effective.

AGH: Interesting. My next question, you know, we talk about career progress and part of our mission statement is working with our people to help them progress in their careers. What are some of the positive ways that a coach can enhance career progress? John, I’m going to ask you this question.

JL: Well, that’s a wonderful question because this is a point where many potential coaches and leaders come together and they start thinking through what are some of the opportunities for strategic development that may need more attention than they have been able to give up to this point in time in their career?

One of the biggest things that I have had an opportunity to work with people on as they transition to different levels of leadership responsibility here in the firm is having opportunity for vendors to see themselves, really as more of a leader than a doer.

They have earned a tremendous reputation for getting stuff done and for being incredibly competent, thorough and one of the best at what they do. One of the things that we find as an opportunity pretty quickly is, especially a younger individual who has accomplished so much, someone who finds themselves at a crossroads where it’s not about what I do anymore and the rewards associated with that. It’s now more about me being able to help other people be successful and to leave them and to actually become somewhat of a coach, trainer, teacher for those individuals. It’s a big step for a lot of people. When we start really peeling that back, what are some of the things that we’re looking for to develop, and you’ll hear at times the term which we could spend the entire podcast talking about, the term executive presence.

That’s one that I hear fairly often that comes back in through the leadership discussions about individuals, they say, “You know what? They’re fantastic individuals, they are incredible performers, we want to work on their executive presence.” What we have to spend some time doing is defining what part of executive presence that might be.

Is it the way they lead the teams, the way they show up in the meeting, the way they actually present themselves in front of a group, how they apply it, etc. There is a lot to that. When you think about what we want to accomplish really in a career development coaching experience, it’s about elevating their level of self-awareness around things that maybe if they can become more proficient at, even though they might be doing it well now, take it to that next level.

It’s about this process of discovery. What is that going to look like, what does that need to be, how you can be your best self in many of these different areas. That’s a fantastic opportunity to partner with these future leaders and current leaders to have this discussion around who do you want to be as your best self?

Where do you think you can grow in this area and what does it look like three and five years from now for you as a leader, what are the types of things you will be doing then that maybe you aren’t doing now? It’s an incredible opportunity to be acidic, to be creative but to be focused on the things that are going to be necessary for these individuals to truly feel good about their success over the next several years here at DHG.

AGH: That is really cool and it’s almost like that’s the missing piece, we’ve got sponsorship, we’ve got mentorship and the next piece is the coach that really helps us get to where we need to go, fine tune things. Lauren, this next question is for you, and in your role as an HR leader, you have really been instrumental in a lot of the cultural shifts that we have been working on to build a culture of coaching, say that three times. It’s truly just going to be a cultural change for us. What steps are we currently taking and what steps are we going to be taking in the future to help us move in the direction of having a culture of coaching?

LG: That’s a great question. I’m not going to take you up on saying it three times but I will say that it’s difficult to say, it’s harder to do. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us for sure. A couple of things that we’ve done thus far, the first is really going back to when PEP was first kind of imagined and first laid out.That is really an aspirational platform that we’ve overlaid in performance management to the culture we are tending to build and that while we are in many ways finding our way there or feeling our way there building for the future I think will help us pave the way towards the future. So that was a first and huge critical step. We are now figuring out what does phase two look like?

So how do we do some real critical skill building around having effective coaching conversations and having people empowered at all levels to own their own career and navigate that effectively? A couple of things that we have been brainstorming is can we offer coaching at career turns. Promotions are critical for your shift, can we have coaching in a more scalable, deliberate way so that we are accessing all levels of the organization and building some critical skills that can cascade further?

So things like that are in the hopper. The other big one coming is more formal training, and I hesitate to say that, as training can sound a bit isolated, but what we’re looking to do is something that is truly more experiential in nature. A way to set fundamental skills and awareness and common language throughout the organization as a foundation and then we’ll be able to build on that.

So the foundation building will be the next big thing and then piling on as we continue to grow and move down that path.

AGH: So building this notion of culture, Lauren, when we talk about being a great place to work, which we are a Great Place to Work certified organization, we talk about it being a high trust culture. How does coaching impact this culture? Does it impact and if it does, how does it impact it? What’s the relationship here?

LG: Yeah, I think for me, what’s key is trust is at the core of all of this, right? So, coaching will not help us create a culture of trust, in my opinion, however, without a culture of trust coaching will not be effective. So, I think it is really the trust and having effective and trusting relationships that will allow us to do both. So, I think there’s no such thing as an effective coaching relationship when there’s no trust, and so the trust is paramount to anything we do to be successful.

JL: Well I will piggy back on that, and that’s one of those more difficult conversations that we can peel apart here for the next hour if we wanted to, but one of the things that I think is critical in a coaching relationship which applies to this question. It is how do we set a foundation that will enable trust to be developed, right? And so what we are going to be teaching and sharing is experience because a training program is really not what this is envisioned to be.

But when we can create an experience for people, it allows them to see the value of what it’s really like to be totally present with somebody and how, just by practicing the skills of listening actively and reflective listening, being able to ask questions that are really coming from a real genuine place of curiosity versus adversarial type of things or agenda driven. Helping people see the value of locking arms and co-creating solutions, this process I think that we take people through.

And the skill set training that’s associated with this can be essential in the grand scheme objective of building trust, but it just doesn’t happen right away. I think that although we need trust truly to be in place, I think that hand in hand what we are doing is actually helping create new levels of trust. So, it’s a complicated and tricky scenario but I agree with Lauren. You’ve got to have it, but I think part of what we are doing is helping to create a platform for making it easier to create it.

And I know that might be a little bit confusing to the listeners, but it is an exciting opportunity to think about the future of DHG as it relates to the enhanced level of trust that we’ll be experiencing as a result of all of us engaged in this.

AGH: I agree. Well, as we conclude this podcast, are there any concluding thoughts that either of you have as we celebrate International Coaching Week?

JL: I would just say first of all that I am so proud to be a part of an organization like DHG who has committed the kind of resources that they already have to the coaching experience as a developmental tool for our future leaders here at DHG. I mean coaching is a misunderstood industry. What’s interesting is that there are 53,000 certified coaches worldwide and it’s really just come into its own in the last five to 10 years as a strategic tool used by corporations of all sizes.

And you know, when I tell people what I do and the company that I work for, they look at me and they go, “Wow, you guys are really doing something unique there by investing in coaching.” So coaching week coming up in May, it’s just an opportunity for us to celebrate, to talk more about how coaching can be transformational and a differentiator here for all who engage in a career with DHG. So, I’m excited.

AGH: Wow that’s great. Well I’m excited too and I am thrilled that we were able to spend a few minutes laying a little groundwork on what’s coming up for us in terms of coaching. Thank you both for all the time and energy that you are putting into helping us build that culture of coaching.

LG: Thank you.

JL: Alice Grey thank you, we appreciate it.

AGH: Yeah and thank you all for being here and thank you for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our Life Beyond Numbers and more great podcasts around coaching.

Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.

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