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Coaching at Work – Case Study

illuminated suspension people bridge

Yorkshire, UK-based family business Bettys & Taylors has a multi-pronged coaching strategy that includes developing internal coaches and taking a whole-person approach to learning. Carole-Ann Jones finds out more.

Meaningful and lasting change for both individual and organisation is, in my experience, only brought about by engaging with the whole person – head, heart and soul. And as a coach and consultant, it is rare to find an organisation which recognises that to be fit for the future, there needs to be such an engagement.

As those of you who work in this space will also know, it calls for challenge at a deeper level than many coaching buyers, conventional coaching approaches and coaches are prepared to go to. It requires courage to work at a deeper level and it risks exposing levels of vulnerability that may be unfamiliar to us as coaches, and certainly for many of our individual clients.

And it also takes great courage in the commissioning organisation, for it empowers clients to influence new cultures benefitting people as well as bottom line results, rather than simply enabling individuals to fit into an unhealthy culture, or in some cases perpetuating it.

Since 2008, The Oasis School of Human Relations has worked in a dynamic developmental partnership with such an organisation: a Yorkshire-based business where the commitment to developing people as the primary instrument of organisational change is thorough and aligned across all levels of the business.

Bettys & Taylors Group is a producer of tea and coffee, with a number of iconic café tea rooms, a craft bakery and cookery school running alongside the nationally renowned Yorkshire Tea brand. Building on the values of the family-owned business, we’ve partnered with the company to develop a culture that embeds honest adult-to-adult conversations and responsible leaderful behaviour, which is increasingly visible at all levels in the business. Rather than commissioning a single initiative, the organisation opted for a number of interwoven elements enabling the embedding of change over time. These elements have included building resilience for managing change; relational leadership programmes; enquiry approaches and the development of a common language and coaching and mentoring for key roles and those in transition.

Internal Coaching

The organisation’s journey required a radical change in culture internally and for people at all levels to embrace new ways of working. Thanks to its open-mindedness and its genuine desire to invest in a culture of learning and development, Bettys & Taylors started to reap many benefits for the business, and employees began to really feel they play an active part in an organisation that listens and responds to them, too. This has led the company to commission an innovative internal coaching scheme, now in its third cohort. The scheme aims to go beyond traditional performance coaching into a more strongly based relational model of helping others bring their whole selves to the demands of a fast-moving and dynamic business. Internally known as ‘1-1 Development’, this was felt to be a more affirming option than externally provided coaching, in order to reach all levels of the business in terms of sustainability, cultural fit and cost-effectiveness.

Lindsay Botto, operations director for the Group’s tea and coffee brand, Taylors of Harrogate, championed the scheme from the start.  She says: “As an organisation there were specific questions and objectives that we needed to work with. How do we develop more self-direction, self-management and self-awareness? Where do we provide the space to consider the future of individual’s roles and their areas for development? How do we assist people in points of transition, both personally and in the business? How do we increase the capacity of individuals to take responsibility for their own learning and development?”

Lindsay Botto sponsored the design of an internal modular programme and, having participated in the programme herself, is now working with up to seven internal clients from across Bettys & Taylors.  The initial cohort of ‘1-1 Developers’ was recruited from the alumni of the flagship six month internal coach development programme, so they had already started to explore some of these ideas and understand what was being asked of them. The early prototype formed the basis for an open programme run by myself, Carole-Ann Jones, and a fellow coach, organisational consultant and executive developer (and director) at The Oasis School of Human Relations, Glyn Fussell.  On this programme, employees from Betty’s & Taylors worked alongside participants from other organisations within private, housing association and health and social care sectors. This diverse mix fostered a highly creative and enquiring environment, making the peer-based learning approach even more dynamic and potent.

A self and peer assessment (SAPA) process for participants sees them evaluate themselves against indicators, and also via the feedback received from clients, other participants and the facilitators. SAPA is a challenging and transparent means of giving and receiving feedback and aligns with the approach to performance and learning review in the business. It’s self-directed, with the individual gathering feedback from a range of peers, including their line manager. The SAPA meeting allows peers to hear the person’s assessment and future intentions, providing an opportunity for support and challenge.  Lindsay Botto says: “I found it really valuable to stop, think and reflect on 12 months of my coaching practice. I noticed themes and trends that hadn’t previously been apparent. My SAPA included feedback from a number of my clients and from my coaching supervisor. All of this together helped me form robust intentions for my coaching development in the year ahead.”

Within the workforce of more than 1,400 people, 14 ‘1-1 Developers’ have been through the programme so far and most seem to have found the experience extremely beneficial. The aim is to develop a further six 1-1 developers through the open programme commencing in October 2016. One participant says: “(the scheme)… enables individuals to have time and space to think, explore, question and challenge themselves in terms of difficult issues they are facing for the benefit of themselves and the business”.

Four of the participants got so much out of the relationship with their own internal 1-1 developer that they wanted to become 1-1 developers themselves. Another participant says: “I love the programme. I find it really rewarding to see the changes in people. What I hadn’t anticipated is the impact it would have on my wider role – people have noticed this in the business. I have found more of a voice by the use of questioning. It has allowed me to listen more effectively to what is being said. It’s like my brain has been rewired and I pick up more – in terms of patterns and emerging themes.”

A key to the initial success of the programme has been the self-confidence that the internal coaches have gained through the extensive experiential programme. Supervision and SAPA mean that important issues are raised and on-going learning intentions are set – which ensures sustainable continuing professional development. The value to the business has been seen through higher levels of productivity and effectiveness in role, career development for a number of participants in the scheme and enhanced satisfaction. The 1-1 developers are viewed as culture carriers and are ensuring that new ways of working are enabled through their relationship.

The scheme has been developed to add value to the Bettys & Taylors Group, however individual and team feedback suggests that developers have also used their new skills to become more effective and conscious managers of their own teams.

Support and commitment

Lindsay Botto stresses that it’s early days and as the cohort of 1-1 developers grows, it’s been recognised that more support is needed to rise the profile of the scheme as a fantastic development opportunity for potential clients. With 1-1 developers agreeing to give two days per month to the scheme, “there is also quite a time commitment attached – but we are confident that the programme will go from strength to strength with people wanting to be involved. We are also looking at how we extend our reach, such as working with women across their maternity leave, resilience and wellbeing coaching. We need to listen to the emergent questions that are shaping our workplaces.” Lindsay adds: “An in-house coaching scheme requires a high level of commitment from the coaches and their line managers. It needs to be part of the organisational strategy and be prioritised against other business activity. There is also the requirement for high levels of trust and respect in the coaches. Confidentiality and boundaries become key themes for both the coach and the client. More than three years in, I personally believe that our scheme is bringing great value to the organisation as a whole, as well as the individuals who are either coaching or being coached,” she says.

Programme co-facilitator Glyn Fussell says: “This way of working is significantly different from anything I have experienced before. For me this is a radical peer-to-peer approach, working through and out of relationships and goes way beyond the known. Working with the whole person rather than relying on a well-trodden framework or approach represents a new paradigm and is what makes this scheme so exciting.”

For me as a coach and consultant, it has been inspiring to work with Bettys & Taylors in a whole-person way, and gratifying to see how its courage to work at a deeper level is bringing rewards.

Carole-Ann Jones holds an MSc in Coaching & Mentoring from Sheffield Hallam University with a background in HR within corporate organisations. She is an organisational consultant and executive developer at the Oasis School of Human Relations.

If you are interested in participating in the coaching and mentoring programme mentioned in this article please get in touch.