The Coaching Project
The Centrelink Coaching Project is a best practice demonstration of leadership in the workplace, making a difference and creating a culture where people can thrive, and the values of integrity, respect, professionalism and care for people.
Since the inception of coaching initiatives into the organisation, about 3,000 employees have been trained in the ‘Coaching Skills for Managers’ program (a two-day program aimed at helping managers have better conversations) and several employees have also been trained and assessed to deliver the program.
Additionally, a range of other coaching initiatives and resources were developed and implemented, contributing to the implementation of a coaching culture.
This story shares some of the steps undertaken to embed a culture of coaching within Centrelink and it is absolutely ‘textbook’ in terms of the Coaching Culture Map and John Kotter’s Model for Leading Change (www.kotterinternational.com).
Coaching in pockets starts to make a difference
Coaching was happening in Centrelink in pockets of the organisation. This was due to the awareness of various leaders in the organisation who either recognised or had experienced the value of coaching. Where coaching was happening, people were given the
opportunity to receive one-on-one coaching and in some cases undertake formal coach training. People were finding coaching beneficial and Centrelink’s senior leadership was keen for best practice coaching to be researched, explored and implemented. With this in mind a position description was created for coaching in the organisation. The purpose of
this position was to analyse and implement best practice nationally consistent coachingin Centrelink.
First steps… identifying the key drivers for coaching
The process started with the analysis of what would be needed to move coaching forward in a unified and consistent way. The first step was to interview key stakeholders from across the organisation.
The key driver identified by the stakeholders was: ‘best practice in effective conversations between managers and their teams.’ This driver was aligned to Centrelink’s strategic priorities about supporting employees to deliver services and build capability. In consultation with stakeholders, the needs for managers and their team leaders were identified as follows:
- To have the skills that were needed to support staff appropriately and in a way that encouraged ownership.
- To enable managers to actually engage in the conversations that they needed to.
- To give managers skills to have a conversation, whether it be a routine or challenging conversation, and to use the coaching approach.
- To get better outcomes with people and for them to have ownership around their own development.
Identifying the key organisational focus
The key organisational focus was to give managers the skills that they needed to have effective coaching conversations and provide effective feedback, so that managers felt confident in providing in the moment coaching on work tasks and performance, as well as developmental- and career-focused conversations. Centrelink also wanted managers to understand how coaching could develop their own leadership capability. Additionally, the training needed to be consistent and cost-effective.
The key steps to implementation… it doesn’t just happen overnight!
The process of developing and implementing a coaching culture in Centrelink closely matched the key principles articulated in John Kotter’s model of leading organisational change.
Step 1: Establish urgency and purpose
Key questions were asked and answered: What is it that people want? Why is this urgent? What’s wrong with the status quo right now?
Step 2: Create a unified team with influence
An Executive Coaching Steering Committee was established with national and regional representation. This ensured that discussions and directions in coaching had agreement from key stakeholders.
Coaching ‘communities of practice’ and peer coaching networks were also established. This enabled employees who had formal coach training to ‘peer coach’ other coaches so that they could practice their coaching skills and continue to develop them. Centrelink’s trained internal coaches were also utilised to provide internal coaching services to employees.
Step 3: Align to the strategic directions of the organisation for endorsement
The next step involved the development of a ‘Coaching Directions Paper’ which outlined
Centrelink’s vision and strategies for coaching and was aligned with Centrelink’s Strategic Directions People Strategy and its Learning and Development Directions.
The organisation’s vision articulated: ‘that all managers and team leaders can competently use coaching where appropriate in the workplace. All employees can access coaching services to progress specific development goals. Centrelink workplace conversations are solutions focussed and drive measurable changes in workforce commitment and performance in line with Strategic Directions.’
Step 4: Choosing the priorities for implementation and internal skills
The important next step was to design a nationally consistent ‘Coaching Skills for Managers’ program, using the feedback from the Executive Coaching Steering Committee and key stakeholders.
To embed an internal culture, it was agreed that Centrelink employees needed to become certified internal facilitators of the program. Skilled coaches and facilitators within Centrelink were trained in the program and then trained to deliver and facilitate the program throughout the organisation Australia-wide. This led to affordable, consistent and highly rated program outcomes.
Step 5: Establishing a remarkable set of resources
One of the remarkable elements of the implementation of the coaching culture in Centrelink was the establishment of a suite of resources to support the coaching programs. These resources included a coaching website, DVDs on coaching conversations, a coaching expo to improve knowledge about coaching, coaching profiles on the intranet
to enable people to access an internal coach, and the development of credentialing opportunities for the internal trainers.
Centrelink developed leadership forums to broadcast live demonstrations of the GROW model to show managers and team leaders the basic coaching conversation as well as a framework for difficult conversations.
Centrelink targeted a broad base of employees and engaged them in a variety of initiatives as part of the Coaching Project.
Step 6: Generating short-term wins – champions and ambassadors
Short-term wins with any new project are extremely important and this was achieved though the establishment of pilot programs.
People were nominated to attend the ‘Coaching Skills for Managers’ program if they were regarded as being champions for embedding change, for helping people to move forward, and were well regarded in terms of how they actually worked with people, regardless of their formal coaching skill level.
Short-term wins were generated through quality programs, resources and feedback. This enabled broader implementation, and the coaching culture in the organisation moved forward as more employees took up the opportunities that it presented.
Summary of key lessons for people wanting to initiate coaching programs within their workplace.
- Understand the purpose and urgency: What is it that you want to achieve and why
is status quo currently unacceptable?
- Communicate with senior leadership to gain support and identify benefits.
- Generate ‘communities of practice’ that are interested in championing coaching and also willing to overcome challenges of implementation.
- Establish clear directions, communicate and consult frequently with stakeholders to sustain buy-in, and address issues as they arise.
- Start with pilot programs to establish success, communicate outcomes and allow successful initiatives to spread and maintain the momentum as the project is implemented.
The ‘Centrelink’ is another incredible example of a Dynamic Coaching Culture Model roll-out that can also begin at your very own municipal and community. For the full article and more Coaching case studies, check out our latest book, “Bring Out Their Best – Inspiring a Coaching Culture in Your Workplace”. You can get a copy of the book here clicking here!
Or simply contact Coach Mel and the APIC Team at firstname.lastname@example.org to discover the Power of Coaching for you and your Organization.