In 2012, Wendy made the transition from the corporate sector to the education industry, the third career transition. She moved from Operations Management to HR Management in 1997 and then to her current role as the Vice-President (Corporate and Operational Performance) of HELP University and also Dean of ELM Graduate School.
Out of curiosity, I asked Wendy, ‘what motivates all these significant career changes?’ She said ‘I do not believe in overstaying my position; especially if you are holding a leadership position. We need to learn to let go and make way for others to experience different leadership styles. It doesn’t matter whether I am selling choc chips or computer chips – more importantly, it’s about the privilege to contribute meaningfully and make a difference for the people, the organisation that I have the privilege to serve. It all boils down to people – everything starts and ends with people. We are here to make the place a better place for ourselves and for others whether I am in Operation, HR or taking on an academic role.’
We called on Wendy’s vast experience to explore the role of HR leaders in influencing a culture of coaching.
Wendy kicked off by saying ‘HR leaders must embrace coaching as an integral part of leadership development programme and a growing proposition for organisational and leadership learning. After all, organisational culture is shaped by the actions and decision-making of leaders at all levels. Coaching is leading.’
‘At the end of the day, the culture or the tone of an organisation is set by leaders of the organisation, the team leader within a team and so on and so forth. We all know organisation culture develops from the top down, beyond organisational structure, HR systems and processes. Leaders with good coaching skills motivate and develop others more effectively.’
When asked ‘how HR leaders can play a more effective role in influencing a culture of coaching in the organisation’. Wendy without hesitation replied that ‘HR leaders must first embrace a “leadership as privilege” perspective. Further HR Leaders must know that the HR function, more than any other business functions, has a crucial role in shaping, reinforcing and changing corporate culture andinstitutionalising a coaching culture.’
‘HR Leaders that embrace this approach to leadership will be more inclined to have the right HR processes and policies in place to grow talents and to support their line management in building teams that perform better.’
‘A recent study by the Centre for Creative Leadership that surveyed 347 leaders regarding the trends for utilising coaching in organisations indicated that more than 80% of the leaders believe that creating coaching culture is top of mind and a positive shift in individual and organisation performance is possible if coaching is ingrained in the culture.’
‘HR leaders that understand their “privilege position as a Culture Champion” are better able to use all the cultural levers that are at their disposal to create and sustain a coaching culture. For instance, having the right reward and recognition systems in place to reward leadership behaviors such as motivating and developing others through a coaching approach can impact the corporate culture. They can also ensure that they are effective gatekeepers to admit only leaders that believe in coaching as an integral part of individual and organisation development. Other levers such as performance management system that not only reward the what but focus on the how such as rewarding leaders for having formal coaching plans and using coaching as developmental intervention and linking these coaching activities to performance results.’
I ventured to ask Wendy what are some of the ways that HR leaders can support the creation of coaching culture. ‘For a start, HR leaders must be a role model and they must understand the biblical principle or more popularly known as the Golden Rule ‘Do unto others what you want others to do unto you’. This simple rule is not difficult to follow if
we recognise that employees’ wants and needs are the same as leaders – they want respect, dignity, being heard and taken seriously. So, if you want people to listen to you, start to listen to your employees and if you wish for a coach to help you to navigate through the organisation maze, be a coach first. Don’t just give your people the fish – templates, formats etc – which takes away all the coaching moments that help employees to find their own solution to their problems. That’s the easy way out! Templates cut down time but they are robbing opportunities to teach’ she continues.
‘To instill a coaching culture – all HR leaders and managers need to role-model coaching and also help leaders understand that not all coaching has to be formal or require a sit down, coaching can happen in the moment if a more inclusive and open management style is encouraged.’
Wendy goes on to say, ‘Unfortunately, in this part of the world, coaching can still be perceived in a negative light because more often than not a coach is called in for “problem employees” and the culture of face saving in Asia can sometimes stand in the way of needed coaching. Many still avoid being coached to save face. This is most unfortunate.’
Wendy agrees that ‘to change this perception, it is important to make coaching part of the HR strategy planning and coaching is as an effective developmental intervention, more than a performance management tool’.
We asked Wendy for any final tips about introducing coaching into the organisation and she offered:
- Foster a culture that you can be coached by anyone, not only by your boss.
- Ensure you have enough leaders and managers that can role-model the coaching approach
- Remove barriers to coaching and be alert to the different coaching opportunities provided by people around you. Every moment can be a coaching moment.
- It is important to create an open culture that accepts feedback. In addition to providing feedback to subordinates, have a forward upward feedback system in place for employees to tell their managers how they like to be managed, or coached.
- Like any culture change programme, the first 100 days of implementing a coaching program are important. Setting the right leadership tone, ie coach senior leadership team to role-model positive coaching behaviors and create strong awareness campaign to help people understand the importance of coaching in the organisation.
- Quickly get small wins in coaching to build confidence and credibility in the program. Recognise and reward coaching-culture behavior.
- HR leaders must influence and integrate coaching with other key HR processes such as recruitment, training, compensation etc.
- And once again, embrace that HR leadership is a privilege and not a position and bearing this privilege is the opportunity to learn how to sit there and just listen and be a coach to someone and be open to be coached.
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”
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