First up Sean Kent and Michelle Gant about the changes they’ve made in Freebridge to bring coaching into their culture.
When they started out there was no customer focus, the most common answer to anything was ‘no’, there was a lot of process and fear drove people to stick to that rigidly. When Sean first joined they just needed to sort the basics for their tenants.
In 2009 they started their journey into coaching. Their CEO Tony went on a coaching course and then the Ops Director went on. This was an ILM Level 5 and it was when Sean went on it too that he realised the difference it could make – he was hooked. I love this approach of starting at the top – it’s the only way to make this stuff stick.
After developing the top team they moved to developing others in ILM Level 3 so that managers can coach their teams. Some managers found it hard to see when they were coaching – even if they were doing it naturally – so they changed the focus to be about coaching skills in conversations instead of struggling with the barrier of not seeing themselves as ‘a coach’. There’s been a lot of work to help grow the confidence of these managers.
They then moved to introduce internal coaches which needed them to think about what was right for an internal coach, what would be for an external coach. How would those two fit and work better together. They’ve spent time developing coaching sessions (similar to supervision) and supporting each other by buddy-coaching. By seeing the difference it makes, and developing their skills, they’re proud of what they do and finding ways to spread the word and build the confidence of others. This work is now being lead by the coaches at grass roots level – this isn’t about the leadership team showing the way anymore.
Moving on from here they looked at the leadership development they did and took this to a team coaching approach where Sean and others would lead sessions – but not in a ‘tell’ style. It’s about talking and sharing and asking each other to learn together.
Having been with Nancy Kline yesterday I’m delighted to hear they’ve also introduced Time to Think to their coaching approach especially in meetings – and board meetings – where they’ll take a chunky subject and use the Time to Think approach. And it’s worked to grow confidence and productivity of their time, and made the conversations more strategic.
There was some challenge to the word ‘thinking’ at the start so they used ‘planning’ and that’s worked. Sometimes it’s these adjustments that make the difference.
Generally they’ve seen people improve how they feel about themselves, they’ve grown their confidence, they’ve improved their ability to manage their workload and people are having open conversations about their wellbeing, including their mental health which then means Freebridge can be aware and support earlier.
Overall the business is providing better service to their tenants, saving time, saving money but most importantly it’s helping people THINK BETTER and FEEL BETTER.