#cawconf16 : GSK Accelerating Difference

Next for me a case study from GSK with Sally Bonneywell, VP Coaching.

GSK – pharma, vaccines, consumer healthcare – large, complex and with a long history of M&A activity over the years.  recently sold oncology to Avartis and bought their vaccines business.  It felt like we were “taking out our heart” and that had to be allowed to be heard because that was people’s reality.

Tag line – putting patients and consumers first.


GSK’s coaching centre of excellence founded in 2010. Today, 5 internal exec coaches, 5 coaching directors, 650 Job Plus coaches (line managers who’ve been trained to be coaches for clients aswell, separate to their team). External Exec coaches in Top 20 Markets.

In 2016 there were 1500 coaching assignments, 10 group coaching projects, 20 team coaching projects.

They have a sticky leadership pipeline – lots of women join and get stuck typically at Director role.  Currently it’ll take 21 years to get to parity in the leadership gender diversity and they don’t want to wait that long.

Goal of coaching for women – not about “fixing the women” it was “we’ve got talented women, how do we give them best opportunity to succeed” – women chosen based on their potential, their ambition and they had the circumstances to allow them to fully participate.

The female leaders have a sponsor who is often the line manager’s manager, who can hold the manager to account, who can open doors, who can travel with them, more a mentoring role.

Had dialogue with line managers and sponsors to keep all stakeholders engaged and needs being met.

Overview of women’s coaching journey :

1:1 coaching :

18 months long, with Job Plus coach, 12 x 1 hour sessions, Triad meetings with line manager, participant and coach at beginning, middle & end, HR join at the start and end, Job Plus coaches given support from a programme perspective.

Then group coaching :

6 sessions, 6 hours for the first then 4 hours. Coached by a pair – one internal & one external executive coach. Covered – Foundational session; Self confidence, self belief self esteem; Power, presence & impact; Becoming a challenger; Developing your authentic leadership style; Integrating all the learning – an ending for a beginning.

Coaches held briefing & debriefing calls before & after every group session.

Format for each session => Intention. Stories. Themes. Resources. Actions.


The Outcomes : Personal impact, Impact on self with regard to others, Collective impact as a group.

Not all line managers are as good as others.  Some needed some help.  What was really important was to not let a women go through this whose line managers were dismissive of it.  And they made sure there were other connections, not just the line manager.  The programme also helped the women go to their line manager with requests for what they needed and improved their relationships with them.

They talked about better integration between personal and work lives, and being able to be more of themselves.

Often they were the only woman in the leadership team or at that level so being able to come together collectively gave them connection to each other and to the wider system.

80% of the women in the programme became involved in giving back to the world in some way.

They found it really helped to have 1:1 coaching running alongside Group Coaching.  Not new news but the relationship with the coach was very important.   GSK believe in holistic coaching so the leaders on the programme could use it as top level, task focussed, or they could go deeper.  Up to them.  However they found the Group Coaching enabled them to go deeper for themselves.  And the interplay between these two types of coaching allowed them to discover and explore in 1:1 or group as they chose.  Amplification effect on the 1:1.IMG_0512

One women said that the more coaching she had, the more time she had – the power of time and space to think well to act well.

Loyalty increased with many, and some stepped into their power and chose to leave.  Not the purpose of the coaching but it made sure the right people are finding the right places for them.  Plus gave the org the chance to say, why are they going, what more could we do to keep them or someone like them in the future?

Q’s –

  1. Job Plus Coach training – what is that? – classroom training, practice clients, supervision, observed coaching sessions, conference days.
  2. Challenge of balancing coaching with day job – yes it’s a challenge, especially as we de-layer and cost-cut. It’s completely voluntary and it feeds them, they enjoy it often more than day job, and most line managers see the benefit of those who are Job Plus Coaches because they become more effective leaders as measured through 360 feedback.
  3. Assessing readiness to be coaches for Job Plus? – yes, as they go through training they’re assessed – self, peer & facilitators / supervisors (an internal & an external).  The most experienced Job Plus coaches work on this programme. When they start they’re on 6 x 30 minute sessions.
  4. Cultural / global challenges? – yes common topics and overall format but content was reliant on the group, the group coaches, and the different country’s cultures. Briefing calls would allow connection to purpose of the session and a chance to share tools / models / theories both ways.  Also a website for these to be put on which all women can access – fewer books, more articles, TED talks, you tube clips.  Also collection of themes.
  5. Internal & external – what do you see as org benefit of both? – External for experience, expertise, objectivity of things we can’t see, comparison to other orgs, level of expertise is high (because we select for that). Internally – we know the system, the nuance, the pressures, the context.  When you put the 2 together as an internal & external and it works well, symbiotically.  We find we need both.  We’d never say we don’t need external.
  6. Female programme – male & female coaches? – yes, didn’t engineer it.  We gave people a choice if they really didn’t want a man for 1:1. We never had 2 men in group coaching, sometimes 2 women, sometimes 1 and 1.
  7. Benefits to the women, how measure benefit to their teams & managers? – employees fill in a global survey eery 2 years, everyone in the org. Analyse it & shown that since women been on this initiative we look at the satisfaction of the teams with these female leaders – seen a statistically significant change over time. Correlation is not causality but it’s been great to see that connection.
  8. Would you do this for managers generally? – yes, this is one programme. We’ve got about 10, as well as team coaching.  Of all the coaching, about 400 sessions will be at exec level. At line manager level, we’ve got dialogue in place e.g. 6 men and 6 women having debates and discussion about a career in GSK.  There’s only so much you can do but yes, we’d use this mechanism more when we can and systemic coaching is definitely where the shift in culture is going to come from.
  9. Are people clear on the difference between coaching and mentoring? – yes, for us mentoring is advice giving, often more to less senior. Coaching is an equal power footing, non-directive, building self-reliance.  And we continue to educate people in this.  Job Plus Coaches don’t coach from their own area of the business to keep them out of content.
  10. What are the “Circumstances” needed for a woman to participate? – not all about mobility but getting clear & having the conversation about your personal circumstances and ability to get involved.  Might be that it’s not now, maybe later.  Is there anything you need from me or the org to help you take part?  Sally’s stepped in before to get line managers to support someone to clear things out of the diary and enable them to take part.
  11. Do you see more senior women are less reluctant to go on all-women groups? – positioned systemically with men & women in the conversation. It’s not preferential treatment for women, or promotion because you’re women. It’s talent management and development.
  12. Did you find deliberate measures or feedback about it changing male attitudes? – yes, dialogue very powerful. Equal numbers of men & women, for a day and overnight too. Men checking things out with the women in their lives and confirming what they’re hearing from their female colleagues. Seen some fundamental shifts such as “when I recruited last time I made sure I had good balance of men & women..”  Big impact on the men with daughters & them not wanting that for their own children.
  13. Use of tech? – phone, skype, face to face.  F2F when we can.  Group coaching where possible, if flight < 2 hours we brought people together.  If > 2 hours we did intensive 2 days of coaching together then virtual group coaching for 2 hours at a time.  Then 2 days intensive again at the end.

Great expertise from Sally in this session – real credibility from her knowledge of what’s been done and why.

This has been live blogged from the Coaching at Work Conference and I’ve done my best to represent the session accurately as I heard it – and of course I’m human so I might have captured the bits that resonate with me more.

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