The Importance of Coaching Culture in Business, According to Four Directors
How can coaching culture enable your business to thrive? Elia Giovanni (Director of Sales Enablement), Dom Gryszan (Director of Marketing), Stuart Kershaw, (Commercial Sales Director) and Sam Procter (Major Accounts Sales Director) share their thoughts, following their completion of ILM’s Level 5 Effective Coaching & Mentoring course.
How employees are coached is a key component of fostering a healthy company culture – and to be successful, a coaching philosophy must be led consistently from not just the CEO, but all directors and senior leaders.
As part of Apogee’s investment in its coaching philosophy, four directors attained the ILM Level 5 Effective Coaching & Mentoring qualification. Made up of three modules, the course required participants to build a business case for coaching and mentoring practices; complete a minimum of 18 logged hours of practical coaching and mentoring within the organisation; and carry out extensive self-review of their coaching performance.
Elia Giovanni, Director of Sales Enablement, describes the benefits that come with taking a genuine interest in employee’s development.
“I think higher business performance can be correlated with the coaching ethos; because creating an environment where employees feel they’re trusted and free to share concerns and insights, or seek advice – it enables people to tap into their potential,” says Elia.
HP’s acquisition has been the catalyst for more thought being put into how we apply ourselves in market, and how we can excel in what we deliver to our customers. And the way you tap into that understanding is to go through a coaching process with individuals, to understand their capabilities and their aspirations. A coaching approach allows salespeople to become more creative with the value they can bring to the customer.
But you have to be a good listener to be an effective coach, and have a sincere interest in supporting someone’s individual goals – and there needs to be commitment from both sides. To deliver that great experience, you both have to be diligent, and take effective notes: so that when you follow up the next time, you’ve got a good basis to continue the conversation.
I think for me, holding yourself back from throwing out the answer – out of enthusiasm to help – is the hard bit. Their learning crystallises when they go through the process themselves.
Sam Procter, Major Accounts Sales Director, considers company culture to be a vital part of coaching employees to realise their potential.
“In my experience, everything you get out of somebody already lives within them: it’s just about helping them to realise what that something is,” says Sam.
“For example, one of my coachees was extremely capable, but their lack of confidence meant their sales performance wasn’t really stacking up with their capability. But by trying to make them understand their own worth… their sales performance has really improved since the previous year. And a lot of that is down to that self-belief they have from being listened to, being asked questions, and being coached.”
“I would recommend the ILM course, but organisations taking it on need to be aligned with it entirely. If they’re not, it isn’t going to work. You need to be patient, and you can’t be expecting instant results from one session.”
“I think we’re quite privileged in the fact that we’ve got Carl Day, who’s a massive advocate for driving and supporting this kind of culture. If we didn’t have that from the top, and it wasn’t deep-rooted throughout the organisation, we wouldn’t have got the same results with such a large group of people.”
Dom Gryszan, Director of Marketing, discusses how coaching was instrumental to the cultural shift that came with HP’s acquisition of Apogee.
“As Apogee’s moved from an independent organisation to part of a global corporate firm, there’s naturally been changes – and alongside the cultural transformation, our portfolio of products and services have transformed too,” says Dom.
“We couldn’t take the same approach to just selling Managed Print Services; especially when, all of a sudden, we’re trying to introduce a whole range of new products and services to the same salesforce. You can’t flip a switch and expect the same 150 people to know how to sell 20 more products. You need to educate them, you need to go through a process.”
“Our approach was coaching people, empowering them to share knowledge and build on experiences, with the ultimate goal of delivering more. And empowering people to answer questions and solve things for themselves provides you with more time in the long run. Employee wellbeing and learning development is a big focus for Apogee and is a growing factor for candidates looking for new opportunities – we’ve made a significant investments in this area over the past few years and we’re now starting to really see the rewards coming through.”
“It seems obvious to me now, but when you go through the ILM course, you realise there’s different approaches to coaching and mentoring, because individuals are all different. You don’t just read a script, you learn as they learn. There may be a cost and a time investment to offering a course like this, but the reward is far higher because you attract top talent by doing it. And the practices become daily habits that are then engrained in our day-to-day approach and that’s how we’ve seen a really positive cultural shift.”
Stuart Kershaw, Commercial Sales Director, says that neutrality is the key to not only being an effective coach, but being an effective salesperson.
“Be really careful about the advice you give, because it’s not always as good as you think it is. I think that’s what I’ve taken from the course. It’s always better to try and be relatively neutral, and help people figure out the best solution for themselves, because it means that the impact is more powerful,” says Stuart.
“When you’re coaching someone, not having any preconceptions about their capabilities really improves the sessions, and the outcomes for the coaching… and when I think about my toolkit as a manager, as a leader, it definitely gives me more options going into a conversation.”
“Understanding our customers, for example. Through coaching, we’ve been able to improve our sales process; and from a customer’s perspective, approaching from a neutral mindset helps us understand them better. We can tailor our products and services more effectively.”
“It’s the same with your coachees. When you sit down with someone, have a proper conversation, and really hear what they’re saying; you’re demonstrating that you’re interested in them as a person, as opposed to just an outcome. You demonstrate that the culture is different to what they’re used to, and people are grateful for investing the time in them. I think that’s really powerful.”