May 14, 2015 in Events (live blogging), CIPD L&D Show 2015

Embedding coaching skills into daily conversations to foster your talent

Claire Molin (Visa Europe) and Jane Saunders (BBC), chaired by Jonathan Hill (Catalyst PLD Ltd).

Claire Molin gave an overview of Visa Europe, and how they increased their emphasis on coaching when they went for Investors in People Gold standard. Managers seek to understand people’s strengths and development needs, and apply coaching to help people thrive.

Jane Saunders introduced the BBC, noting that coaching started small in the late 90’s (mostly in HR) but really took off after 2002 when their leadership development programme equipped people with some coaching skills as well as providing formal coaching for all attendees. The BBC have 80 internal coaches at any one time and they are trained on an internal training course accredited with both the EMCC and ICF. The BBC internal coaching offerings cover executive, transition, and career coaching and they are considering launching maternity/paternity coaching.

Claire then talked about how to start creating a coaching style with managers, reflecting on experiences in Visa Europe and BBC. Their advice is to be really clear on a number of questions:

  • What kind of organisation culture do you have? (Recognise that some cultures might perceive coaching as a remedial step)
  • How will coaching be perceived (In the light
  • What are the behaviours that you’re trying to change?
  • What is the experience that your organisations already has of coaching? Who are the advocates, champions, and role models? Who will be the detractors?
  • What is your current management capability? How much of a stretch will this be?
  • How will you support coaching? How much of a stretch is this for people?
  • How will you measure success?

Claire talked about the benefits of managers using coaching skills, including cost-saving, improved work-based learning (70:20:10), improved employee engagement, improved retention, increased performance, knowledge retention, and cross-fertilisation of ideas. A coaching culture can lead to a culture where feedback becomes more immediate, common, and natural – something that we’re told is increasingly demanded by ‘millennials’.

Jane talked about the benefits for managers and coaches, talking about how it can help people be more creative, have more confidence, and equip people to do their jobs and develop (and therefore) progress more quickly in the organisation. Empowering the team through coaching can give managers some headroom to reflect, focus on future strategy, and form connections across the organisation / break down silos.

Be intentional in your choices about developing your coaching strategy:

  • How do you introduce coaching? Trial formal coaching with senior stakeholders or develop skills in a target audience or link to a specific leadership or development activity.
  • Who will be your advocates? Get senior stakeholders as advocates or find ‘natural’ or qualified coaches
  • Who owns it? Business-led activity or HR-owned intervention?
  • How do you launch? Soft/quiet launch or celebrate a new initiative.
  • How will you measure impact? Business impact or human impact?

Some insights from the audience:

  • Start at a grass-roots level by introducing mentoring (and then people are well-versed in the skills by the time they become managers).
  • Provide coaching to senior leaders and encourage them to build a business case, rooted in the benefits that they experienced themselves (and want their teams to have).
  • Embed coaching as part of leadership programmes.


The BBC run a 2-day ‘BBC Coaching skills for managers’ (including the GROW model) and is heavily experiential, with an emphasis on applying the skills back in your day job. There are also regular (and optional) follow-up sessions with 90-minute co-coaching sessions which provide people with the opportunity to practice and hone their skills.

Visa Europe take a very different approach and they provide bite-sized activities as part of their management pathways. The activities include reading, classroom activities, and e-learning and they have more of a focus on equipping people with skills, leaving people to practice in their own time. Topics include Emotional Intelligence, effective listening, questions skills, GROW model of coaching, managing the conversation, using feedback.

There are a number of ways you can embed coaching behaviours:

  • Recognising and rewarding coaching (behaviours, role models)
  • Making links with leadership behaviours and competencies
  • The role of credible champions
  • Get them while they are young

A coaching conversation doesn’t have to be labelled as ‘a coaching conversation’, rather it influences the approach to feedback, performance conversations, brainstorms, and team meetings.

The skills developed for coaching conversations also help in mentoring, negotiation, relationship/stakeholder management, dealing with change, and seeing alternative perspectives.


(This was live-blogged during a session at the CIPD L&D show 2015 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in.)

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