How coaching can improve workplace culture – a case study

Over the past 12 years I have trained literally thousands of health practitioners, managers and team leaders in how to conduct an effective coaching conversation.

The result of understanding these foundations is massive, ranging from relationships being totally transformed, people who have procrastinated about action for years taking action, and leaders tapping the potential in their teams like never before.

The foundations of coaching
So what are the key foundations to a proactive coaching conversation? The 3 basic foundations that people can benefit from learning are:

  1. Change from a directive approach to a no advice approach.
  2. Focus on solutions not on problems.
  3. Become client/patient centred – allow the client to decide on the direction they will take themselves.

Coaching in the workplace can have great effect on the culture of an organisation. To illustrate what organisational coaching can do, I’d like to share the story of one of my clients, whom we can call Mary.

The case of Mary
Mary is a nurse unit manager of a surgical ward. One of the issues that she found to be a continual frustration was people complaining about their workload but not offering any practical ways in which to manage it. She found that handover would often become just a negative download to begin the day.

When she reflected upon how she was operating day-to-day, Mary realised that she was trying to control a number of things that were actually out of her control, as well as trying to direct people around her and influence their behaviour by telling them what to do.

The result was that she was feeling constantly stressed. Rather than being able to let her team or patients decide on appropriate directions and actions, she was approaching all the situations armed with her own knowledge and experience, investing energy in areas she wasn’t responsible for.

One day someone suggested that Mary might benefit from training around coaching conversations.

After partaking in training and learning the foundations mentioned above, Mary decided to use a new approach in handovers. She began to ask the teams if they could start identifying ways in which to manage their workloads more effectively. She made it their goal for the month to see how many new ways they could find to manage time more efficiently, prevent wastage of resources and recognise opportunities to share the workload more evenly. The result was that instead of people coming to her complaining, they were coming to her with suggestions. She was amazed at how many solutions the team actually came up with and recounted how relieved she felt that she now was getting much more positive input from her team.

How are you approaching workplace issues?
Mary’s story is not unlike how many health professionals feel. In an environment as fast paced and pressured as a hospital ward, someone needs to have the skills to direct energy positively, or a very toxic environment can start to form. I often see that two hospitals facing the same problem but employing radically different solutions. One has leaders who are focusing on problems while the other hospital has people being proactive about finding solutions. The result is that people are much happier and more productive in the latter environment where there is acknowledgement of the challenges but also a willingness to stay resilient and find solutions.

Now, look at your own workplace – what approach do you and your colleague take to organisational issues?

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