A Coaching Culture Transformation – Coastal Community Case Study (Part Two)

Coastal Community Credit Union recently introduced and championed a coaching culture within their organization. This three-part series explains the need behind their transformation of culture.

Part Two: How We Created a Coaching Culture

Any cultural shift will quickly lose momentum if it is fighting against the overall current. Coastal Community Credit Union’s early success with coaching would have faded if it had not been recognized as an organizational priority and integrated into the corporate strategy, HR leadership development strategy, business and leadership initiatives and employee performance management system.

From the CEO to the frontline employee, it was strongly believed the creation of a coaching culture would provide the foundation for building strong relationships and leaders by keeping the lines of communication open between managers, employees, members and clients. For Coastal, the primary intent of a coaching culture was to heighten self-awareness and understanding of others, to develop effective communication skills, independent thinking and leadership capabilities. 

The HR organizational development team developed a coaching strategy with three stages to its design.  The first stage laid the foundation for a consistent approach by offering coach training to a majority of the managers. The second stage was to ensure coaching was seen as a core competency and opportunities were plentiful to sustain the practice of coaching.  The third stage was to integrate coaching into everything at Coastal i.e. “coaching is just the way we do things around here”.

Working with Paul Gossen, an ICF Certified Coach and Organizational Transformation Consultant, Deborah Lang, Coastal’s associate vice president of organizational development, and her team developed a comprehensive plan for coach training for 60 managers. Working with Erickson Coaching International, Gossen customized the two-day Manager as Coach Module of the ICF accredited Art and Science of Coaching program.

The Manager as Coach training was aimed at a broad representation of the managers in the organization, from administration to retail. In total the training covered more that 10 per cent of the organization.

During the program design, Gossen recognized old managerial habits are held in place with negative internal language. For example, managers might say to themselves, “As a boss, I have to do everything myself.”  Authentic group dialogue was used to loosen the hold of these ineffective language patterns.

It was recognized that a comprehensive follow up program was the key to creating very high rates of coaching adoption and behaviour change. The follow up program was spread out over a 90-day period which included team coaching, triad coaching practice and coaching debrief conversations. Each Manager as Coach workshop had four 90-minute group conference call sessions spaced two weeks apart.

The early success of the Manager as Coach Program began a coaching word of mouth buzz in the organization. This was enhanced with unique language and messaging such as “don’t tell, ASK.” As participants implemented their newly-found leadership coaching skills they started to have authentic conversations which in turn created curiosity for this new leadership coaching model. This created early stage momentum, success stories and buzz in the network.

“In the week after the Manager as Coach program I became very aware of my pattern for being the boss. It was difficult to keep remembering to ask for permission rather than just tell people what to do. My team was very busy and it was difficult to set-up conversations,” said Dell Thomson, associate vice president of retail. “I decided to take on asking five open-ended questions every day. It worked. I found myself in dozens of on-the-fly coaching conversation. Everything grew from there. There is now a whole new level of energy in my team.”

The early success of the Manager as Coach Program inspired six more coaching initiatives/programs in 2009. By the time the third wave of managers went through the Manager as Coach training program, the HR OD team was fully integrating coaching into HR initiatives to provide the foundation for a true coaching culture.

Internal Coaching Program: Shortly after the third Manager as Coach training program was delivered, an internal leadership coaching program was launched. An Internal Coach worked with a high performing employee (Coachee) and coaching sessions took place over three months, usually for one hour every two weeks.  A formal objectives-based coaching plan was used and the Coachee was asked to create specific goals, create accountability and maintain focus.

Succession Mentoring Program: Coastal’s Succession Mentoring Program was designed for Commercial Services where a senior level manager mentored a junior manager for a period of 60 days. The mentor provided expertise, guidance and coaching to provide the junior manager with enough knowledge and insight into the role so they could both determine whether the career path was a good fit.

Career Planning Workshop: Beginning in May 2009, a Career Planning Workshop was rolled out to 50 management employees. Coastal’s career planning workshop emphasized an employee driven process with a strong coaching context. The workshop identified a four-step coaching approach to support managers to have effective career coaching conversations with their employees.

Sales Champion Program: In May of 2009, relationship-building skills as a method to grow sales were identified as a gap by Coastal’s executives. A Sales Champion program was implemented as a pilot to three retail branches and 70 staff. The Sales Champion program used a sales coach approach that supported branch managers and employees to effectively build member relationships and increase sales. To build on and prepare employees for the sales champion program – Insights Discovery – a personal development training program was rolled out to all of the branches.

Team Coaching Workshop: In November 2009, Gossen launched Erickson’s team coaching training program to 32 employees from various levels of the organization. This training program introduced participants to team coaching, enhanced creativity skills and strategic thinking models.

“In November the entire marketing staff took the team coaching program. In the week after the program, the team was energized,” said Joe Cristiano, chief community and marketing officer. “Meetings turned into spontaneous “whiteboard” sessions in which the team members would take turns developing detailed visual models of group solutions. Months later, our team continues to grow stronger and show vibrant energy and effectiveness, thanks in large part to this coaching program.”

Performance Management Workshop: In November 2009, a Performance Management Workshop was delivered to 76 managers with a component dedicated to improving the performance of employees through coaching. If an employee was not on target to meet their performance objectives, the manager and the employee worked together to create a Performance Improvement Plan.

Coaching Culture Tipping Point
It takes time to change old habits and create a cultural shift. Having more than 10 per cent of Coastal’s 650 employees participate in the Manager as Coach Program created a saturated learning environment that reinforced the coaching message. Employees’ success stories supported coaching as an organizational theme and the successful delivery of the six coaching initiatives created a cycle of unstoppable momentum.

In addition – due to the success of the Sales Champion program a decision to implement the Insights Discovery System to all employees across the organization was made in 2010.  The Insights Discovery System supports a coaching culture where employees develop a deep self-awareness that supports them to interact more effectively with others.  The Insights Discovery System has now been rolled out to approximately 60 per cent of the organization which has resulted in a true “tipping point”.

Deborah Lang EQi, ConRes, CHRP, MBA is the Associate Vice President, Organizational Development for Coastal Community Credit Union. She was the in-house coaching champion and mentor for the coaching culture transformation.

Paul Gossen, Founder, Business Transformed, ICF Professionally Certified Coach, PCC.  Paul was the external coach trainer for the leadership coach training initiatives – to date sixty (60) Managers at Coastal have completed Manager as Coach training.


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