Coaching Skills for Transformation – Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

Between March 2014/2015, the Library Service in Doncaster underwent significant change. Doncaster MBC wanted to create a ‘Cultural Service’ for the public by merging the Library Services with Heritage Services. At the same time the number of community  libraries across Doncaster was increasing. Alongside these changes, Doncaster MBC itself faced a large scale transformation within a tough financial climate. As with many local authorities, there was a need to demonstrate on-going efficiencies, value for money, innovation and modernisation. For Library Services, this frequently meant a journey of discovery, of a new emphasis on co-production of services, a better understanding of commissioning and contracting, and greater involvement of service users. Underpinning this, was an on-going commitment to the professional and supported development of staff. Some traditional skill sets within the service area had gone and staff needed to be supported through change. This brought challenges and feelings of uncertainty, symptoms of anxiety and stress, which often resulted in sickness absence.

The solution 

The Adults, Health and Wellbeing Directorate for DMBC commissioned new habits to develop and deliver the Coaching Skills for Transformation programme for all its people managers starting with the Senior Management team. Nick Stopforth, Head of Libraries and Culture, was particularly supportive of the programme given what they were going through. Nick was looking for the training to meet the following needs:

  • For staff to adopt coaching styles and practice in the work environment;
  • For the coaching skills course to demonstrably benefit staff, leading to improvements in staff reports on their development and wellbeing;
  • Evidence of less sickness absence (due to a range of factors potentially but including coaching skills);
  • Offer of support to other departments for coaching time;
  • Take up of coaching network opportunities; and
  • Accreditation, where appropriate.

The process

new habits initially designed and delivered a programme of six courses (which has now been extended to 16), run over three separate days to maximise the learning. The programme aimed to equip managers to understand:

  • their role in supporting change within the Directorate;
  • the principles of coaching in the workplace;
  • the differences between coaching and mentoring;
  • the benefits of coaching to the individual, the manager and the Directorate;
  • the use of(T)GROW model of coaching;
  • the core skills of an effective coach; and
  • applying the core ‘pull’ skills in effective coaching conversations to support team members through change.

The results

Following on from colleagues’ attendance on the course, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Nick said: “It would be good to monitor trends in staff views six months after the course, but on many occasions I heard people say ‘it was the best, most useful course I have attended’. This tells me, through this verbal evidence alone, and the conversations I’ve had with staff, that they’ve been on a journey and are really benefitting from the course. The course was well delivered, relevant, and of great value.”

The course has led to an expectation within the service, (thanks to Nick’s support and reiteration of ‘this is how we now work’) of a coaching style and practice embedded within other development tools. There is an ambition within Doncaster MBC for the services to develop positively and proactively within an environment of challenge and change.

“It will be interesting” Nick continued: “to see how staff respond in future through pulse surveys, the corporate staff survey, and at our next full staff away day in February 2016, as the challenge there is for staff to demonstrate the change through positive role-modelling behaviours, and through solution-orientated ways of working, including coaching.”

The future

Learning outcomes were achieved with a 100% effective rating and the programme was recognised by the Association for Coaching. Future programmes are planned for 2016.

Nick summed it up: “Before the Coaching Skills for Transformation programme, this form of coaching was new to most people managers in my area, both as a concept and as an opportunity. Whilst teams have been encouraged for some time to be solutions orientated this often focussed on transactional behaviours, rather than through applying the skills developed through the coaching training.”

“The service areas I am responsible for, had some issues of working in silos, resulting in staff often feeling isolated, either inwardly between tiers of management, or outwardly towards other departments. This programme has had a huge impact on staff.”