ARB – Senior Management Team Coaching Programme


Background and Objectives

The Architects Registration Board has been a client of ours for many years, historically using Phoenix to provide one annual “team training day” and one or two management training days for their Operational Management Group (OMG). These days were successful as training events and always received positive feedback. In 2017, the OMG recognised that they needed to improve their overall approach to the management, and development, of their team in particular. They investigated a range of possible solutions and asked Phoenix to come up with some ideas as to how the OMG could develop the skills needed to improve the overall performance of the team. Refreshingly, they were keen to embark on a programme that developed their skills over a period of time and avoid single event training.

As a busy management team, logistically it was not going to be easy to organise a regular, evenly spaced training programme. Also, and more significantly, the needs and objectives of each member of the OMG were very different and each needed a tailored coaching approach to help them achieve results.

Through discussion and consultancy, a clear objective for the programme was “to get the best out of individuals” – this was a general programme objective and the individuals were encouraged to create their own specific targets and objectives.

Programme Format

In essence, the coaching programme was simple in design. Each member of the team was allocated six, two hour coaching sessions, to run over a six month period. However, a vital part of the process was to create a personal coaching path or journey. Each participant needed to choose their coach. This is a vital aspect of the process. Phoenix was able to offer a wide range of coaches, some known to the team from previous work and some not. Participants were able to interview those coaches they did not know and decide which “coaching personality” would be the best fit for them.  This was crucial because the needs and requirements of the OMG were and are very different. For example, one of the team did not actually have any team members (although that has now changed). This is in comparison to other members of the team who have several team members.

Once the coaches were selected by the participants, the programme could begin very quickly, the coaching journeys started to take their own paths. One consistent element to the programme was the use of Promote, our online learning transfer platform. Each participant had their own programme and by using Promote the coaches were able to set personal assignments to help reinforce what had been worked on during each session.

It was interesting how each pair (coach and coachee) developed particular ways of working together. The success of the programme was based on this flexibility and our coaching team’s ability to reflect the learning and development needs of those they were working with. It clearly demonstrated the need to adapt programmes to meet specific needs.

Historically, senior teams in need of management training or coaching skills would have all attended the same programme and whilst this approach would seem to fit the majority of the needs of the team, it would have been too general.

There still would have been gaps and shortfalls in the learning. By tailoring the approach and allowing specific paths to be developed, participants were able to focus on the key skills and techniques that would really make a difference to the performance to the team

The Results

To capture some of the results on the programme, we asked the following questions:

What specific changes have you made in your management approach and style since the coaching programme started?

The first – and main one – is a change in my approach to the need for active management. Previously, while I have been very proactive in managing people I think need managing, I have tended to leave alone the experienced and high performers. It has made me realise that these people need just as much management, but just of a different sort.

What changes in your team’s performance have you observed since the programme began?

There has been a positive reaction in terms of someone just spending more time with them in a structured way. Behavioural problems have been addressed through more structured feedback; instead of me saying ‘I don’t like that, I do like this’, they have reacted better to me saying ‘this you did was good, and this and this – carry that on. This you did had this negative effect, so you need to change that’

Which areas of your management approach and style do you think you have made the most progress in?

The need to plan in advance, whether that be team events, appraisals, performance plans.

If you walk into a meeting as a manager with a plan – even if it is not one set in stone – then that inspires confidence in you.

What do you think you still need to work on as a manager?

Consistency, not having favourites, not prejudging performance based on previous experience of the individual.

Still prioritising team development over being in task, but also seeing it through. I am good at the big showpiece events, but less good at following through with the groundwork afterwards.

 Also, sometimes I think I suffer from a lack of imagination. I know that I need to develop this person, to take the team to the next level…but how?

How has the programme affected your approach to people development within your team?

Hugely. Previously it was ‘how can I get this person up to speed’ and then ‘touch in as necessary’. I’ve understood that’s not necessarily wrong, but there is so much more I can get out of people if I continue to stretch and develop them.

I have also grown to understand that if someone is not performing as they should, well as their manager that is equally my failing/problem as much as it is theirs.

Can you give some specific examples of where something you have learnt or discussed during the programme has improved the performance of an individual or your team as a whole?

The planning for our team away day. Before it was simply creating an agenda of all of the tasks we were required to deal with.

This time I took time to plan what objectives we would be looking to get from the day and – importantly – got early buy-in by discussing those objectives with the team in advance, getting their input, getting them to agree their own ground-rules for the day, making it much more collaborative.

Can you give an example or examples of how the format of the coaching programme helped your development or approach?

Yes. I would regularly come to coaching with individual managerial problems to discuss. The coach made me appreciate that fire-fighting these issues was not the way forward; I had to develop a plan for each person that would catch these problems before they arise.

I abhor gimmicks and slogans, but the phrase ‘what have you done for your team today’ has really resonated with me. 

The programme is going from strength to strength and all coaches are keen to continue with their ongoing development for the coming months.