In this article, we share the learning from developing an internally run and resourced coaching scheme, which supports our commitment to a culture of distributed leadership and whole-person learning. We share the impact on individual and organisational performance, as well as explaining how the scheme aligns with our organisational purpose to make a positive difference in the world.
Bettys & Taylors is a 100-year-old, values-led family business with a commitment to a stakeholder model and sustainable relationships with suppliers, customers, employees, community, and the wider planet. The Group is committed to creating a culture where people can be their very best, where leadership is distributed, and the family business’s purpose and values are deeply embedded and lived powerfully.
With a strong programme of learning and development for all – and as part of a wider programme of culture change – over the last decade the business has developed an innovative internal coaching scheme. Going beyond traditional performance coaching, Bettys & Taylors ‘1 to 1 Development’ programme is a whole-person approach which helps people find ways to address their own individual needs through reflection and dialogue.
‘It has taught me that it is far more valuable for an individual to be supported to find their own best response to a situation, than to be directed towards one.’
Fundamental to the programme is a partnership with Oasis School of Human Relations, one of the founding members of the GRLI. Ten years into the scheme, there are now 23 Oasis trained in-house coaches working with “clients” on a one-to-one basis from every level and area of the business, enabling them to work on their personal development and relationships with others that make a meaningful difference.
To date, over 250 employees have participated in the coaching programme. The scheme is open to all, and objectives don’t have to be specifically related to an individual’s job role. Coaches have helped people during life transitions such as career changes, parental leave, and planning for retirement, through to developing new skills or behaviours, working on challenging relationships, or simply creating space to step back and think. One coach commented on the programme: ‘It has taught me that it is far more valuable for an individual to be supported to find their own best response to a situation, than to be directed towards one.’
Feedback has highlighted how coaches influence and instil the Group’s cultural behaviours and beliefs into both one-to-one relationships with a wider range of peers and into decision-making. ‘This has helped me be more challenging, open and honest, and afforded the freedom to act in a peer-based way with colleagues in leadership teams,’ commented one client.
Beyond the immediate benefits to coach and client, the programme has brought multiple benefits to the wider business in helping build a culture of strong relationships, self-awareness and self-initiating behaviours, and a deeper connection with the business’s purpose and values. One in-house coach explained: ‘The skills I learned during those sessions have made me a more confident leader, enabled me to act as a more proactive, supportive and challenging peer to my colleagues and, more broadly, working with my clients has brought an additional richness to my working life. The more time you spend with different individuals, understanding their concerns and successes, their perceived strengths and weaknesses and the principles they hold, the more (you) learn to value and celebrate that difference.’
Kate Donnelly, Learning & Development Partner at Bettys & Taylors, agrees that the programme has had a significant impact on the approaches used across the business: ‘The extent to which one-to-one coaching is becoming so prevalent across the business demonstrates the culture change we’re working towards. In uncertain and challenging times, we know it’s important for our people to lead with our values, empathy and curiosity. Thanks to the scheme, we have a broader pool of people working in this way and the ripple effect can be felt across the business.’
Coaches have regular professional supervision to make sure their practice remains fresh and to support how they can navigate the inevitable conflicts of interest that may arise when supporting others in one’s own organisation.
The business’s Head of Learning & Development, Vanessa Duckenfield, has been involved in the programme since its inception: ‘Increasingly leaders need to be able to lead in a changing context, with an ability to identify and adapt their leadership style in various situations. This takes a great deal of consciousness and personal understanding. This is why a whole-person approach to learning is so important to us. For many of our leaders, their development has been truly life-changing.’
Several coaches are now pursuing additional qualifications, such as Mental Health First Aid training, or professional accreditation from the Association for Coaching, to complement their experience to fulfil longer-term career aspirations in this area, or offer their skills to support their wider communities.
In ten years, the programme has evolved significantly however there are still opportunities for further impact. In 2021, the Group launched a prototype scheme offering coaching to an external partner, supporting teachers working in disadvantaged communities across the UK, at a time when the impact of COVID-19 was still being felt significantly across schools, with virtual learning and staff shortages leading to impacts on well-being. This was a first formal step to understanding how Bettys & Taylors 1 to 1 coaching may support people outside of the business. The prototype has been extended into a second year, with a further prototype beginning this year, offering coaching to a group of charity and community leaders in the region.