Imperial has been running a pioneering leadership & career coaching academy for staff since 2009, and is now hoping to take it to the next level.
Anyone who uses public transport in London will have no doubt been hooked in by ads promoting career-boosting services, products and books. It plays on a desire most of us have to be as effective as possible at our jobs and make the most of opportunities that may come our way.
What Imperial staff may not be aware of is that the College has been running its own coaching academy since 2009. The primary stated aims of the programme are: to help coachees develop greater self-awareness; address their own challenges; identify their goals and potential barriers; and develop appropriate skills and strategies empowering them to take action.
Yet, it goes much deeper than this, as Judy Barnett (pictured left), Talent Development Manager in the HR Division, explains.
“The key thing about coaching is that it helps someone to think problems through for themselves – it’s a completely nondirective approach. Coaches are trained to really listen and ask powerful questions in order to help their coachee carefully consider their options and come to their own conclusions and decisions.”
There are now around 40 coaches at Imperial, who are carefully matched with coachee before the pair agree on a timetable of four coaching sessions lasting around an hour each, spread over a number of weeks.
All coaches attend a six day training programme which equips them with a coaching toolkit and a framework for appropriate, ethical behaviour. They are also offered continuing professional development (CPD) training twice a year.
A lot of coaches say that being a coach has made them better managers of their own staff.”
– Judy Barnett
Talent Development Manager
In October 2015, a new cohort of prospective coaches began training for an accredited qualification – the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Level 5. That was completed in April and the 'graduates' all gathered for their final accredidation session (see picture below)
“I’m trying to raise the level of attainment of the coaches within Imperial,” says Judy, who notes that demand from staff to become coaches is very high.
Partly this is due to a desire to give something back to the community. But there is also great benefit to the coaches themselves, Judy argues.
“A lot of coaches say that being a coach has made them better managers of their own staff. They’ve integrated the same approach to listening and this nondirective way of dealing with their own staff. That’s a powerful benefit.”
Indeed, Judy is keen for coaching approaches to be integrated into management and leadership roles across the College, starting with a new initiative called ‘Leader as Coach’. Departmental Operations Managers and Heads of Services in the Faculty of Engineering have recently participated in a pilot to incorporate coaching into their roles. Similar programmes will be offered to senior academic and professional services staff in the other Faculties.
“More and more universities are thinking about internal coaching provision, but we were ahead of the curve in the way we introduced it and how it has developed – so now it’s about how to maintain that momentum.”
The latest cohort of coaches came together on 13 April for their final accredidation session.
They are: Back row, L-R: Laura Lane (Manager of the Graduate School), Ireti Webb (HR Manager). Sian Christina (Organisational Development Consultant (Academic Focus)). Anna Lisa Alexander (Head of Outrach). Lisa Umeniyora (Assistant Director, Finance Programmes), Sarmini Ghosh (Careers Consultant, Business School) . Leyla Okhai (Head of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre), Esther Perea (Pricipal Teaching Fellow), Susan English (Director Education Management & Programme Director Education), Nazia Hirjee (Faculty Operations Officer, Natural Sciences).
Front row. L-R, Judy Barnett (Talent Development Manger), Mark Allen (Careers Consultant), Kira Hughes (Careers Consultant), Tim Killip (Head of Maintenance).
Coaching is done in the strictest confidence, but one coach-coachee pair agreed to talk about their respective experiences.
Geneviève Timmins Web and Communications Officer, Department of Medicine
"I contacted the Coaching Academy because I needed support with identifying a pathway for career progression. At the time, I was working on a personal project alongside my official role, which I wanted to formally incorporate into my job. The most important thing that I gained from Kelly’s coaching was learning to prioritise this project. I was supported in defining what I wanted as a result of completing it, and how it would help me in the broader context of my career. As a consequence, I was motivated to discuss my professional development with my manager, and now work officially in a split role as a Section Manager and Web and Communications Officer."
Kelly Swaby Student Hub Manager, Campus Services
"My initial reason for applying for the Coaching Academy was based on my own experience of being a coachee. I recognised what a powerful tool it can be in bringing about positive change in a person’s perception of their own ability. Providing a platform that enables them to find their own solutions to a problem/issue can be very empowering for that individual. Personally, I have really enjoyed supporting my coachees through their journeys and seeing them succeed in their goals. Also, through my own experience as a coach and manager I have come to realise how effective the approach can be when used within a management setting. It affords team members ownership and accountability, with the knowledge that they are fully supported by their manager."
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