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Culture Really Does Matter

Coaching the leaders of tomorrow

16 August 2018

I spent 25 years in management, most of it in senior teams running multiple service operations. I decided to take the plunge 3 years ago and set up my own business specialising in cultural change solutions for organisations. My journey thus far has been incredibly satisfying and most importantly I have discovered the thing that I most want to bring into the world.

I want to awaken in managers and students of management the belief that they can craft the culture at work that they really want to belong to. I want to teach them the knowledge and transfer the practical skills that they require to do this. So I have spent the last 3 years building up my products at www.culturalchange.co.uk to do this. And every day I get the chance to explore my passion. Sometimes delivering NLP trainings; sometimes coaching clients; sometimes developing products in collaboration with partners; and sometimes designing and delivering change skill programmes for high end business schools.

The most rewarding aspect of these roles is coaching young women and men who will be leading organisations throughout the world through their final master’s in management science (MSC)  dissertations. To date, since leaving my management career three years ago I have successfully coached over 40 international students through their dissertation. I have been incredibly blessed to get this opportunity from Adam Smith Business School.

Each summer I am allocated 15 students from all over the world who have invested a year of their lives to achieve their master’s Degree in subjects such as International Strategic HRM. These students are incredibly bright, open to new ideas and they are like sponges soaking up everything Adam Smith can give them so that they may go forth and bet the best version of themselves and make a real difference as leaders post MSC.

The coaching process is quite intense, often challenging though incredibly satisfying for me and I think my students (although they have the final say in this regard). We start off with a one-day group coaching workshop to build rapport and establish psychological safety. I find this stage incredibly important and we review a model regards the dissertation and the dissertation process. We build in a time line and a SMART plan for each student. We also agree a ‘coaching agreement’, an informal understanding of what I will do for them and what they must do. This I find helps enormously.

Then we programme in 4 face to face coaching’s sessions during which I coach the students through issues to do with technicalities, subject details and  often we work on strengthening their self-belief through positive feedback and identity support. This is backed up with multiple written feedback support mechanisms regards their project. The students must craft a 12,500-word dissertation on say ‘Leadership Cultures at Google’ often in a second language and I am constantly bowled over by their ability to think on paper in such a mature way about complex organisational matters. This I must say is a testimony of the students and the whole academic and administrative support and learning culture at Adam Smith Business School.

I usually start each coaching session with a story, a metaphor if you like. I explain that some people like to live in the valley and they prepare for this and yes, its hard work to get established and it is usually achievable. Some people however set their sights on living in the mountains and I explain how this is a tougher challenge that requires more planning and greater commitment. Then a few, they wish to live amongst the Alps. They aim high and plan accordingly and put in the work. The students I feel find this story interesting and thought provoking. What I discover is that when they hit challenging moments sometimes we go back to the story and it helps the student find the resources they need at that moment to push through the challenges.

I think I am incredibly privileged to get to do this kind of coaching role. To play a small part in their learning journey and to see them full of commitment, steel and drive and intellectual curiosity makes me know that 3 years ago I made the right decision. Whomever employs these young leaders will get quality people to help run their organisations and develop them. And I am sure some will go on and create new business and bring wealth and creativity into the world which is yet to exist.