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USP-D White Paper "A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level"

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It is rare that senior executives as a group have serious dialogue about development. Regular meetings, strategy meetings and Supervisory Board meetings are their cooperation areas. Those involved are …

It is rare that senior executives as a group have serious dialogue about development. Regular meetings, strategy meetings and Supervisory Board meetings are their cooperation areas. Those involved are aware that they could work together more effectively, efficiently and sustainably and contribute better as individuals if they made time for themselves and for one another. For this reason, Group Coaching has been developed over the last two decades as a particularly effective format for management development.

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  • 1. White Paper Petra Schulte A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives
  • 2. It is rare that senior executives as a group have serious dialogue about development. Regular meetings, strategy meetings and Supervisory Board meetings are their cooperation areas. Those involved are aware that they could work together more effectively, efficiently and sustainably and contribute better as individuals if they made time for themselves and for one another. For this reason, Group Coaching has been developed over the last two decades as a particularly effective format for management development. Group Coaching context Individual development is supported by a theoretical framework, meta-models and a shared understanding of leadership. As a format, Group Coaching mainly addresses the personal development of the group members. A theoretical framework and meta-models that look at people’s individual development within a work context, form the background here. Personal reflection and the integration of the participants’ own experience from different areas of life are important points of reference. Maturing as a person according to one’s own recognized purpose is the main premise. The group, as a framework and a space for exchanging ideas, learns from the individuals’ reflection. It forms the learning space and provides a reference. Group Coaching programs target each management level taking a company-wide shared understanding of leadership and a shared language as the basis for a sustainable corporate culture that is recognizable both internally and externally. The participants are ambassadors of an understanding of leadership shaped by individuals and developed according to shared values. This links in to daily activities and therefore affects other management levels, teams and business areas. The company recognizes them as role models. The benefits of Group Coaching Trust and self-responsibility develop a sustainable corporate culture. All target groups define the benefits of Group Coaching similarly: increased responsibility and perceived purpose of the managerial role lead to a deeper understanding of the company context. Connecting participants to one another brings the development experience to diverse areas of the company and creates a bridge of understanding across spatial distances. Trust grows and creates a culture of trust within a first community, which links in to the corporate culture and further develops it. Interactive work, experience and reflection come before theory input. Pair work is a small-scale way of working, which provides further support between coaching partners between modules and is a space for reflection during the event. Individual reflection gains from the subsequent exchange. © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 2
  • 3. Project work serves to anchor experience in the day-to-day business activities of the company. Subject experts, as guest speakers alongside the coach, provide high-quality input with an international benchmark. The internal guests feed the process with background knowledge, undergo development and push themselves in their own growth through the exchange. The management board as a target group The coach accompanies a functionally heterogeneous target group, which is also heterogeneous in terms of the participants’ needs. This group embarks together on a journey of development. Functionally heterogeneous means that the participants come from different areas of the company and do not usually work together. They are however at the same hierarchical level in the company. Group Coaching at board level brings a maximum of two company levels together in order to have a group of six to twelve participants who are responsible for the company’s overall agenda. Formal framework Critical success factor: a program structure oriented towards the needs of the target group. As with other programs, a structure and a concrete design should underlie group training programs. In this way, contributors and participants have concrete information about the path to the goal. Middle management Group Coaching occurs over twelve months with four to five modules each lasting two and a half to three days. The total duration of approximately 15 days should include an official kick-off event and a closing workshop after the training has been completed. At board level, we recommend Group Coaching takes place across a period of nine to twelve months and involves three to five modules, each two and a half days in length. The difference in duration and scope arises from pragmatism based on experience to date: A senior management program should be carried out before programs for middle management and should link in with these. If combining the different management levels is requested, senior management must plan additional specified contingency time in addition to their own coaching modules: in this way senior management can actively contribute to the design of subsequent programs for the next management levels through active monitoring and moderation tasks. In so doing, the formal time investment requires fewer ‘active’ program days but is in fact more comprehensive, more intense and more sustainable. If the target groups spend at least two evenings and two nights per module as a group, this can lead to intensive group dynamics. © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 3
  • 4. Depending on the quality of the program, the effect of Group Coaching can last one to three further years because the participants continue to work with their experience and remain in contact as a group. Between modules, supportive measures such as individual coaching sessions or virtual coaching to help participants adopt learned skills into their daily work are available to participants. These improve the individual achievement of targets and performance measurement, as well as strengthening sustainability. Methods and pertinence of Group Coaching for senior managers Roles and expectations are developed sustainably using target-oriented tools. The first step in working together is building trust. Participants observe closely whether distinctions are allowed by the coach or the management board members in interactions between the different hierarchical levels. Do the board members contribute well? Do they take more space for themselves? Are they allowed more freedom? The confidentiality rules, which are agreed for each coaching program, and requesting that people be responsible for themselves, represent initial approaches to building trust. Further steps include defining roles and shared understanding and language. A good way to do this is the concept of meta-levels. If all participants, attendees and the coach agree as to when they are discussing facts and when they are discussing the abstract ideas that are derived from them, good foundations are laid for further work. These steps function similarly in coaching sessions and Group Coaching sessions. In Group Coaching with mixed management levels – above all however with senior management – the work on defining roles and on the concept of meta-levels indicates selectivity and differentiation to the participants. It is related first to communication levels and then to functions, contributions and expectations. The ritual laying down of roles has proven successful in Group Coaching sessions at mixed management levels and in particular at board level: the participants symbolically lay down insignia of their power and their everyday roles at the beginning of every coaching module and take them back up again at the end, at the final round. The insignia laid down at the beginning are generally mobile phones and Blackberry smartphones but may also be wedding rings and watches. The symbolic power of officially laying down their role affects each person openly or indirectly. Using feedback is also a way to increase the pertinence of the sessions. The magic of Group Coaching comes from intensive feedback sessions among the participants, sometimes on a one-to-one basis but mostly as © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 4
  • 5. a whole group. Participants in Group Coaching want to be noticed. The higher and more isolated they are day-to-day in the management hierarchy, the truer this is. Differences to Group Coaching for middle management Best practice and benchmarks are the indicators of successful Group Coaching sessions for Executives. All coaching programs have a curriculum framework, which is defined in advance with HR and senior management. Curriculum elements of a Group Coaching session for middle management are often topics such as strategy, leadership, team, conflict, change and intercultural management. The curriculum for top managers and board members includes vision and strategy as well as leadership and change. However, conflict management, team management or leading teams almost always replaces topics such as intercultural management and globalization. A further simple difference that can be seen in the design is that top managers, in contrast to middle management or management trainees, are not or are no longer very strongly interested in the theoretical support for certain concepts. Instead, it is best practice and international benchmarks that are of interest. They have more resonance than scientifically proven concepts and reputable sources. Pragmatism and accountability are considered much more important than the intellectual elements of a model. This target group grasps its function within the overall context very quickly, often has fixed images, is happy to be surprised by the ‘wow factor’ and recognizes the value of a small insight that really makes a difference. Middle management wants comparatively often to establish which information should be followed, looking at and evaluating the content through debate. Top-level management is fuelled by comparison – even between themselves. They look for exchange, want to look at each other’s menus or wine lists, and learn from one another as individuals. Middle management wants to understand the world and the professional context of others. Mutual understanding still has the purpose of understanding diversity and affecting the overall view. Getting rid of ‘loneliness’ among senior executives only becomes a need later. Reasons for Group Coaching at board level Group Coaching prepares the ground for dealing with change and development. Need and psychological strain often go hand in hand. If a company has a change of policy, or the management is re-assembled or the board pushes a new agenda, the time has come for a shared learning and development period. © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 5
  • 6. Strategy consultants and coaches are brought in and accompany selective development processes with their expertise. Top-level management acquires a taste for shared reflection and has regular exchange in the form of a team supervision. Participants recognize that this type of interaction challenges them as individuals. They recognize that the format of team supervisions or strategy advice does not give them legitimate space for individual reflection or wide-reaching overhaul. They also recognize that a constant coaching process within the company not only gives them strength and clarity regarding their role and function but can also empower and carry the entire company along. Senior management perceives itself as the leverage point in the coaching process: here, the course is set effectively and significant change is effected around it. Suitable target companies for this working format Group Coaching at management board level should be applicable everywhere. Global, international and national companies, mediumsized family businesses and middle-sized groups are similar in the following ways: top management has barely been actively involved in any learning scenarios for many years. Top management needs exchange with their top managers that goes beyond strategic and operative work topics. Top management directs development and growth. At second glance however, closer differentiation is beneficial: companies that are in a situation of upheaval or particular growth are particularly willing to learn and open to a shared, strong learning methods. This effect can be seen in medium-sized companies in exactly the same way as in medium-sized groups with employee numbers that are well into five digits. It should be considered that the more global and larger a company’s base, the rarer it is that the top level management is involved in a coaching program because it is not offered to them. How does HR open the door to a development program for Executives? Strategic management development starts at the top. Human resources managers who have already experienced the efficacy of Group Coaching at other management levels, speak to their top managers openly about it. Some HR colleagues go the indirect way and invite their executives to be involved in the program’s conception. In these planning meetings, the need at board level can be established. Such phrases as “the rot starts at the top” may be used. Working on individual competencies of middle management is important but the actual need is at the top. Recognizing this is simple for top managers. © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 6
  • 7. Strategic top level management development is always linked to the strategic orientation of an organization. It addresses the future need of the company with regard to competencies, skills, conduct and attitude. It supports organization by attuning to a new vision, sketching this out with an all-encompassing strategy and formulating measurable targets. A few simple rules help to ensure quality and overall success: 1. Clarifying the contract before the program – a contract is a contract The particular target group of executives has power when making economic decisions. They can award contracts and projects relatively autonomously. As such the coach is presented with additional contracts, which he/she carefully distinguishes from Group Coaching. The total contract for a Group Coaching program at board level is agreed before the start of the program with the head of HR and the board, and defined in terms of all the formal facets, its boundaries and its purpose. Should there be additional contracts, such as individual consulting or further team events with managers, these are formally clarified with the head of HR, as is also the case with other customer relations. Many management boards are used to commissioning more than one expert at a time. They therefore expect external partners to catch balls for them as their external consultants or their internal management do. This target group is so close to day-to-day business that they bring the everyday into the Group Coaching sessions with them, and can switch to normal working mode almost automatically in the middle of the process. The solution: The coach keeps these sometimes barely perceptible boundaries in sight with aplomb and quiet attention and explains the abstraction levels. The group relaxes more quickly as a result and is aware of its own actions. 2. Initial diagnostics at the highest level – defining the individual learning and development fields Young talents, junior managers and management are nominated by their superiors to be part of the program. They undergo a status quo analysis before the Group Coaching begins. This takes the form of Potential Workshops, Assessment Centers or Development Centers. This approach has been shown to not be particularly adaptable for top-level management because of the lack of internal assessors. If the board itself is not involved in the program, it can carry out appraisals with the participants alongside the coach or external consultants. If the board members are themselves program participants, there is a different approach available. The solution: 360 Degree Feedback with subsequent individual feedback and agreed individual learning areas provide an appropriate initial diagnostic. The overall results of the target group, anonymized © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 7
  • 8. as a group report, also enable a good starting point for organizational learning. 3. Transfer measures instead of a supporting project – where senior management shapes organizational learning Group Coaching programs for younger target groups frequently involve company projects to ensure the transferability of learned skills. Several senior management programs involve social work outside the organization. The nature of these projects is strongly dependent on the organization, the target group and the coach’s preferences. Programs that are prepared strategically and want to give board members and senior management more time for reflection find environmental and social projects to be a welcome addition. Programs that accompany or work on a specific issue (M&A), a change or restructuring frequently use projects to tie in to company-relevant cultural and sustainability-related issues. The solution: Skills transfer and accompanying measures have proved to be very successful where they involve processing management board topics as input for other management levels, and thus lead to company-wide learning. This group of participants can easily identify themselves and recognize the benefits immediately. These contributions also reflect the company’s change process well. From the external perspective of the other management levels, the role model nature of the forerunner group can be easily recognized and encourages identification and a stronger ‘us’ culture. Summary Autor: Petra Schulte petra.schulte@usp-d.com Group Coaching programs at board level have developed over the past few years following significant demand from companies. Top level managers who commit themselves to growth outlooks and written change processes, rely on the energy and driving force of a companybased coaching process. They devote their attention to the differences between senior managers and the attraction of sharing a direction. A total of 15 to 25 days of investment per person for the design, execution and continuing support of the whole organization ensures strong management, a clear orientation and security in dealing with change. USP-D Deutschland Consulting GmbH Moltkestraße 101 D-40479 Düsseldorf Tel. +49 (0)211 913 697 00 Fax +49 (0)211 913 697 10 office.duesseldorf@usp-d.com USP-D Consulting GmbH Winckelmannstraße 8/6+7 A-1150 Wien Tel. +43 (0)1 585 55 94 Fax +43 (0)1 585 62 26 office.wien@usp-d.com www.usp-d.com © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 8
  • 9. First steps to jump-start Agree working rules – less is more: Two rules are sufficient. They are confidentiality and individual responsibility Meta-levels as a starting platform and shared language Laying down normal roles, and mindfulness as conscious steps away from the everyday The same rights and duties for all – delegating responsibilities for work and evening units with process feedback Peer partnerships and psychological agreements as emotional support Effective working methods in Group Coaching Small-scale: Previous research, critical evaluation and mini presentation – sharing with the group in order to decide individual priorities for different concepts and theories Peer coaching for confidential reflections and encouraging transfer of learned skills between modules Virtual coaching for integrating skills into day-to-day work Transfer from leadership to participants: Lead the leaders Method: Story-telling, work on analogies, Gestaltarbeit Script analysis for reflection on one’s own story, example and successful concepts Scenario techniques for visualizing interdependencies, dynamics and phenomena Mindfulness exercises, journeys through time and meditation to slow down and become more aware Feedback in various forms, one to one, group to one Development of rituals and contracts for defining roles and establishing role changes © USP-D 2014 / Petra Schulte: A Group Coaching program at Executive Board level – Learning paths and learning spaces for Executives 9

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