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Leveraging Team Talents with Coaching

Starting a new job is exciting and fun, but also tends to be somewhat uncertain. We have to (re)build a comfortable workplace, adapt to the new culture and take on new responsibilities… All situations where we may be confronted with ourselves. Or from a more positive perspective: great opportunities to learn and grow.

We believe that we thrive as a company, when all team members thrive personally. So we encourage anything that contributes to the growth of our employees (this is also in line with our core value “continuous learning”). Therefore, a year ago we started experimenting with personal coaching. In this blog we share our learnings and results.

Talents the Source for Growth and Development

According to multiple experts on motivation and success, like Ryan and Deci, you can’t grow nor thrive, unless some basic psychological needs are met:

  1. Feeling safe to be completely yourself, including your quirky side.
  2. Feeling recognized for who you are and what you do.
  3. Feeling the autonomy to make your own choices.  
  4. Feeling connected to others and having a sense of belonging.

Only when these basic needs are met, it becomes possible to develop and reach your full potential.

The Gallup Strength Centre says: 

“the source of your true potential is in your talents:

those thoughts, feelings and behaviours that come naturally to you.

Because a talent, combined with knowledge and skill, can grow into a strength:

the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity.”

Talents and Team Growth

The CliftonStrengths Test (also from Gallup) is a test that gives insight in your greatest talents. We have been using this test for quite some time in our internal recruitment process. It is useful to assess if someone fits the team. There needs to be a match, but definitely also a degree of diversity.

For example when we first took the test as a team in 2016, we found out we were heavily represented in the strategic thinking department, but lacked execution talents. We added the test to the selection process and brought in more structured people with a getting-things-done-focus. This had a huge impact on the growth and professionalisation of the company.

Putting Talents to Practice

As soon as someone joined our team though, we weren’t giving the talents much attention anymore. The new employee had their own report to keep and that was it.

Gallup research shows that consciously using these talents in daily life, makes employees more engaged and productive at work. And on top of that they are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life. Now who wouldn’t want that?;-)

Using the talents daily, starts with being aware of them and acknowledging them. But naturally we tend to take our own talents for granted (“oh, it’s nothing…anybody can do that!”). So it requires some attention to get to know and value your own talents.

Introducing Coaching

After an employee reported not feeling recognised in our team and with the knowledge there was so much more to gain from the Strength Test, we started experimenting with coaching in the spring of 2018. Besides a manager and a buddy (for guidance on career paths and practical on-the-job assistance) each employee now has access to an incompany coach.

We start with a session that is dedicated to the StrengthsTest. In successive sessions there is room to talk about: further development of the talents, friction or pitfalls that are encountered in the workplace and anything else that occupies the mind. Everything that is discussed in the sessions is confidential and management doesn’t have insight in (nor influence on) what comes up.

In essence, a coach mainly functions as a mirror, to help see what is hard to see by yourself. As mentioned we tend to take our talents for granted and we also rarely take time to step back and reflect on what doesn’t work for us. Having dedicated time and someone that asks the right questions helps to gain greater self-awareness.

-Lao Tzu:

“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” 

The Effect of Coaching so far

The coaching is offered as an option (respecting the need for autonomy;-)). So far everyone has accepted this opportunity and stepped in open and curious to learn and grow.

We noticed that starting from the talents, insights are gained in friction, pitfalls and the basic needs as well. For example being strong in creating ideas, might bring along the challenge of actually getting things done. Or the talent responsibility can lead to working too hard and may subconsciously derive from the need for recognition. Increasing consciousness in these areas helps to break patterns and opens room for new choices.

The coaching also contributes to having a culture of openness and honesty. It creates the safety to talk about failures and pitfalls. The sessions are individual, but somehow also encourage the openness in group sessions. And when one person shares openly, this invites others to do the same, which often leads to recognition too. Consequently there is a strong sense of connection in the team. So coaching indirectly contributes to the fulfillment of our basic needs.

Employee experience of Coaching

The responses from employees on the coaching sessions have been very positive. Some feedback we received:

  • “The coaching for me is a safe space where I feel comfortable sharing my issues. It makes me feel more self assured and everything we talked about has led to a positive action for me.”
  • “It’s one of my favourite parts of the week, because I am left feeling energised and often feel like I have the weight lifted off my shoulders”
  • “The sessions are a conversation and not a lecture, that’s great. I feel that the focus is on what I can do.”

Coaching the Holy Grail of Thriving Employees?

Of course coaching is not the holy grail. It won’t “fix” everything. First of all coaching can’t make people change. The responsibility remains with the employee. They decide what the coaching sessions are focused on and whether they will take action on the new insights or not (even though generally they do). Secondly coaching can’t make everyone thrive. We still have the occasional mis hire, where we conclude that LevelUp or recruitment isn’t the right place for a person.

Coaching mainly reveals things quicker and prevents irritation and friction from building up. So in that sense it might prevent someone from underperforming or even leaving, if there wasn’t a mismatch but all they needed was some encouragement to initiate a difficult conversation, to express their needs or to become conscious of a blocking pattern.   

Want to know more? Feel free to contact our coach Anneke Dekker (anneke@levelupventures.nl)