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News and Ideas for the April 13, 1998-No. 7
Organizational Learner Pegasus Communications
FROM THE FIELD - Partnership Coaching at Xerox
Used by permission
In 1995, Seth Silver, manager of organizational development for Xerox's Production Systems Group (PSG), received the results from a 360-degree assessment of the division's managers and knew it was time for change.
Managers within PSG-a 3,000-employee division of the company located in Rochester, NY, and Los Angeles, CA-were assessed by their bosses, their direct reports, their peers and colleagues, and themselves. The managers received their lowest assessments in developing talent and delivering meaningful feedback. Their direct reports and peers indicated that the executives needed to improve in four areas: identifying and addressing long- term staffing problems, coaching others to develop needed skills, and accurately identifying strengths and development needs in others, and eliminating inefficiencies and road-blocks.
After reviewing the data with others, Silver decided that a coaching program for the managers could address their development requirements. Silver knew the traditional, expert coaching model wouldn't meet the company's needs, so he explored a form of coaching called partnership coaching. At Silver's request, consultants Diane Cory and Rebecca Bradley developed a two-day workshop for the managers based on the partnership coaching model.
Partnership coaching, which draws its inspiration from the work of Timothy Gallwey, occurs when managers and employees work together to facilitate learning, improve performance, and enable those being coached to create desired results. Bradley and Corv see partnership coaching as a mind-set or framework from which a coach operates to support the learning and actions of another person or of a team.
Successful partnership coaching comes from focusing on what others are learning rather than on what the manager is teaching. A coach can make this shift bv asking effective questions, creating an environment that helps reduce What Gallwey calls -interference----or negative self-talk--and providing learner-focused rather than teacher-focused feedback.
Overcoming Barriers to Learning
For the PSG managers, the first steps toward becoming effective coaches involved learning to ask open-ended rather than "yes/no" questions and avoiding simply telling others what they knew. According to Bradley and Cory, effective questions are nonjudgmental and lead coachees to more reflective and expansive thinking.
In an environment of fast change, one of the key challenges for managers is to provide quality development and coaching to their employees.
The PSG managers went on to explore ways to help workers overcome internal barriers to learning, or Gallwey's concept of interference. Again, the key to reducing interference is not in diagnosing it, but in asking the coachee a question that shifts his focus from his own negative self-talk to one of the relevant details of the activity he's engaged in. The question coaches learned to ask themselves is, "Am I increasing or decreasing interference in this coaching conversation?"
Offering Feedback and Developmental Assistance
Another goal of the partnership coaching workshop was for managers to learn to provide workers with effective feedback. In the traditional feedback model, the boss, or "expert" critiques an employee's actions; however, this format often puts the employee on the defensive. Bradley, and Cory encourage managers to give what they call "edible" feedback--information that nourishes the performer, increases her self-awareness and focus, and lets her internalize the data for optimum learning. The executives learned to ask the person what did and did not work for her during the project or meeting; ask her what she might consider doing differently next time, and offer useful feedback only after checking with her to be sure she was ready to hear it.
From the survey data, Silver and the PSG managers knew, that front-line employees felt they were not receiving enough developmental assistance from their bosses. The partnership coaching program taught executives how to help the people reporting to them take ownership over their own learning processes--with their bosses' support and guidance. "We taught the managers that their job is not to manage but to serve," Bradley said. The PSG managers came to see that the questions they ask are more important than the amount of knowledge or expertise they impart to others. They now know that, as coaches. they need to facilitate learning instead of teaching per se.
According to Silver, there was a 9 percent improvement in the attitude of the managers' direct reports in the time since the partnership coaching workshop. To date, about 500 senior to mid-level PSG managers in New York and California have been through the two-day workshop. Xerox is so pleased with the results that other groups within the company, such as the Xerox Engineering Systems group, have requested training in partnership coaching. Bradley says that managers like the workshop because it teaches them practical skills that they can begin using tomorrow, not just a general philosophy or approach. According to Silver, in an environment of fast change, one of the key challenges for managers is to provide quality development and coaching to their employees. "The old model is to be the expert and to have the answers; the new model is to have the right questions." Silver said. "Most often, the employees know what to do; the challenge is to elicit that from them in a way that fosters learning and self-leadership."
© 1998 Pegasus Communications, Inc. (781) 398-9700 LEVERAGE April 13, 1998
Partnership Coaching in Action
The Systems Thinker
Partnership Coaching May, 1998 - Vol 9, Nbr 4
© 1998 Pegasus Communications, Inc Pegasus Communications (Now Leverage Networks)
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Partnership Coaching is published in Organizational Learning and The Systems Thinker (tm).
Compiled from articles appearing in recent volumes of The Systems Thinker(tm) Newsletter, Organizational Learning at Work presents the insight of the field's most respected thinkers. Each chapter in Part One tackles a common obstacle to organizational learning....
For more information on this and other systems-based publications, visit Leverage Networks.