John Laing Integrated Services, the public sector facilities management specialist, has introduced solutions-focused coaching to help its directors and senior managers to cascade responsibility after four years of rapid growth which saw a 400 per cent increase in turnover.
The company – which manages daily operations and provides non-core staff for local authorities, police forces, NHS trusts and schools – commissioned coaching and consultancy firm The Solutions Focus to help it introduce a top-down coaching culture.
“Our directors and senior managers need to delegate responsibility and ensure that others are able to manage effectively,” said Tim Grier, Managing Director of John Laing Integrated Services. “We felt that equipping them with coaching skills would be the best way to achieve this. We were attracted to solutions-focused coaching because it concentrates on strengths not weaknesses, solutions not problems and on what’s going well, rather than what’s gone wrong.”
The Solutions Focus began with a two-day workshop on coaching, facilitation and management skills, which showed how to use the solutions-focused approach to help others improve their performance. Over a nine-month period, the eight directors and senior managers at John Laing Integrated Services each had six one-to-one sessions and telephone coaching with a professional coach from The Solutions Focus. They also gained practical experience by coaching two people from outside their teams. Additional skills building and review workshops were delivered to discuss progress, further develop their coaching expertise and enable them to share experiences.
“Unlike conventional approaches to coaching, which often involve an analysis of ‘the problem’, the solutions-focused approach allows a coach to sidestep the causes of trouble and head straight for the solution,” said Janine Waldman, Director of The Solutions Focus. “The guiding principles involve helping someone to envisage their desired future and then move towards it by identifying what is working and using this to engender more of what’s wanted.”
Tim Grier says the introduction of a coaching culture has led to significant improvements and that the solutions-focused approach has become part of the fabric of the company.
“We’ve seen greater cooperation because the people who have been coached by our directors and senior managers now have better capabilities and a better understanding of what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “In the past, our people have tended to address any errors rather than making the successes more positive. Now, when we have a management meeting, we start off talking about successes and achievements, rather than what haven’t we done well or why didn’t we do that? This positive approach has been much more motivating and encouraging.”
John Laing Integrated Services has asked The Solutions Focus to deliver a similar solutions-focused coaching programme for a further 12 managers, including its regional managers, financial controller, regional operations managers and deputies for the directors.
“This is not just a quick fix or a fancy initiative,” said Tim Grier. “There’s a strong view around the business that the solutions-focused approach can help us take the business forward.”