It is no secret that the UK’s workforce faces a “winter of discontent”. With extreme cost of living pressures, certain sectors striking over pay and the ‘Great Resignation’ now in full swing, HR directors across the board face an unprecedented scale of challenges. However, Tracy Sinclair argues that there is an overlooked tool that can support HR professionals to tackle the challenge head on – coaching.
What is coaching?
The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.” In short, a coach is not a line manager, but a thinking partner.
As coaches, it’s important for us to get on a deep and personal level with our clients, to understand professional goals and also work with them to elicit the very best version of themselves possible. Coaches cultivate a safe and trusting environment to evoke enriching and fulfilling experiences that go beyond just workplace performance and we make a positive impact on their lives.
Coaching with conscience
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I established an initiative entitled ‘Coaching with Conscience’ which came to life in light of the lockdown challenges. The offering provides executives and employees, working within the charitable or non-for-profit sectors, access to virtual coaching packages, usually provided through one-to-one sessions lasting an hour. These services are typically offered on either a pro bono or reduced fee basis to organisations who would otherwise not have access to quality coaching services from qualified and experienced coaches.
Coaching with Conscience has worked with a mental health charity, a befriending charity Together Co. and Caterham School. While you may think that these are very specific sectors that are not relevant to you, think again. The challenges faced by schools for example, during and after COVID, are true across most sectors of the UK economy: squeezed budgets, reduced staff and increased demand for services, to name a few.
Coaching is invaluable for schools to improve the day-to-day wellbeing of staff which has a positive impact on their students. Prior to COVID, I established a pro bono package for Caterham School to better equip staff to utilise coaching skills as part of their range of communication options with pupils and colleagues alike. During COVID, the importance of my coaching partnership only intensified, and 1-1 coaching services were offered to staff members to support them in taking care of their mental health and wellbeing during that difficult period.
Coaching in schools
Over the past few years, students’ educational experiences have been drastically different to those of their parents, with home-schooling and online education becoming a norm. The effects that this instability has on children’s social skills, their friendships and confidence, are numerous, and teachers and parents now need to have an even greater awareness of a pupil’s mental health post-pandemic.
The coaching programme enabled teachers to express their own thoughts and feelings about their experience during lockdowns and identify how their own needs can be met so that they can feel more resourceful and resilient in their role. This in turn led to teachers understanding perspectives from pupils and acting as a coach to their pupils, a real shift in the traditional way of doing things.
Today, Caterham School is home to two in-house ICF certified coaches and coaching skills programmes are not only offered to teachers, but they are also provided to heads of departments, bursarial and pastoral staff. Additionally, there are coaching packages for parents and older students in sixth form which creates genuine coaching culture at Caterham.
As a result of the partnership, staff have seen improvements across several areas. It is telling that Deborah Moore, Associated Certified Coach (ACC) told me that “my coach’s expertise definitely helped me to help others both personally and professionally. I was also able to use the sessions to reflect about life after Covid and begin early work to help pupils returning post-pandemic.”
There has been improved confidence and productivity, with staff feeling happier and safer within their role. Teachers have been able to strike a better work-life balance, which has led to improved mental health and decreased levels of stress, therefore meaning class time and pupil attention is enhanced. Kim Wells, ACC at Caterham School told me that, “Coaching in schools is a pivotal ingredient for developing leadership and resilience in colleagues and students alike”, while Rachel Veldtman contacted me to say “having a chance to talk with a coach without them having any agenda was freeing and I valued the objective feedback and guidance to work out for myself how to take action”.
Our partnership with Caterham School is a prime example of how coaching, as a service, is hugely beneficial for schools and teaching staff. Coaching is not exclusive to just schools. The benefits of coaching are invaluable for employees across all sectors across the country, and particularly at a time when morale and motivation might be at an all-time low. Ultimately, coaching ensures that employees are given the tools to reach their full potential and support successful HR management.
Tracy Sinclair is a Master Certified Coach at the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Founder of Coaching with Conscience, Trained Coaching Supervisor, Mentor Coach and ICF Assessor