Leadership Team Coaching Case Study:

Team collaboration across organisational boundaries

The client was one of the largest local and regional print and online media companies in the UK, employing 3000 staff and with a turnover of £250m. This is an industry under extreme pressure as people move away from printed media to digital and new entrants come into the marketplace. These pressures have caused all publishers to radically reduce costs and drive for much greater efficiencies. This must be achieved while working to rapidly grow the digital elements of their business.

An initiative was started to completely redesign their editorial function so they could deliver an organisation that was ‘future fit’, allowing for much greater efficiencies. The Editorial Board was expected to lead this transformation and embed significant changes across the organisation.

Knowing his editorial team needed support in moving into this new area of change leadership, the group's Editor in Chief reached out for support from Gregor Findlay of Courageous Development. Gregor was known to the main sponsor in this project, the Group HR Director who was a key figure in leading the reshaping of the organisation.

Key issues

The company, which had grown through acquisition, had a long history of independent publishing units who were in a seemingly unrelenting pattern of competing against each other. In order for the company to survive and thrive, they had to a) implement the change initiative, b) slow print declines and c) grow digital audience. This required both innovation and collaboration across all of the various publishing units. This was something the publishing units consistently struggled to do, and had never achieved as an organisation.

The team recognised that they were limited in the required change management skills. While great editors, none of them had the experience of leading change programs and coordinating on a national basis. Regional media is by its very nature very independent and the board's experience wouldn’t get them to their destination.

The Brief

Develop the capacity for the Editorial Board of 12 members to lead change.
Significantly increase collaboration and communication across organisational boundaries.
More rapid and successful execution of change initiatives and embedding of organic change.
Increased innovation.
Greater employee engagement with the resulting impacts on turnover and discretionary effort.
Increase collaboration and teaming across the Editorial Board and editorial communitye.
Increased management / leadership impact across progressively distributed teams.

Proposed Solution

The initial request was for a change leadership program based on skills acquisition. It became apparent that for the organisation’s larger goals to be met, the team didn’t need to become change experts but become a real, high performing team that could lead the organisation forward together.

An integrated leadership development and team coaching approach was proposed with the emphasis on coaching over any ‘taught’ methodology.

The Team Leader’s Goals

For the team to be much more pro-active - “To be masters of our own destiny”.
More positive conflict in the editorial board meetings.
Ownership: team members each have their own sphere of influence and are bringing initiatives to the board.
More opinions being voiced within the board meetings and on the change agenda.
Staff Morale - “I want a highly motivated team”.

Intervention

Initial contracting discussions took place with the team leader, Group HR Director and Talent Director. An investigative phase of telephone interviews were then undertaken with the team and a range of senior stakeholders including the CEO. Once the design was tailored to the output of these interviews, the intervention can be divided into coaching and non-coaching approaches supported by some survey and psychometric data.

Coaching interventions:

Specific coaching for the Editorial Director to prepare for the first team event. It was essential that he had a clear vision of success and could communicate this in an inspiring manner.

Four x 1 day long team coaching events. The first two of these were more ‘scripted’ in that the first session's goal was to ensure alignment around a common vision and ground this within their system of stakeholders; and the second's goal was to ensure that the ‘norms’ of the team supported their effectiveness as a unit.

Three ‘shadowing’ sessions where the coach observed the team at their regular Editorial Board Meetings and provides some on the spot feedback and coaching.

Monthly 1:1 coaching for all team members via Google Hangout.

Monthly group coaching sessions (by Hangout) where the team members coached each others on current challenges with support from the team coach.

Non-Coaching interventions:

A series of three webinars to introduce and help leaders implement necessary theory in their context. These covered

Change Leadership, Leadership in times of change and Motivating for Change.

Inspiring Communication Workshops. We had identified a deficit in the team's capability to communicate an inspiring message to their teams. This competency was deemed critical to their success.

Coaching skills workshop. Coaching was seen to be a key leadership skill in changing the culture and increasing engagement. Previous generations of management had been far more directive, putting a low priority on people development.

360° feedback surveys for all members using the Hay/McBer Emotional & Social Competency Inventory (ESCI360).

MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) personality questionnaires to help recognise and appreciate differences in the team.

Results

An extensive ‘before and after’ picture of was not available through the company’s internal engagement survey system as significant data cleansing was being undertaken at the start of the project (we still await employee engagement data). However, the team were asked to judge a before and after picture as to their capabilities at the start of the project and after 9 months. This data is shown here:

Internal survey of programme participants

From a corporate perspective, the most important measures were

  1. The team’s ability to affect change, and
  2. Collaboration within the Editorial Board and across business units.

As can be seen, the team deemed that they made significant progress across all areas during the program. The least change was experienced in their direct reports though no direct intervention was made with that population.

Conversations with the executive team showed that a significant difference was perceived in the team’s cohesiveness and their ability to deliver change together. The team also started to drive change outside of their own function, becoming key players in driving strategy across the business.

Verbal feedback was sought and a selection of this feedback is captured here:

Team leader:

“The editorial team has evolved and developed from a team of individuals, sometimes competing with or even against each other, who are great at doing their day to day job but challenged on how they lead change, to a tight team, supporting each other, identifying when others need help, sharing, working collaboratively and having led one of the biggest transformational changes ever in Johnston Press.

That simply would not have happened had they not been exposed to, benefited and worked with the leadership development programme run by Gregor.”

Team members:

“It has been an excellent platform for strengthening the editorial board and helping us all to work together, sharing excellence and best practice, and supporting one another through stretching challenges. Wholly positive and I would urge further investment in it as we prepare for another year of major change in the business.” - Editorial Director

“I believe Gregor’s coaching has been invaluable - both for me personally and also for the editorial board as a team. For the board, the coaching sessions we have shared have made us more of a coherent team - fully conscious of the vital role we can play in taking our company forward, focused on developing a successful strategy, trusting in the roles each of us plays and willing to share with and help each other.” - Editorial Director

“I can’t speak highly enough of Gregor and the positive impact he has had on me personally and on the Editorial Board as a group. The coaching has been nothing short of transformational for us as individuals and as a team. For me personally, Gregor has helped give me a greater insight into my strengths, my weaknesses, my values, my motivations, my identity and my style of leadership.” - Director of Digital Content

Group HR Director:

“I truly believe that without the work that Gregor did with the team we wouldn’t have made anywhere near the progress that we did as an organisation.”