House of Commons: Building an internal leadership coaching faculty

In this case study, we show you how ndc have helped the House of Commons (HoC) build an in-house leadership coaching faculty to drive performance and culture change.

We highlight the different approaches to coaching required, the support and guidance we delivered, and some of the results achieved by the House of Commons.

We share experiences of how the in-house leadership coach training had to adapt during the Covid-19 Pandemic from in-person to online. We then finish up with a link to a more in-depth video interview with the House of Commons which brings the in-house leadership coach training work to life.

What was the need for an In-house Leadership Coaching Faculty?

The House of Commons has over 3,500 employees working in functions ranging from catering, security, legal to clock-making.

Following past cultural issues within the House, Carl Akintola-Davies (Head of Learning and Organisational Development) wanted to design a leadership programme using an evidence-based approach to ensure success. In his presentation at the Global Learning & Development (L&D) Conference in 2018, Carl argued that – in his experience – there were many instances where L&D and Organisational Development (OD) interventions failed to demonstrate solid evidence into the business benefits and positive outcomes that could achieved.

Why was a systemic approach important?

Carl advocated taking a systemic, organisational view of behavioural difficulties as he identified that L&D interventions can often focus on just individual problems rather than the system as a whole.

“Whilst we are focusing on individual leaders, I think it is a challenge for anyone working in L&D that you lose the OD perspective, that you can individualise problems so it is all about the individual getting better and you lose sight of the system that sits behind that”

Why in-house rather than external coaching?

From the research into coaching, a Meta-analysis by Jones et al. published in 2015 in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, ( suggested that in-house i.e., coaching delivered by people within the organisation was more effective than external coaching on a range of outcomes in terms of behavioural change and the results of the organisation. An in-house faculty gives you the chance to look beyond the individual to the system.

As a result, an in-house coaching faculty could work on two levels;

  • The coaches would not only assist with individuals but they will also bring their knowledge of the system into the coaching so they can be more effective and impactful.
  • When the coaching faculty is brought together collectively, then through supervision, the system will start to reveal itself and the coaches will be able to add value by reflecting back some of the cultural themes and patterns which are emerging from the coaching work.

Why was a humanistic approach to coaching important?

The House had delivered some in-house coaching previously.  However, the coaching offered focused mainly on individual career development rather than a strategic leadership development.  As a result, the coaching programme had lost momentum.

Carl Akintola-Davies recognised that the coaching focus this time needed to be a strategic lever for culture to help leaders become better at leading people and promoting the desired culture change. He wanted the House to move away from a culture of seniority and hierarchy to one that is more collegiate.   It was also important for the coaching not to be purely performance driven.  It had to include personal and relational development and develop leaders as “whole leaders”.

Why did the House of Commons choose to partner with ndc?

ndc had previously provided support to the House of Commons on parts of the Leadership programme, including leadership coaching and culture consultancy to the Director of Culture, so they were no stranger to the House.

One of the main reasons the House of Commons chose to partner with ndc was because of their understanding of how coaching can be a lever for culture change.  They understood clearly the requirement for both a humanistic approach and a wider systemic approach.

Through ndc’s culture consultancy they understand how important organisational values are and how they need to be ‘lived and breathed’ by all employees.  They understood how the new House values; Courageous, Trusted, Collaborative and Inclusive needed to be brought to life within the coaching.  

Old habits are hard to change and ndc understood that hierarchy and mindsets about status would continue to drive hard in the culture.  Unless people were becoming more aware of their unconscious biases, there would not be a lasting cultural change.

How did ndc achieve a successful implementation?

ndc had to design an approach that could successfully identify, select and recruit staff from across the House who could become good in-house coaches.

ndc  chose to partner with Anne Welsh, on the project.  Anne is an expert leadership coaching consultant who has had several years of experience in establishing the award winning Jobplus coaching programme at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), training over 1100 coaches in GSK around the world.  

The main phases of the implementation plan are shown below.

Were there any implementation challenges?

The biggest challenge during the implementation was the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The in-house coaching training was originally intended to be delivered in-person, face-to-face and this needed to be changed to online.  There were reservations about how coaching training would work online.  The L&D professionals involved in the project, had been used to working with people in close proximity, so they were familiar with using that opportunity to notice body language and non-verbal communication.  So, could online coaching training really be the same?

All parties were surprised at how successful the online training worked.  ndc had to create a safe digital environment for the coaches to learn in. For that reason, ndc had to design and agree an etiquette of how to work together online.  The willingness of all parties came together to ensure the new way of working was a success.

What did the client think?

Here are a few quotes from the Learning and Development team.

“Working with ndc through the training, through the supervision, through the consultancy that they have provided with us, have really enabled something quite profound to happen, in that, for the first time we have a faculty of internal coaches that I believe will really work and be sustainable in the future.”

Angela McHale – Learning & Development Consultant

About virtual working:

“The conversations we had with ndc gave us the reassurance that this is going to work.  It gave us that reassurance that they have previous experience of running sessions online and that it would be right for us”

Pauline Bean, Learning & Development Consultant

About the relationship with ndc

“Although they were our external expert partner, it actually felt we were really collaborating, really working with the same focus and investment.  Every organisation has their own uniqueness and they really worked with us to understand our particular challenges and how we would make this really work.”  

Angela McHale – Learning & Development Consultant

Click the video below to see what the client thought in their own words.

What have been the results of the in-house coaching training programme?

  • A professional cadre of leadership in-house coaches has been established endorsed by Clark of the House and the Leadership Team
  • The existing competence of the coaches as managers and experts in their own field has been “greatly enhanced” through applying practices such as clarifying the right conversation to have and conducting the right explorations with stakeholders in a different way.
  • By applying the three coaching steps from the coaching model to their daily work, they have become more efficient constructive collaborators with colleagues and stakeholders.
  • The second cohort of coaches has been recruited to expand capacity to work with 60 leaders internally.
  • The value and benefit of in-house coaching has been repositioned as a strategic lever for leadership and culture change.

Summary/ Conclusion

With more people now working remotely, it is difficult for organisations to really understand how staff are coping.  More than ever before, it is imperative for organisations to understand their culture and employee engagement.  

In-house coaching is a powerful, highly-effective organisational intervention that has proven to transform culture and performance at both the system and individual level.

Building an in-house coaching faculty is not only cost-effective and sustainable, the approach can tackle root-cause issues such as employee engagement, trust, and wellbeing.

ndc are grateful to continue their work with the House of Commons and would like to thank the team and coaches for their generosity and support.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more, we have included a link to our full video ‘The House of Commons; building an internal leadership coaching faculty’ as presented at the CIPD Annual Conference 2020. Please click here.

Written by:
Matt Burdock

Executive Coaching, Culture Measurement, Leadership Development.

December 10, 2020