Large Acute NHS Trust East Midlands – Executive Team Coaching

The CEO wanted to recruit the best possible Executive team and enable them to work at their best as a team to deliver the complex, challenging and demanding agenda of a large, acute, teaching Trust in an NHS system under constant scrutiny and change.

The CFO had witnessed team coaching deliver well in other settings and was keen to re-create this success. She wanted to see the sum of the parts be greater than their individual contributions – to observe the team’s effectiveness with each other and deliver collectively where it mattered. And for that benefit to reach into the wider system – “How the team engages with itself will stand us in good staid for how we engage with our key stakeholders such as the Board, our staff and our patients”.

We took the initial commission of the CEO and interviewed the Executive team members about the outcomes for the coaching and their views on the team’s current effectiveness.

The team then co-created the outcomes and programme design with us.
  • This led to a number of team sessions to work with them on including:
  • Mapping and understanding their stakeholders and what they need from the team
  • Creating the team’s purpose and aims
  • Understanding each other and creating new ways to work collaboratively
  • How to engage each other and stakeholders to meet their purpose

The key types of intervention were:
  • Interviews
  • All team members undertook the MBTI Stage 2 assessment as an initial assessment of their different styles
  • Team coaching sessions
  • Team in action observations and feedback
  • Individual coaching and observation and feedback

The team changed through the group coaching contract as people left and new members were recruited, so re-contracting was needed as this progressed. A number of members were taking on their first full Executive role so some extra support was identified as important for more and less experienced Execs to work well and learn together.

The outcomes – quotes from the CEO and CFO

“The best Chief Officers Group I’ve worked in”

This was achieved through:

  • Recognising that we don’t think in the same way and therefore we need different ways of getting everyone’s contributions
  • A bumpy ride, but each improvement we’ve made has built on the previous one
  • We are really starting to benefit from thinking about how we think. This is becoming a coping mechanism for us; as we see problems arising we are starting to deal with them differently
  • We have a greater appreciation for what each other needs/wants and can contribute
  • We are seeking to understand each other’s assumptions and get to the heart of issues through this
  • Exploring our relationships with our NEDs is leading to better Board relationships

What has made the biggest difference?

  • Seeing how our body language and voices impact on each other and in key meetings such as with the Board
  • Discussions around how we feedback to each other - uncovering the assumptions behind our opinions and actions has helped us with potential splits in the team
  • Using Time to Think concepts and rounds to help us turn sensitive discussions into a generative exchange of views.

How did we act that enabled this?

“By being patient with us and sticking with it.  The team has not always been easy to work with and it can be hard work to enable team change in the environment we’re in and you have gone way beyond a commercial relationship with us in working with that. You are committed to helping each individual get to a stage where we are confident and empowered to deal with the situation at hand without consulting you. It feels as though you are looking for ways to help us to be exceptional!”

You have been:
  • Thoughtful about what we can most benefit from
  • Provocative; you could come across as soft and fluffy, but you challenge us with intelligence and an appreciation of the emotions that are present and need surfacing
  • Personable without being intrusive
  • Challenging for us to think for ourselves and not giving us ‘stock’ answers that may not work for us
  • Objective, informed and professional, even when tested by the scale of challenge we face as a team.

We particularly appreciated:
  • Your ability to pull on and adapt a substantial range of models and techniques ‘in the moment’ in order to help us to meet the purpose of the coaching.  You don’t just follow one track and we either come with you or not.
  • Authenticity – you say how it is for you and reflect back to us the challenge that the team gives you. You walk your talk, clearly using the same techniques you teach us to aide your own thinking.  And I can see you learning as you work with us.

The secondary gains of the coaching

“We have now engaged with our NEDs in a more generative way and have moved forward our desire to develop the Board to work as a more effective team.”

“Using the learning with my own team, I have applied much of what we’ve learnt at an Exec level.  Most specifically I’ve helped them to see situations from other’s perspectives and how to look to what I can change about myself in order to have a better impact.”

“In the tough moments of this job, thinking about the way I think has really helped me build resilience and allows me to cope with myself and others so much better.”

“The learning has helped me across my workplace as well as with my family and friends.”