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Coaching Tools for Lean Organisations

By December 2, 2022 No Comments

The event

On Thursday 17th November, we welcomed Alan Brereton from Kingstown College to give a presentation on “Coaching Tools for Lean Organisations”.

Press play to view the webinar recording or read on for a short summary.


Alan started by saying that coaching has always been part of how he likes to do things.  Indeed all his colleagues in Kingstown College are all very passionate about coaching.

At Kingstown College, they are aligned with ICF (International Coaching Federation) and EMCC (European Mentoring & Coaching Council).  ICF is the largest coaching body in the world, and their ethics around coaching and their competencies around coaching are what they base the delivery of coaching at Kingstown College.

Alan added that coaching becomes the way you do everything. Coaching can be with leaders in organisations, especially in a modern approach to leadership.  Or it can be micro-coaching sessions and it can form part of your daily interactions with your team, your peers or your colleagues.

Culture isn`t something you have to do.
It becomes the way you do everything.

The elements of these daily interactions are the basic skills of listening, asking questions, taking a strengths-based approach, being future focused, and being action orientated. These are all the phrases that you hear in the coaching community. They are all the skills that we need to develop in order to be a competent coach who adds value to an individual or organisation.
Alan said that those working in Lean are already wanting to go deeper so that there's a natural desire to do that. With coaching, Alan wanted to highlight the human side of the process as opposed to just focusing on the technical or process driven tasks.

Next, Alan mentioned a report produced in 2016 by Ridler in the UK.  This report focused on  105 organisations including the BBC, Cancer Research, the Civil Service, Microsoft, National Rail and Standard Chartered Bank.  In this report, they noted that 89% of organisations said that coaching programmes led to higher motivation levels, higher engagement scores, improved retention of valued employees, and an increase in productivity where employees felt more empowered.

Furthermore, there was an increased capacity to learn from each other and a natural mentoring process began as people were communicating with each other and learning from each other. To sum up, coaching creates a better and a happier place to work.

Alan continued by saying that coaching is strengths based.  We are always trying to find what we are good at, what do we perceive our strengths to be? Are we finding opportunities to put those strengths to work? Are we even aware of their strengths?

He added that coaching is future focused. We’re all about identifying a future outcome that we’re trying to achieve on our coaching journey. We’re not spending time dwelling in the past. That’s what maybe therapy or counselling is designed for.

Coaching is about asking what’s happening.  It is about figuring out what are the better ways of doing something. How do we align better with the principles of Lean? You’re leaning into all of the things you’re naturally doing as a Lean Practitioner, and then applying them to more of the human conversations that we’re having and adding one or two more tools, techniques or skills.

Are you listening?

When we listen, we are often met with silence because sometimes the person we are speaking to is trying to think.  We need to be comfortable with silence if we’re listening at a level that’s going to really bring out the gems of wisdom or accessing the strengths or the thoughts of the person we’re having a discussion with.

Listening is such a fundamental skill for us to really engage with each other and have really meaningful dialogues, especially in that coaching space where we’re interacting with other humans.  Alan said that the ability to listen is quite often about managing the distractions around us.

You may have come across the TED questions which are Tell, Explain or Describe.

So, for example, a great coaching question is tell me more about that. It’s a really simple, short question. The other person you’re speaking to gets to populate that answer with whatever is most relevant to them. When we make our questions longer, we’re actually making them narrower because our language is starting to become more specific.

Explain how that process works or explain the approach to that particular challenge. So there are many different ways that we can approach those conversations. Many different ways that we can we can use these questions that are really simple and really straightforward. So that’s the explain option.

Alan added that we need to describe the ideal outcome here. So the challenge is the next time you’re listening or you’re part of a conversation, you’re trying to develop your listening.

We avoid the why question in the human coaching approach why tends to have. The effect on a person is feeling that they’re being accused or that they will trigger some form of a defence mechanism within them. So we we’re very cautious as a coaching community about the why question.

So, instead of asking: why did that happen, we say tell me the steps that happened along the way that caused this. That’s a much more helpful question. And it’s removing the opportunity for any kind of defensive reaction to the question or for any conflict to be created in the conversation.

At the end of Alan’s presentation, we had a Q&A session.

This blog post was written by Trish Ferguson, Steering Committee Member of the Dublin Lean Network. If you would like to receive the PowerPoint presentation of Alan`s talk, please register to join the Network.

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