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ASDA: LEADER AS COACH

After wide-reaching structural, systemic and process changes across the organisation, the leaders of the Asda Business Services Team wanted a different way of leading their teams.


A Xenonex team member holding a sign with the Well Pharmacy logo on

WHY LEADER AS COACH & WHY NOW?


Retail is renowned for being a very fast-paced environment to work in. However, the leaders at Asda not only needed to operate at pace, they were also facing big organisational changes. When Walmart sold Asda, this triggered wide-reaching structural, systemic and process changes across the organisation. This all happened at a point when teams were also adapting to post-pandemic hybrid working, with many team members working from home and not physically being with members of their team.


The leaders of the Asda Business Services Team wanted a different way of leading their teams. Something that created a shift in culture and ways of working that helped them (as leaders) and also helped their teams too. Any learning needed to be practical and provide takeaways to create a special culture in their teams. They wanted their teams to:


  • Build the confidence and skills to solve their own problems

  • Feel real ownership of ideas and then turn their ideas into action

  • Collaborate with each other and other teams across Asda to work through problems

  • Connect and have good conversations that matter

  • Support each other in their development and change


Being able to have coaching conversations not only delivered on all these goals but also meant that leaders could step back from their more day-to-day transactional work and move more into strategic matters that needed their attention through change.


 

WHAT WE SET OUT TO DO


We had a great project sponsor who was a director in Asda’s ABS team. We worked with him and the L&D team to design an approach that was grounded in their business and leaders’ needs. The goal was to create a pilot programme to provide the blueprint for the organisation in building a coaching development programme.


Over 6 months, 38 senior managers from the Business Services team experienced a combination of face-to-face sessions (learning the core skills of coaching) and short online ‘keep coaching’ sessions to continue practicing coaching skills and getting feedback from peers.




 

HERE ARE SOME OF THE SKILLS WE COVERED 


Striking the balance between learning input, practice and feedback was important. These are some of the core skills we focused on:

CORE SKILL

DESCRIPTION

LEARNING THE IMPORTANCE OF TAMING ADVICE MONSTERS

Leaders understanding the power of adopting their style to coach rather than advise in order to avoid burnout and the disempowerment of their teams.

CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT FOR ACTIVE LISTENING

Great conversations are the default, parking your own interference and listening to help understand.

USING POWERFUL, PROBING & PIGGY-BACK QUESTIONS

Asking open questions (what/how/where/when/who) to set up conversations. Asking one question at a time and using probing (deeper) questions to explore options in greater detail. Being comfortable with silence.

COACHING IN CONTEXT EVERYDAY

Coaching conversations have their place in 1-1s, performance management meetings, team meetings (problem-solving), ‘on-the-spot’ instances (e.g. asking one question), coaching up the organisation (your line manager), as well as across (peers) and down (direct reports).

DEVELOPING RAPPORT

Building connections with individuals and across teams, knowing the person behind the role, and being curious (with authenticity). Empathy is a key coaching skill.

TIME DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A BLOCKER

Coaching does not need to take hours: announce time available, 5 minutes of good quality coaching can be transformational.

COACHING FOR CHANGE

​Coaching can be really helpful to explore change and working patterns for both colleagues & leaders. Command-control leadership is a thing of the past. Coaching will help to ignite fresh energy, creativity and connection, making way for the leaders of tomorrow. It develops greater organisational capacity.

COACHING TOOLS

​Every session introduced new and practical coaching tools that the leaders could take back to use in their teams.



 

OUTCOMES & LEARNING


We assess the impact of a programme on whether the leaders and teams involved have seen and experienced real sustainable changes in the way they work on a day-to-day basis. We also asked each leader to rate their own level of confidence in using coaching each session.


Here are some of the things leaders told us had changed for them:


“I keep my GROW model questions close so I can use them if I get stuck in meetings.”
“I have noticed a greater energy in my team and that has made me feel good. I’m learning to let go of giving them the answers. They work it out themselves.”
“I’ve realised that coaching conversations don’t take any longer than using my old command-control approach. I know now that 90% of my conversations could be coaching ones. It’s freed my time and energy up so much.”
"I’m getting better at knowing when to coach and when not, it’s really working."

Here’s a list of examples of when they are using their coaching skills:


  • At 1/4ly team meetings

  • When team members have relationship challenges and they want to find a way forward

  • In development or career conversations

  • In holiday handover meetings

  • Asking team members to come to 1:1s with their ideas and agenda – shifting the responsibility

  • When setting objectives with the team to get their ideas and check motivation


…and things their teams have experienced:


"Our 1:1 meetings are more personal, not just transactional. I feel like my manager cares and really listens to me about the things that matter."
"My end of year review meeting felt different, I did most of the talking this time. My manager also asked me what objectives I wanted to set for myself. I feel like I’m more bought into my work."
"I work remotely and felt quite disconnected from the team in the past. It’s been great to work in a more collaborative way, solving problems together and talking about different ideas. It’s really grown my confidence."
"I know my manager cares about me. He creates the psychological safety I need. There is a tone of trust, challenge and collaboration in the way we work as a team. I know I need to come up with ideas, I can’t just sit back and wait for things to happen."
"I feel like my manager knows what I’m interested in achieving in my career. He’s looking out for opportunities to stretch me now."
 

SO, DID THIS PROGRAMME DELIVER WHAT WE HOPED IT WOULD ACHIEVE?


We’ve seen and heard about the impact of the shift towards being a leader as a coach. In its simplest form, this has been about creating an environment where their team can thrive. Where they own their strengths and use them, where they collaborate and bring their ideas to solve problems, and where they know they have support and challenge to continuously improve and adapt to our ever-changing world. They do this through having great conversations and connections every day. The growing capacity and the capability of the team are noticeable.


Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment that does this?


We can confidently say the programme was a success and has created a sustainable change in leaders and their teams. It worked because it was grounded in the needs of the business and leaders, and brought real challenges to life with practical tools and solutions. The mix of face-to-face sessions followed by a series of online peer learning kept the leaders practising the skills. Over time, coaching became the norm, together for the group.

 

NEXT STEPS


“This is one of the best programmes we’ve done. We talk about it after the session which is always a good sign.”

LEADER AT ASDA


“Throughout our engagement with Xenonex we've found the team to be professional, approachable, collaborative, adaptable to our needs, and thought leaders in the coaching space. We jointly developed and customised the programme around a set of clear requirements and have delivered a series of workshops that helped us build, test, and practise new skills along the journey. Feedback from our leadership team has been extremely positive. More importantly, we've received great feedback from our colleagues on the change in leadership style and techniques.”

SENIOR DIRECTOR


If you’d like to learn more about how you might develop your leaders as coaches then do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to talk to you!


If you’re interested in building a coaching culture and don’t know where to start, why don’t you complete our online Coaching Culture Health Check?


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