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Why did Berkeley become a coaching organization?

Simon Close

At Berkeley, we’re always looking for ways to do things differently, especially when it comes to supporting our people and doing the best possible job for clients. Business coaching, whether internally to aid personal development or as an additional service for clients, fits with our ethos because it helps us to build trust and nurture high caliber people. As an organization, we pride ourselves on selecting projects for complex, critical and lasting change. Coaching gives us the right tools to stay true to that ambition. 

Partner Richard Marsden was responsible for embedding coaching at Berkeley. 

“Simply, we saw a clear competitive advantage. Very few consultancies offer such an engrained culture of coaching or make the investment to the extent that their partners are accredited executive business coaches. We wanted to make a clear statement of our desire to position our partners and consultants as the best in the business, and to equip ourselves with a range of tools and techniques that others don’t have.”

Richard Marsden, Partner

Having decided on the direction, the next decision was the choice of trainer. Berkeley wanted a partner that shared our approach to going about business, and the importance of relationships in growing business. They needed to offer the right quality bar in terms of rigor and thoroughness. Meyler Campbell (MC) immediately felt the right fit. 

The 18-month long program combined practical experience and solid academic tuition in small groups and through self-study. The expectation to grapple with real-world client challenges ensured the commitment was a complementary fit with core consultancy skills.

Each individual also had to deliver a presentation of what coaching meant to them, as well as an in-depth essay on a new coaching perspective, which would then be published to the rest of the community as a piece of rigorous research. So, it brought a combination of practical and academic work that asked a huge amount but gave so much in return.

Coaching notes 

“When I was picked to lead a strategic transformation program, I felt exhilarated and petrified at the same time. Coaching helped me to tackle a variety of challenges linked to my new role.” 
Senior Commercial Manager (client) 

“I wanted to build a ‘personal agenda’ of areas to develop during the year to make me a better consultant. Coaching helped me to review all aspects of my current role within Berkeley and so identify a precise list of areas of focus. Ongoing coaching sessions have since allowed me to evaluate which actions will make a tangible difference to the way I operate.”
Berkeley consultant 

A wide range of positive outcomes 

Conversations with other Berkeley partners who graduated from the course demonstrate the breadth of benefits that coaching is now bringing to the company. We believe Berkeley will see a continued positive halo effect as the number of partners who become trained coaches grows and the number of people in the firm who experience, understand and see the benefits from coaching increases. We anticipate it will help us to attract, develop and retain the best talent, as well as ensure that we have ‘great leavers’ moving on from the firm. 

Partner, Dave Machin, explains the equally positive impact on the way that partners support consultants and help them to deliver a better outcome for clients.

“We believe the opportunity business coaching offers to build and enhance relationships with current clients, potential clients and advocates provides a unique differentiator for Berkeley in the marketplace.”

Dave Machin, Partner

Coaching notes 

“I was struggling to come to terms with a specific area of personal development. My coach had conversations with my colleagues and helped me to explore the development feedback and to really clarify what was being looked for. I was then able to crystalize a plan of action that is now making a real difference.” 
Senior Manager, client

Coaching as a long-term strategy 

The burning question is: has it all been worth it? 

Richard Marsden feels sure that the training is already pushing the partnership forward. 

“Coaching has given us more breadth as a company and we are confident enough in the outcomes that we’ve been working with the Saïd Business School at Oxford University to quantify the benefits of adopting a coaching approach as part of a formal academic study. We’re delighted to demonstrate that coaching has become a vibrant part of our culture.”

Richard Marsden, Partner

The philosophies and values that underpin coaching align well with Berkeley’s corporate world-view and commercial proposition. Embedding coaching techniques into the Berkeley way of working has been an instinctive and advantageous process. Through coaching, Berkeley can bolster long-term objectives of developing consultants and support clients through complex change.