I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2006 with a degree in Politics. Following a brief stint as a political researcher for the Scottish Government, I decided that a career in government ma...
Murray Smith, Consultant
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Why did Berkeley become a coaching organisation?
Home > unspun > unspun 35 - Helping you find the path to success > Why did Berkeley become a coaching organisation?
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.
In the first of our new four-part series on business coaching, we discuss the motivations behind Berkeley's commitment to invest heavily in developing the coaching skills of the partner team and a small number of experienced consultants.
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 calibre people. As an organisation, 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 is currently responsible for embedding coaching at Berkeley. “Simply, we saw a clear competitive advantage,” he explained. “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.”
Having decided on the direction, the next decision was the choice of trainer. “We 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 rigour and thoroughness. Meyler Campbell (MC) immediately felt the right fit. The 18-month long programme combines practical experience and solid academic tuition in small groups and through self-study. The expectation to grapple with real-world client challenges ensures the commitment is a complementary fit with core consultancy skills.”
“You also have to deliver a presentation of what coaching means to you, as well as an in-depth essay on a new coaching perspective, which you then publish to the rest of the community as a piece of rigorous research,” added Richard. “So, it brings a combination of practical and academic work that asks a huge amount but gives so much in return.”
“When I was picked to lead a strategic transformation programme, 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.”
A vox pop of other Berkeley partners who have graduated from the MC course demonstrate the breadth of benefits that coaching is now bringing to the company.
Founding partner Mark Fearn believes 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.
“In time, 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,” he said.
Dave Machin expects to see an 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 will provide a unique differentiator for Berkeley in the marketplace.”
For Juliet Armstrong, the training proved instructive around contracting, establishing strong rapport and not being afraid to ‘push’ the client and re-contract when required.
“These skills are important too in consulting,” she said. Even ina non-directive capacity it is vital to establish rapport and trust, if the outcomes are to be truly accepted by the client. The programme has helped me to become a better coach, and as an added bonus, a better consultant.”
“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 crystallise a plan of action that is now making a real difference.”
Senior Manager, client
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 added: “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.”
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