Providing a better learning experience with the customer is at the heart of what Astutis does. The opportunity to embrace an innovative style of learning and development in order to explore and offer potential benefits for customers and also the Astutis team was therefore enthusiastically welcomed.
With this as the objective I was called in to help them achieve it. I am the Managing Director of Archipelo (www.archipelo.co.uk), a business coaching and training consultancy who are unashamedly focused on positive change and improved business results. Archipelo has a track record of success working for organisations such as LinkedIn, The Guardian and Time Warner in the media industry, as well as the likes of O2 and the NHS.
Our approach is really quite simple, yet executed in a fun and interactive way, which made it highly effective for everybody.
Essentially, we integrate innovative business coaching within their training delivery. The rationale came from a study in The FT Guide to Business Coaching, which revealed that this approach could generate up to +80% post training retention and application. This was contrasted to a staggering 5% post training retention and application of the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ style of training.
“The mind that holds the problem also holds the solution”
A fundamental principle from the world of coaching is that individuals are considerably more likely to adopt sustainable positive changes in behaviour if solutions to perceived problems are conceived and contracted by individuals and their teams. This is in sharp contrast to telling people to do it of course! Telling might work in the very short-term, but the impact of this management style will not be long-lasting. By encouraging individuals to take personal responsibility over their own long-term goals, monthly plans and weekly actions, it is far more likely to have an enduring impact. So this is how the program starts.
Be clear and excited by your goal ‘comet’
One of the most powerful and inspiring questions I asked the Astutis team was; “what would the business look like if a miracle happened by December 2015?” I encouraged them to explore; what is in it for them personally, their clients, the board of directors and the wider business. This is because having real clarity on the associated benefits of the goal, in addition to the goal objective itself, will illuminate the underlying motivation for commitment. We like to refer to these benefits as a ‘comet’. Their goal ‘comet’ was to be the best provider of health and safety in the global marketplace; all the subsequent actions were rooted in this and it ultimately helped them to shape some inspiring next steps.
Performance is underpinned by the operating climate
Every organisation that procures and invests in learning and development ultimately has a desire to see a return on investment and/or even better a discernible uplift in business performance. So it’s a sobering thought that leading business academic David Clutterbuck explains that leadership and management can have up to a +70% impact on the operating climate/environment and this can have up to +30% impact on performance. This is why we asked the team:
- What do you want to start around here?
- What do you want to stop around here?
- What do you want to continue around here?
From this input we then asked:
- What is completely out of your control (let’s not worry about it)?
- What can be influenced by you, and to whom?
- What is under your direct control, and what are you doing about it?
This process is very empowering, particularly when teams realise the majority of the real – or perceived – barriers to performance can be resolved by themselves. This also has a dramatic impact on the operating environment, therefore boosting performance overall; and this is before learning new skills!
Time management and personal focus
People who focus on goals and manage their time well are +18% better than those who don’t. So I took the team through a simple method of re-prioritizing their ‘to do’ using letters from A-C denoting “very important” to “nice to do”. In addition we asked them to assign a number to reflect priority, next to them. The theory is that you should attempt to tackle the ‘worst first’ (which is therefore an A1), and this process alone can quadruple your work output the first day you use it. Warning! It’s seriously challenging to do this throughout the day, but it does work if you stick to it.
Cutting edge customer service skills
The core focus for the skills element of the program was concentrated on how to form mutually beneficial, long-term, trust-based partnerships with Astutis’ customers. I concentrated on them learning new techniques to fully understand what their customers are looking to fix, accomplish or avoid before they begin to start building solutions with them. They tried ‘living in the shoes’ of customers to better understand how and why their solutions could help. This has really helped them fine-tune how they communicate and service their customers effectively at every stage of their experience.
To wrap things up, the team was challenged to agree on the 6 key components of the role of Customer Advisor at Astutis. Furthermore, I asked them to define what ‘ordinary’ looked like and what ‘legendary’ looked like. This was a critical part of wrapping up the team’s understanding of the program, whilst also conceiving and adopting some new ‘rules’ and high standards themselves. We all had some fun in the office and the term ‘legend’ has become part of their office vocabulary when someone really delivers for their customers!
Steve Terry, Managing Director of Astutis commented on the benefits gained from the training, “Our team is highly motivated and there is a real buzz and the team is much more up for ‘eating that frog*’ by managing their personal time better with improved decision-making and discipline. The greater team spirit is even more focused on meeting customer requests effectively.”
*‘Eat that frog’ metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of the day, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on.
Gary Cole Managing Director of Archipelo
Gary enjoyed a 20-year career predominantly in commercial management/leadership roles in the digital media industry before retraining as an ICF Coach in 2012, when he set up his business, Archipelo. Gary is a first class motivational business coach and a master at building rapport. He brings exceptional commercial insight to the training arena. Just as elite athletes work with an expert coach, people and teams can reach their full potential with the benefit of personal coaching, Gary believes.
It’s a philosophy he’s formed over 15 years in commercial management, most recently in digital media, where the dynamics of a fast-moving, competitive market demanded new ways of working, strong teamwork and individual self-belief.
For Gary, coaching is all about supporting people to pursue bigger goals with greater confidence – a leadership style he’s put into practice in previous roles.