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Learning curve: Make coaching part of the culture

Use coaching to help staff understand the impact of their role and performance on the business.

Guiding a company through change requires a strong culture to maximiseboth individual and organisational performance. At Cadbury, our coachingprogramme has played a crucial role in aligning the development of ourpeople to our business performance.

Our mantra, 'Growing Our People', was introduced in 2001 when CadburySchweppes merged with Trebor Bassett. We needed to create a new culturefor the newly integrated business and to do this we invested in turningall our line managers into coaches, with the requirement that theydevelop and engage their teams. Coaching is now an integral part of ourbusiness.

Coaching should always be closely linked to the objectives of thebusiness. It should not be seen as separate to employees' jobs; rather,it is a vital tool for helping people work to the best of their ability.It should be used to help employees understand the importance of theirrole and the impact of their performance, within both their immediateteams and departments, but also within the organisation as a whole.

This understanding ultimately improves how they do their job and whatthey achieve from it. For example, we use coaching techniques to helpour employees develop solid selling skills which give them theconfidence to take our products out into the market. This alsodemonstrates how closely linked the scheme is with our businessperformance, and how everyone can contribute to the organisation'ssuccess.

Through rigorous measurement, we have been able to prove that investingin coaching has delivered tangible bottom-line benefits: line managersin our sales team who perform well on the coaching programme are alsodelivering better against their targets. The fact that we can evaluatethe impact of Growing Our People has given it real credibility among ourleadership team.

The importance of engaged leadership is absolutely vital. We invested agreat deal of time at the beginning of the programme getting theleadership team fully involved so that they could pass on coachingskills to their own line reports. Coaching and mentoring now permeatesevery level of the organisation, from the factory floor to theboardroom.

To embed the programme into the organisation at all levels, we sought'coaching evangelists' to help spread the word internally. We chosepeople who were naturally interested in people development to act aschampions, skilling up 850 staff to be ambassadors for the scheme.

Creating a coaching culture throughout the organisation is crucial toits long-term success. It means your scheme has the potential to touchevery employee within your organisation every time they have aconversation about their role, or their development. In time, yourcoaching scheme will become an instantly recognised part of everydaylanguage and practice.

Never underestimate the importance of taking people out of their normalenvironment to bring your scheme to life. Embedding a coaching cultureshould be hard work but fun too. We took staff onto a tennis court todemonstrate how Cadbury coaching techniques work. Taking people out ofthe context of their everyday role enables them to understand better hownew techniques work in practice.

Bringing in external expertise can also help kick-start your scheme, butit's important to embed it within the organisation so that it can standon its own two feet. We worked with executive coach Graham Alexanderinitially, but our ultimate aim was to be able to carry the programmethroughout the company on our own, which we achieved within a couple ofyears.

The route to the success of coaching schemes is the genuine belief thatthe scheme will grow your business, as well as your people. Aligningyour coaching scheme with your business objectives ensures yourorganisation can always link its goals back to the coaching ofemployees. That's good news for our people, and good for ourbusiness.

Diane Tomlinson is head of organisation effectiveness, Britain andIreland, Cadbury.