The rollout of Project Excellence at Yemen LNG — a management development and cultural change programme — needed support in order to embed the learning, and relate it to performance and behavioural issues and how they presented, as the Construction phase gave way to Commissioning, Start-Up and Go Live.
Through our internal processes of evaluation and peer review, my colleagues and I developed and successfully proposed to the project’s Steering Group a 3-part revision of the programme — the introduction of coaching for individual managers, a series of inquiry-based cross-functional team reviews as a precursor to team coaching, and the facilitation of a behavioural competency framework that would allow managers greater clarity in defining roles and responsibilities and the standards required for improvement and effective performance.
The primary difference in my experience of coaching within what had been up to that point primarily a management education programme was that I supported and guided managers to consider themselves as leaders of their own and their team’s good practice, effective performance and appropriate professional behaviours, and to use their existing knowledge and skill more effectively, rather than providing them with opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills that they may or may not find relevant and of practical use.
Our coaching provided support for leaders at all levels in the company to take better care of their own needs and wants, thereby increasing their capacity and energy to take better care of the needs and wants of the company and those in the teams they led. Coaching also helped those leaders find practical solutions to the problems they faced, thereby enhancing overall performance and a personal leadership style that got results. Such problems included time and priority management, effective communication, internal customer care, workflow and service delivery, ambitious work goals, better work-life balance, interpersonal skills and constructive professional relationships.
The purpose of our coaching was to develop personal leadership, and help leaders enable the changes they wanted to see in the company. The focus was on leaders’ current reality within the company in relation to their personal career plans, rather than despite them. The aim was to help the company’s leaders articulate and achieve all their objectives — personal, professional, functional and corporate. Our business case for coaching acknowledged the diversity of the company’s management, not just in terms of gender and ethnic origin, but also in terms of professional culture and personal ambition and development, and viewed such diversity as its distinctive competence.
My colleagues and I each had an allocation of coachees, drawn from across the three tiers of management and functions within the corporate headquarters, and a mix of ex-pat and indigenous managers, male and female. The coaching went well enough for us to respond to a request from coachees for a basic coaching skills workshop to introduce them to an approach and a model of coaching that they wanted to use within their own teams. A further indicator of our success was the request for us to begin coaching with a further allocation of coachees from the LNG plant during the crucial six months of their Start-up and initial Operation.
The cross-functional team reviews worked with vertical slices of management and their teams — senior, middle and supervisory — to consider what was already in place and working well, and what they wanted to improve or change in managing internal customer expectations and the required workflow and appropriate behaviours to enable service delivery and satisfaction. In addition to the process outcomes from each workshop, each functional team left with their own action plan for internal improvement and change. These action plans formed the basis of team coaching sessions.