What happens when coaching goes global . . .

coaching goes global

Performance Consultants and Medtronic’s partnership to take Transformational Leadership organizational-wide

– 10 mins read –

According to Simon Losasso, Global Talent Development Consultant at Medtronic, “if you know how to coach, then you probably know how to delegate, how to give feedback effectively and how to help people grow in the way that’s important to them”. Since November 2019, Losasso has seen close-up the power of bringing coaching at scale within the world’s largest medical technology company and the impact that it has had on people.

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Medtronic, Inc. operates in approximately 160 countries and employs over 90,000 people. It contributes to human welfare by applying biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. In 2020, over 72 million people’s lives were improved by Medtronic therapies, that’s about one every second. 

The company wanted to find a world-class coaching programme that would teach leaders coaching skills that they could apply as part of their coaching leadership style.  This was intended to be a practical skill and very different application to coaches learning coaching skills.

“Coaching has been acknowledged to be not just important, but vital for leaders in Medtronic’.”

Simon Losasso, Global Talent Development Consultant at Medtronic

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A key requirement was that the programme could be run at scale that would be relevant for the 10,000 people leaders across the company.  Every leader would be offered this programme.  They also wanted to be able to white label the programme i.e., call it by a name that meant something to the folks at Medtronic.  The name they wanted for their programme was Everyday Coaching to signify that the programme was to enable leaders and managers to integrate coaching skills into the way they behaved daily, so they could empower their teams and enable their people to feel more engaged.

Whilst coaching is a vital leadership skill in any organization today, one of the challenges in introducing the concept is that the word ‘coaching’ can be misunderstood. And it’s funny he should say that because our Founder, the pioneer of the coaching industry, Sir John Whitmore, used to say that the word “coaching” can put the whole practice into a box that it shouldn’t be in.  Really, we are talking about Transformational Leadership skills.  One of the most effective ways to demonstrate to senior management of the value of these skills is for them to experience doing it first-hand. Losasso reflected ‘when leaders suddenly realise there is a skill out there that can make such a positive difference to people’s performance and their lives, they get enthusiastic. They discover how the person in front of you can reach new conclusions and a new sense of clarity in a very short space of time, and that transformation can be very fast, it becomes easier to explain the value of coaching’.

Medtronic selected Performance Consultants to partner with to deliver the ‘Everyday Coaching’ programme, which is based on the concepts in Coaching for Performance, the World #1 Coaching book.  Everyday Coaching would be targeted at a population of 10,000 people and programme managers across the company. With about 50,000 people reporting directly or indirectly into those managers, the programme had the potential to make a massive impact across the company.

Everyday Coaching was rolled out in many parts of the world, across multiple parts of the organization, and in five different languages.  Losasso believes that one of the factors critical to the success of this programme was the quality of the partnership with Performance Consultants, and the high quality of material they provided as well as world class coach facilitators. This helped deliver an impactful experience to participants.

Adaptability was also vital as the COVID pandemic hit which meant that the programme pivoted to virtual delivery in a seamless fashion.  “I was unsure that a programme like Everyday Coaching could be delivered virtually, and fortunately I was wrong”, says Losasso of Medtronic.   Performance Consultants had considerable experience with virtual delivery even pre-pandemic which informed how the programme was redesigned – with lots of interactivity as well as breakout rooms replicating the privacy of the small group coaching conversations. 

Building competence in an organization of this size is key – the coaching needs to be alive within the company rather than depending on external specialists like ourselves.  At Medtronic, there is a Centre of Excellence for Coaching that is run by internal certified coaches. These people hold the flame for coaching and the integrity of it. In addition to the Everyday Coaching programme, there is differentiated development within Medtronic with:

  • All high-potential programmes having a coaching module within them. 
  • An internal coach certification programme certifies between about 15 and 30 managers worldwide every year. This ensures a high quality of coaching capability is available to provide 1 to 1 sessions internally. 
  • 1:1 coaching offered by both internal and external coaches

With a programme of this scale, the impact for many is transformational, according to Losasso. “People have not just learned new skills; they have shifted inside their minds too. Plato said two thousand years ago that all learning starts with an emotion and that emotion comes from an element of transformation. I don’t think there is any other leadership skill that does that, apart from coaching.” 

Ranya Elan, Senior Coach and Facilitator at Performance Consultants, and one of the lead facilitators and coaches within Medtronic reinforces Losasso’s views.  She explains that she works with leaders in Medtronic to take their leadership to the next level, and that can mean training them to develop coaching skills, as well as coaching them directly.

She has seen several changes in leaders who adopt a coaching approach, and reports that the kinds of conversations they are now having with their people are very different. ‘Many leaders report that their people are now coming to them to explore solutions, not bring problems. Recently a leader in Brazil found that his coaching skills helped him to have greater confidence to have what he described as ‘difficult conversations’ with members of his team, many of which were of a more personal nature, particularly during the pandemic.  He is now also able to delegate with greater confidence helping his team to be more autonomous.

Losasso, has also observed there is also an exponentially greater impact within the company when an entire team embraces the coaching approach.  Noticeable shifts include more feedback and productive conversations because people feel more comfortable to share and be open. He explains that this helps to create more sustained performance and less burnout due to more collaboration and feedback.  

One of the biggest mindset shifts is that many people think they already know what coaching is, and then after attending the programme, they realise that coaching is actually different to mentoring or consulting, which is what they had previously assumed to be coaching. 

Another belief among leaders is that coaching requires a lot of time. With the programme being called Everyday Coaching, participants realise that when they can bring a coaching mindset into quick interactions, change can happen. ‘You can create a shift in a five-minute conversation by holding a coaching mindset, it doesn’t have to be doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to take more time. And in the long run, it’s going to save you time, it’s an investment in growing your people’ says Losasso. 

With a global programme, it was also important that cultural differences were considered. One of the skills leaders learned was the ability to create agreements with their people about how they’re going to operate together. Ranya Elan observed that while shifting to an interdependent culture might be more challenging in some cultures than others, it is possible because what all people share is that the desire to have meaning in their work, and some level of autonomy and this is what the coaching enables.

As the programme continues to be delivered across the organization, the skill of coaching will continue to become an everyday part of a transformational leaders’ approach to bringing out the very best in their people. After all, these are the people that are positively improving the lives of 72 million through Medtronic therapies, and taking coaching global.

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