One of our recently featured HBR articles referred to an initiative taken by Goodway Group who, to meet the disruption to the management role caused by the pandemic, had created a dedicated role, the team success partner, whose responsibilities included fostering trust and psychological safety and supporting team health.
What struck me is that this resembled a solution that I put into a financial services firm some years back and that is now highly pertinent to the challenges many businesses face.
The firm in question had offices in five continents. Teams were formed to work on specific transactions and were made up of people from across these different offices. Most people could be working virtually on several different transactional teams with several different team leaders at any one time. Flat hierarchies meant that the person’s structural line manager had many direct reports and was unable to provide them with the level of individual attention that they wanted. It was clear that people were suffering from a feedback vacuum, that they needed someone who cared about them and followed their development. Evidence showed that this was affecting morale and productivity. We therefore created a ‘development adviser’ role to undertake these responsibilities. Development Advisers were at least one professional level in the firm ahead of the people they supported. They each had responsibility for two or three people at the most. We trained them in basic coaching skills and specified five different types of conversations that they had to have with their people over the course of the year. More regular check-in conversations were also encouraged.
The role had clout as ‘development advisers’ input into formal performance and pay reviews. Retention and productivity improved, and employee surveys showed that people valued this personalised approach to their work experience. The Development Advisers themselves valued the opportunity to gain people management skills earlier in their careers than would otherwise have been the case. They also honed valuable coaching skills, which they transferred to client situations, enhancing relationships. This was great experience for us too and led to our self-managed online course, ‘develop your coaching skills.’
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©Janice Caplan 2020