The importance of a personal development and coaching culture

Roughly a 5 minute read by Dave Wrightson

Coaching Cert

A few eagle-eyed LinkedIn contacts may have spotted a recent job title change for me, rather than the all-encompassing Director, my role is now more focused with the snappy title of Director of Personal development and Culture.

What does this mean and why is it important?

We work in an industry where there is always something new to learn. It’s what made it appeal to many of us in the first place! Whether you’re a Designer, Developer or Digital Marketer, the digital sector is face-paced with a tendency towards technical skill and experience in solving client problems. At the start of our careers there’s an almost never ending list of things we need to first learn, then master and then keep up to date with; as a Personal Development Plan it kind of takes care of itself.

Culture is also something that, by hiring the right people and living genuinely meaningful company ethos and values, also looks after itself… to a point. Putting people ahead of the numbers, recognising the importance of good work/life balance and investing in shared activities outside of the day to day gets you further still.

It’s not the whole picture though; as skills and technical knowledge develop and careers mature there’s often a natural ceiling, either perceived or real, where it’s easy to stagnate or fall into a rut. This is the stage where a good culture isn’t good enough - you need a great culture that encourages and supports real personal growth to allow people to take ownership, identify and then fulfil their potential.

“there’s often a natural ceiling, either perceived or real, where it’s easy to stagnate or fall into a rut.”

Enabling this has been a passion of mine since first coming into contact with the concept of Executive Development in the late 1990s, in what was the very corporate culture of finance. The techniques I experienced first-hand opened my mind to the transformational potential of 1-1 coaching, and looking back now probably contributed a great deal to giving me the self belief and confidence to set up my own agency in the middle of an economic crisis! So it was with a lot of enthusiasm that, about 18 months ago, I seized the opportunity to begin a 12 month coaching certification program with a company who have been helping Engage to nurture our culture and outlook for a good number of years, Oasis Human Relations.

The course is titled “Coaching with head, heart and soul”; a really great description of the depth of learning that goes into it. Whilst some of the underlying coaching models shared a similarity with that 1990s corporate experience, the overall approach was much more human centered.

‘Graduation’ from the course coincided with a growth phase for Engage and this fortunate timing presented the perfect opportunity to further embed a high quality coaching culture within the team, to sit alongside and bring together a lot of the other culture and wellbeing initiatives into a cohesive People development and Culture function. The primary aim will be to add that level of 1-1 support which provides quality thinking time, challenge and accountability to ensure that everyone feels empowered to take control of their own personal and professional development.

Of course, I can’t do this on my own as holding regular 1-1 coaching sessions with the whole company, as well as balancing wellbeing, HR and my other Director responsibilities wouldn’t be very good for my own work/life balance! Luckily, we have Heidi who will be joining me as Head of Personal development & Wellbeing. Having already led wellbeing activities at Engage for the past few years, Heidi has a true passion for people development, is a qualified Mental Health First Aider and will be adding the coaching qualification as part of her new role.

We’re busy building out exactly what this is going to involve together. A big part of that has been speaking with and learning much from companies that already do a great job of this and we’re massively grateful for the time given by North Star (a Times 100 company) and our client Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, both of whom have given us a real headstart so that we don’t have to just figure everything out from scratch.

It’s worth mentioning that this was underway before the disruption of COVID-19, and that in itself adds both challenge and urgency to the work we’re doing. Being such a culture led company, we’re already stepping up our effort into making that work remotely.

We’ll be making regular blog updates along the journey, including what we’re learning, the difficulties we encounter and any tangible results we start to see. If that’s the sort of thing that interests you then why not subscribe to our newsletter, Attention To Digital™