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Training Is Just the Beginning: Strategies for Sustaining Coaching in a Large Organization

October 8, 2014

Over the past three years, internal Coaching trainers at Isabella Geriatric Center in New York have trained over 1,000 employees in the PHI Coaching Approach to Communication. Now that the initial training roll-out is complete, the trainers have turned their attention to an even greater challenge: sustaining the impact over time.

Isabella’s trainers (in partnership with PHI) have offered a variety of Coaching “boosters” to leaders and department heads. But how do you offer boosters to over 700 frontline staff — especially given the real and inevitable limits of time and other resources?

At Isabella, the trainers have decided that one way to support frontline staff is to focus on enhancing the skill and commitment of supervisors. This is because frontline staff is most likely to adopt behaviors if they are modeled by those who support them. These supervisors also ultimately have responsibility for holding frontline staff accountable for using the skills they learned in training.

Boosters for Nurse Supervisors

The first series of boosters were designed for the nursing department. The Coaching trainers initially had hoped to offer in-person boosters to Charge Nurses, but discovered that it wasn’t feasible because of coverage challenges. Instead, Coaching trainer and Staff Development Associate Michael Johnson worked with the Director of Nursing to develop a practical format for boosters for Isabella’s Nurse Supervisors. They agreed that he would lead a 20-30 minute booster at regular staff meetings every other month.

“My goal for the boosters is for the nurse supervisors to use each other as a resource,” Johnson said. “I give them time to talk about what’s up for them, and then we practice how they might handle particularly challenging situations.”

Boosters for Frontline Supervisors 

Two additional Coaching trainers have developed a booster series for frontline supervisors in auxiliary departments. The booster sessions are scheduled every other month for two hours.

“We always come to the sessions with some content to share, but we also save time for the supervisors to just share with each other,” said Sarah Crespo, Communications and Community Relations Manager. “We want them to find support in each other and ultimately to see each other as a resource.”

Marilyn Howard is Director of Staff Development and Crespo’s partner in designing and delivering these boosters. She points out that supervisors need support in learning the relational aspects of their role. “Most of them were promoted because they do the tasks well,” she points out. “But a lot of a supervisor’s job is managing relationships. And that doesn’t always come naturally.”

Early Impacts

The boosters described in this article help ensure that the Coaching skills are utilized by key managers and supervisors. “I think most of them are becoming more self-aware about how they supervise,” Howard said. “And when they need help now, they’re more likely to ask for it.”

The boosters also help the participating supervisors and managers develop stronger ties with each other. “When we began, they didn’t see themselves as a group,” Crespo said. “Now they see that they have a lot to learn from each other.”

“My goal is for the Nurse Supervisors to learn to rely on each other for support and guidance when they’re facing a challenging situation,” Johnson said.

In the long term, the trainers hope that the supervisors and managers will develop strong enough support mechanisms amongst themselves that on-going boosters won’t be needed. In the meantime, the trainers will continue to develop the Coaching skills of these critical supervisors and managers.

— by Renya Larson, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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