Effective Delivery of Talent Management & Career Coaching Conversations

There is a shift across the FRS towards a holistic new approach for succession planning and developing leadership capability (as explored in the NFCC’s People Strategy and Talent Management Toolkit.

At the foundation of much of this work are line managers, who contribute significantly to the process of identifying and nurturing the talent, motivation and development of grey and green book staff. However, many feel they don’t have the full range of skills or depth of support they need to be confident they are handling this appropriately.

Classroom-based Line Manager Training

One of our FRS Career Progression Gateway clients recognised this gap. Oxfordshire FRS requested VCA Ltd design and deliver a classroom-based, two-day training course to build line manager skills, so they can role-model positive coaching and mentoring behaviours and be at the front line of delivering organisational Leadership Succession strategy.

Developmental Coaching- Course Priorities

Included in the course content were skills in coaching and mentoring and techniques for evaluating performance fairly. Also covered were methods for constructive feedback, approaches to positive challenge and how to generate creative development options. The aim of the course was to provide the essential tools that line managers need to formalise their learning on the Career Progression Gateway; to gain key insights into the concepts of career development as an on-going and collaborative process; to be able to proactively and sensitively explore career aspirations and performance; to build strategies for recognising and utilising individual strengths, as well as weaknesses, to generate inspiring solutions for continual development and contribution.

We delivered VCA’s ‘Developmental Coaching’ training course to ten Group and Area Managers (and green book equivalents) as a trial in September 2022.

Attendee Experience

The attendees showed a great deal of motivation, curiosity and aptitude, and as with any group, in addition to the ‘teaching’ elements of the course, we drew on the skills and experience they brought with them. Through discussion and practice we explored different concepts, such as managing difficult feedback; methods to embed the Leadership Qualities more fully into team functioning; using different types of questions, challenging and guiding in a coaching context; creating ways to develop team skills, without relying on training courses; personal experiences of influential leaders and mentors, and positive role-modelling in a day to day context.

The time spent away from normal duties, discussing the challenges, sharing experiences and learning new techniques with peers was invaluable. It built both confidence and competence in identifying talent fairly, addressing development collaboratively, building relationships authentically and nurturing the aspirations of the team.

Very useful course, both beneficial for me, my team and the course attendees. I would recommend this course, the trainer was invaluable.

It is really important to have a coaching leadership style across our service

I enjoyed it, I can see the skills align well to the portfolio a coaching/ assessment session.
Constructive, productive and beneficial.

Learning Points

  • Creative approaches to learning opportunities can be more widely embedded if line managers have support in recognising these through distinct training and practice opportunities. Building collaborative networks is also crucial. For instance, where a line manager requests shadowing in another department, or offers mentoring support to a member of another team who would benefit from help with a specific skill. The more frequently these opportunities are sought and offered, the more commonplace this practice will become.
  • Using tools such as personality testing can be very useful to put a spotlight on preferences, motivations and working styles. Attendees completed a Personality Questionnaire, and during the week before the course had a 45-minute video call with an Occupational Psychologist to explore their Development Profile. This covered degree of preference for ten factors, ranging from developing others to strategic thinking, and touched on areas such as resilience, career aspirations, challenges and achievements. The greater insights a line manager has into how they prefer to work themselves, what this might look like to others, what the preference of others might be and where there may be contradictions in approach, the easier it is to leverage these differences a find a beneficial middle ground.
  • Coaching is an art and a science, and new models are offering frameworks to deliver more active guidance. This builds on the foundations of skilled questioning to include strategies for constructive challenge, the use of evidence in sharing feedback and joint approaches to generating solutions and ideas. Although different people will have different degrees of skill at this more in-depth style of coaching, methods and theory can develop a manager’s confidence in being able to gently guide (without instructing/removing autonomy) and uncover motivation and insights which may otherwise be left unexplored.
  • Touching on psychological influences on behaviour can be helpful; there are useful starting points for discussions from the fields of positive, social, inter-personal and coaching psychology. Explaining how individual behaviour is relevant to key frameworks such as the Leadership Qualities and Values, and how these support organisational functioning is a useful way to linking individual actions to wider objectives.
  • Line managers will vary in how motivated they are about developing others. Working with people’s strengths works both ways, and not all line managers will be entirely comfortable with this type of activity. Whilst there will be elements of this responsibility which may be unavoidable, mechanisms to support managers with this role need to be prioritised.

Leadership Succession Trial

The ‘Developmental Coaching’ training course is part of Oxfordshire FRS’s wider trial which currently focuses on line managers evaluating a Leadership Quality Evidence Portfolio, having a Portfolio discussion (using developmental coaching learning), and making their recommendations for either continued development in role or attendance at the Career Progression Gateway (promotions process). It’s a robust first step, which will lend itself to wider applications across the spectrum of career support and development (i.e. not just triggered by a desire for promotion). It’s a proactive example of developing best practice methods to up-skill and support line managers for their crucial role in organisational success.