Rebel Podcast: Life and Work on Your Terms

Unleashing Innovative Coaching Practices with Dr. Janet Polach

February 14, 2024 Kyle Roed, The HR Guy Season 4 Episode 193
Rebel Podcast: Life and Work on Your Terms
Unleashing Innovative Coaching Practices with Dr. Janet Polach
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Imagine stepping into the boots of a leadership coach, piercing the veil of conventional managerial development, and sparking powerful transformations within your team. This episode promises to bridge that gap, as we sit down with the insightful Janet Polach, PhD, revered author, coach, and leadership developer. Her wisdom, largely drawn from her experience in small group coaching, unveils effective solutions to leadership development challenges and paints a compelling picture of how shared challenges can birth collective solutions.

We then embark on an exploration of the uncharted territories of cohort coaching. This innovative model puts emphasis on psychological safety, fostering a robust support network within organizations, and promises an efficient and cost-effective alternative for HR professionals. The conversation doesn't shy away from addressing the vulnerabilities and challenges that come with it, underscoring the importance of confidentiality and the fitting use of assessments to identify areas of development. Breathe a sigh of relief as we debunk the myth of the 'perfect assessment,' and learn to value the process over the tool.

As the conversation progresses, we delve into the nuances of career development, critiquing the traditional dichotomy of coaching and performance management. We challenge the notion that coaching is just for fixing substandard skills, instead painting it as a powerful resource for helping individuals excel in their roles. So, tune in to get a head start on the future of HR and management, and discover how your coaching skills can foster growth and development within your organization.

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Rebel HR is a podcast for HR professionals and leaders of people who are ready to make some disruption in the world of work. Please connect to continue the conversation!

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Speaker 2:

This is the Rebel HR Podcast, the podcast about all things innovation in the people's space. I'm Kyle Rode. Let's start the show. Welcome back, Rebel HR community. We have a special guest. Joining us again today is Janet Pollock, PhD. She is author, coach and leadership developer. She was with us way back in 2022, in episode 112. We were talking about the seven mistakes managers make, based upon her book. Today, we're going to be talking all about coaching. Welcome to the show, Janet.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much, kyle. It is great to be back. It's fun to hear how the podcast has evolved and the audience that it's reaching, so thank you so much for the opportunity.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, and thank you for joining us again. We're part of the reason why we have seen success and seen our community continue to grow with some of the great advice that you've already given us. So looking forward to digging even deeper today.

Speaker 1:

Thanks a lot.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely Well. You know I want to start off the conversation by understanding a little bit more about some of the work that you've been doing here over the last year. I know you've been doing a lot of work in coaching and a little bit of a unique approach to coaching, so can you just tell our listeners a little bit about what you've been working on and how you've modified your approach lately?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thanks so much, kyle. So leadership development is always a challenge in organizations. I think it's because we've got so many leaders that we need to develop and so typically organizations have selection programs. They send you know a handful of their best and brightest through an internal or external program and then it leaves others to just kind of figure out. There's a couple of amazing statistics out there Brand new leaders 60% of them say that they're not comfortable or even fail in their first two years of being a leader. And why? Because we select them from being a great individual contributor and then we've become. It's like ta-da, you should be able to be a leader, congratulations.

Speaker 1:

What I've learned in the last year is due leadership development and it can take on many, many forms. It can be classroom, it can be get a dozen of their folks together, read a book and discuss it, share a podcast, watch a TED talk together. It doesn't have to be a real formal program with an enormous investment. What I've learned this last year is how to leverage coaching. Coaching we tend to think of towards the top of the organization when we're asking a senior leader to take on even more responsibilities and we want to make sure she's very, very effective.

Speaker 1:

I've been doing small group coaching and I just love it. So you put together three or four leaders who are at similar levels in the organization say director level, maybe brand new vice presidents and who send them to the coaching process together. So it's a combination of one-on-ones and then group sessions. You still do the assessments like you'd normally do, whether it's a 360 or a Hogan or Insights or something to that nature. But the real power is that they are bringing their challenges into the conversations, they're learning from each other that after the session then they can go knock on their door or text them on IM and say can I have a follow-up about that? So I'm finding it's a very efficient way to get to a broader audience of those mid-level leaders in organizations.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely, and I think it's interesting because it's a little bit different than what we would traditionally think of coaching being. A lot of times you've got this vision of an executive coach and you've got this really intensive one-on-one, almost to the point of overkill in some of these cases, and this to me, it's a little bit of a different approach. I've got to believe that it's probably given some insights into people's individual coaching needs that they wouldn't get if they weren't in some sort of a cohort model. Is that accurate in that assumption?

Speaker 1:

I think so, you know, in a cohort model or in a small group model? First of all, they're not. I think they feel less picked out. You know, so often when an organization, when HR, comes to someone and says we'd love to give you a coach, their immediate reaction is what did I do wrong?

Speaker 1:

Of course we don't invest in coaching for individuals that we need to fix. We generally invest in coaching in our highest capable leaders and help them be even better, and so I think a small group model helps them be reassured that, again, we're not fixing you. This is an opportunity to learn and grow, and learning grow right in line of the work. We know from development and research that people learn the best right in the flow of work, right on the job, which is why we've always brought programs into organizations rather than sending our leaders out and and so they get a chance to really share situations with each other. A group that I have just finished up, a financial services organization in the Midwest, discovered over time that they were literally all in the same boat. There was a lot of change going on in the organization. A lot of the executives had moved roles, and so this was causing people to not understand who was on first and what were expectations. They were all three in support services, and they discovered through their conversations that, wow, it wasn't just them.

Speaker 1:

It wasn't their own frustrations and walking home, going home every day saying, wow, I just don't measure up, and I had really tough conversations. Today they discovered that they are all having tough conversations and so what they decided to do was to create a recommendation to the organization. They got together on their own, they did some brainstorming and they say what would good look like if we are in these support services? What would our customers expect from us? It was just a very powerful solution that I don't think, individually, they would have ever come up with.

Speaker 2:

I think a couple I don't know aha moments, light bulbs, insights that, as I was listening to that, that really stood out to me. Number one, I think the power of the cohort and the reality that leadership can be lonely. By using cohort model, you're naturally creating a support structure and a little bit of a different way to help people feel less isolated. My assumption is that that's going to support coaching, because you're not in this alone.

Speaker 1:

Yes, absolutely, especially as these three individuals were all fairly new VPs. Once you make that level, that aloneness, I think, is even more acute. We've always teased that the CEO has the loneliest job in the world, but I think newly promoted vice presidents are probably second, because it's like the organization said, you've made it. We have lots and lots of faith in you and yet if, who do you talk to other than your significant other, sharing your challenges and so forth? And I think a small group coaching model really lends itself well to that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, I would agree with, like, ceo's loneliest, chro's second loneliest.

Speaker 1:

And at a certain point.

Speaker 2:

Let me just tell you, like my partner's, like this is enough HR talk. I don't want it.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

I don't care anymore, I get it. Your jukebox is crazy.

Speaker 1:

Right, right, right. Well, it's true to the point. Carol Kyle, you know your partner is supportive and willing to listen to a point, and yet they don't really know what you're up against because they don't know the personalities, they don't understand necessarily the financial demands that you, for example, are facing, and so they can be caring and loving and supportive, but they can't. They're not in a college shoes.

Speaker 2:

Right, yeah, and so again, you know, going back to this cohort model, I think the other thing that I think is really profound and maybe, like I want to hit on this point again like so often, especially in human resources, learning and development, we try to design the perfect mousetrap, right, like we're trying to come up with this perfect program.

Speaker 2:

Oh, we need this many thousands of dollars of funding and we need to have this many, and it needs to be this and this and this and this. But you know, what you just described, I think, is very eloquently, is the fact that you know it doesn't have to cost a significant amount of money. Yes, yes, there's some time and some effort required and some thoughtfulness, but you know, this doesn't mean you're not creating a full, like university, structure of leadership development. Here You're allowing the collective knowledge of some of your leaders as a you know, cohort to help each other. So walk me through. Like for an HR professional, it's like okay, this is new, I like this. I'd like to understand more about this. How do you think about the structure of these types of coaching sessions and what do you look for to structure an effective cohort?

Speaker 1:

Sure, I think you limit it to three or four individuals. If you have a group that's much larger than that, you know, I just think it's too cumbersome. I think there's something magical about the number three that everybody gets. You know, if you figure out, your group session is maybe 90 minutes, everybody gets plenty of airtime. I would add a couple of assessments. You know, depending on, again, what your organization does. Maybe you do a structured 360 from Center for Creative Leadership or someplace else.

Speaker 1:

I think a personality assessment is very helpful, something as simple as insights, discovery or Myers-Briggs, or something a little bit more complicated like a Hogan, so that people really get that very powerful insight about who they are. And that is very, very valuable. When I do 360s with a small group, what's interesting is you create a group report. So maybe people are lower in global awareness or business acumen or you know, think about those or managing change. If you average those together, you can see that oh, look at, it's not just you who's low in managing change. We as an organization are low and all three of these leaders are low. So you know the story. You know it gives us some more data from which to really think about broader development in what we do, so it gives us. So I'd include a couple of assessments. And then the group meets like a normal coaching rearrangement. For about six months they have a one-on-one meeting with the coach and then the other meeting in the month is as a small group with the coach.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, I'm smirking. You can't see the video if you're listening to the podcast right now, but you can see my smirk as you're talking about change management, financial acting. I'm like yep, yep, yep and I think it's.

Speaker 2:

You know it's funny because it's been in this field long enough to know like, in general, you're going to assume that people suck at these things, right, and part of it is like figuring out okay, how do you do this in a way that doesn't piss everybody off, that is, in a way that's like that they're open minded to receive the feedback, that they're motivated to change some of the behaviors or perceptions.

Speaker 2:

And you know, I think you know, I guess the other thing I was I was chuckling specifically was chuckling about the change management piece is the fact that you know all leaders struggle with that from time to time. And if the leaders aren't struggling with it, I guarantee you the teams are. Because if you love change, you know, newsflash, your team probably doesn't love change, or at least some of your team members don't, right? And so having like having this point of truth, this coaching this type of cohort and having some of your peers, you know, kind of be there and be receiving similar feedback or helping you internalize some of that feedback. I've got to believe that's an effective model to help people understand that component.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think you're right. I think the other thing to add on to that, kyle, is you have then this permanent go to network right inside your company. So when I do one on one coaching and we wrap up the process, whether it's six months or 12 months I say to every single coachee feel free to call me. I am always available on a just in time basis. You know you've. When you promote somebody, you know we've talked a lot about your staff. If you're thinking about promoting somebody and you maybe want to get some other perspective, you can always call, and very few do they. You know it's it's more unusual than usual to hear from them after the coaching relationship is done. And yet when you do cohort coaching inside an organization, those people are literally just down the hall.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and so you're much more comfortable to say hey, kyle, you got a minute. I have a kind of prickly situation. I love some perspective about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. That's a great point. Right, it's not a one-time thing, assuming that everybody stays with the organization for at least a little bit of time. But you're building out a support network, right. You've got a little bit of a foundational group that understands the type of coaching that you've gone through and can help be a feedback partner ideally a safe space. So that's one question that I had. I think a lot of HR professionals probably listen to this and go oh yeah, this makes sense. This sounds fairly efficient, right, this is great. I can stretch my budget dollars a little farther. I can save some people some frustration on spending a lot of time on this. But I think my assumption is this is probably a little bit of vulnerability or some concern from folks in this cohort. So how do you approach this model in a way that allows for some psychological safety, some actual vulnerability and some authenticity from the participants, without fear of airing dirty laundry and then having that come back to bite them six months down the road?

Speaker 1:

So we affirm that what happens in the room stays in the room, whoever the sponsor is. Gives you some other executive or HR. We remind them that the content of meetings are not going to be shared, but that I share things like will it come to meetings? They're prepared, they're fully engaged. So I think that's one aspect.

Speaker 1:

I think assessments are a great leveler, whether it's a self assessment like a Hogan, or if it's a 360 from other people. It gives you data on how do you see yourself as a leader and how do others see you against some normative average which are pretty powerful, well researched groups. So I think for you to see gosh, I am a lot lower in change management than others who have similar roles in other organizations, or my financial acumen is stronger than others. You know, when we talk about 360s we always say you identify where you develop and areas are well. You also find out where your towering strengths are and what you can develop. So I think that creates some vulnerability as well. I generally start a process with assessments and so that helps kind of break down that we're all in this together and we can have trust and confidence in each other to talk about more difficult, more prickly situations.

Speaker 2:

Sure, yeah, I agree, you know, I think early in my career, you know, we did all the assessments and I was with a wonderful organization that understood the value of kind of doing these types of like self assessments 360s, nothing, you know, not necessarily anything overly complex, but it was enough to prompt this like self development, hunger, right, or at least name some of the things that we struggle to work on.

Speaker 2:

And you know, I would agree wholeheartedly that if you're struggling with development, if you're thinking about coaching, some level of assessment methodology can be helpful. I actually, I would argue I don't know if you agree with this I would argue it's less about the actual assessment you use and more about how you use it and the fact that you actually just even do it right, like and I've done a book, you know, I don't know that I've done all of them, but I've done a lot of them and I've heard all the sales pitches for my money it's like you just need to pick something right, like, just do something and get you know. As long as it's not like some crazy assessment that's not statistically validated, my guess is you're going to facilitate some level of development just simply because people are going through the exercise and they're forced to be reflected, absolutely. I don't know if you agree with that or not.

Speaker 1:

I agree with that completely, and I tell people that I am too agnostic, so you know, if you're using XYZ is 360,. 123 is probably just as good, like you said, as long as it's validated. I think there are many, many assessments out there and I would never suggest to an organization well, let's try this instead, because people then the recipients of the assessment feel like well, this is the new hot thing. And here goes HR again.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yep, and there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, exactly. And so I think assessments can be additive, that you know after we've done. Maybe you did one two years ago and you're you have learned and grow and you maybe are in a different role. To add on to something. I think it's a good way to think about assessments, but I'm completely with you, kyle, that there's. I have not found one being better than another being better than another.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think you know I, for from my perspective, I would actually say if you're wondering about, like your investment in develop and you're thinking about, okay, there's this hot new tool on the market and it's X thousands of dollars and I'm going to have to go get all these budgets and yada, yada, yada, I would actually argue you're going to be better off investing in somebody that can help with a practical application of said tool versus an actual investment in a tool. And I'm sorry if there's any like like survey companies out there that are like Kyle you're killing me here, but you know, the reality is it's like it's just like any other survey or any other. Like like it's more about what you do with it. Like like, how are you actually systemizing this within your organization, how are you making sure it gets done, and then how are you making sure there's follow up.

Speaker 2:

What I love about this model is not only is there like this cohort of people who are being coached or helping coach each other. Maybe in some cases there's also this like you've got this like built in accountability as a group, right, you've got this peer pressure that, hey, next month, when we meet, here's the homework and you don't want to be the one who had the dog eat the homework right, especially in a professional setting with a bunch of other VPs, right? So are you seeing some kind of some benefits from that accountability lever?

Speaker 1:

I think you're absolutely right when we do larger programs. You know, our development program traditionally has 15, 20 people in it and you meet maybe on some sort of interval once a month, once every three months, what have you? I think it's really easy to get lost in that larger cohort and say, yeah, oh, we were doing budgets. You know the sales cycle is ended. I got caught up in all sorts of other things and I think you're absolutely onto something that accountability is much closer because it's you can't hide from three or four people.

Speaker 1:

You can hide from 15 or 16 others, yeah, but I can't necessarily hide in this kind of model.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I think the other thing too, like and I think a lot of times we over complicate this and but if you look at the research, the Gallup research is abundantly clear like one of the biggest drivers of engagement and retention in an organization is having friends. Like having, like having close personal connections with others at work really matters, right, and it's you know, this is a way this is like. This is like a club, right. Like like you you can create, like you can come up with a cool logo, a couple of names like secret handshake, whatever right. But like like to me it's like okay, this is this, especially for a new leader in a new role, I can see this be really, really powerful.

Speaker 1:

I think so too. I think so too, and as an internal HR person, I think a model like this is not that difficult to set up. We're seeing more and more HR leaders filling coaching roles inside their organization, and there's a lot to be said for that. I think, to be able to do this model well, you do have to understand coaching, so you know if this is something you want to do. You know, get on an online crore, so to understand what a coaching process is. Because the group comes together and my job is to facilitate conversation, not encourage people to come up with solutions and tell each other what to do. So I think there's just that's, that's just a be careful kind of thing. Of course, hiring a coach from the external to facilitate the process, I think, works really well. I think a third model, kyle, certainly could be partnering internal HR with an external coach to run through the process and then, over time, internal HR feels comfortable enough with the process. How does it work that they could continue on with additional groups?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely so. I want to spend a little bit of time here because I think I think this is an important nuance, that we probably need to hit on this point a little bit more. And in fact, just a few weeks back, we had a similar dialogue around the difference between coaching and performance management, and oftentimes HR is really good at performance management, but we mistake the two. Right. Coaching and performance management are two drastically different methodologies and theories within the world of career development. Right, and it's part of the reason why coaching has, in some cases, a negative connotation, because coaching means in some organizations, oh shit, I'm in trouble versus what we're talking about, which is how do we help our people excel at their jobs and how do we help our leaders be successful, regardless of the skills that they came into the role with? So, from your perspective, as you think about those two kind of theories of career development and performance improvement, how do you define coaching versus performance management?

Speaker 1:

Well, koala, I think you're onto something that performance management often we think of as fixing, you know, getting from some substandard skill to acceptable skill that we can't have people not doing their job or not doing their job. Well, I think coaching is a great resource for when someone is in a new role. They think you know, we think we know what that new role is going to include, and yet they get into it 30, 60, 90 days in and there's all sorts of nuance that people weren't planning for. I think using an external individual as a coach does that person does ask different questions and prompts maybe a uniqueness about why does the organization do it that way. Or you know what's the history of that kind of policy, whereas as an HR person, you know, you know why that policy, your practice, was put in place and maybe less comfortable, kind of challenging the status quo.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely I think the other complexity for us in the United States around this idea of coaching is leadership. Coaching is different than sports coaching. You know if you have kids on a soccer team, you know you will. Everybody wants their kids to win and you expect the coach to create a safe environment and teach them skills. And while as an executive coach I will teach new skills. My job particularly is help to help someone pull from within what they already know, bring to the conscience what they think they should be doing and how they should be doing it, because kind of like could come in cold to your organization and say here's what we need to do and none of that's going to stick because it doesn't fit your organization. So the job of a coach whether you're an internal coach or not or an external coach is to help the person find their voice inside that organization and really thrive. And that and back to the original question is different than performance coaching.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

I love that and you know, anytime we talk about coaching, I always go back to my high school track coach, you know, because we use the term coach and we think about sports, right, and I would argue there's a ton of great analogies and correlation between wonderful sports leaders and business leaders and certainly there's a space to dig into that.

Speaker 2:

But I remember my track coach who's like he's like I yell at you because I care, right, and it's like, while that might be like, true, we can't do that in a corporate setting, right, like that doesn't mean I get to slam the door and start screaming at people because I care about them, like that's fairly toxic in a corporate environment, right, and you could argue, sorry, coach, you could argue that wasn't the most effective way to motivate me to run six miles faster. But I also think you know I love what you said. I think it's fairly profound and that's the fact that you're helping. You're helping people pull from within what they already know, right, it's not like you're not giving them the Holy Grail or something they've never learned before. You're helping them find this within themselves and then apply it practically in the workplace, which is not always inherently a skill that we know how to do. It takes work right, and that's where coaching comes into play, right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, kyle, while you were talking about that, I was thinking about maybe a better analogy as an orchestra conductor, because you know any orchestra that's worth their weight in gold is that individual players know how to play their instrument you know the violin and the cello or the bass or what have you and what that conductor does is bring all of that together to create a sense of beauty, to create something that's very satisfying. They generally, you know, and of course they do stop from time to time and say you know, baritones, you're flat or can you pick up the tempo at this transition? And yet how that baritone picks up the transition has a lot to do with how she plays her baritone.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. You know you're trying to create the right rhythm, the right, you know, time, signature, all this stuff, and but you also have to allow them to let their individual talent shine, because it's different and nuanced as the entire group plays, but what you're trying to come up with is the entire beautiful, you know composition to come to life right, but you don't control it by screaming and yelling and telling them how to do their work right.

Speaker 1:

No, well, that's for sure.

Speaker 2:

So we are perfectly aligned. I think that's a perfect segue. So I'm fascinated We've got a couple of new rebel HR flash round questions. Since you were last, time, so I'm fascinated to hear your response. Are you ready? Okay, here we go. Question number one where does HR need to rebel?

Speaker 1:

I think HR needs to rebel around development Again, back to these brand new managers who are have been promoted because they were really great individual contributors. I don't think HR needs to think and we've talked about this, kyle a lot this morning about the investment you know, got a handful of leaders that you support together and start talking about good leadership. Read an article, watch a podcast, listen to a podcast together, watch a TED Talk and then talk about what are the components of good leadership. You know, buy my book and read a chapter to chapter. It's really. I think the thing is, do something and don't be worried that you're not doing perfect things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. Perfection is the enemy of progress, right? Sometimes you just need to start. Yeah, I'm guilty to I'm. I like a system for everything, so the reality is I should take my own advice. Question number two who should we be listening to?

Speaker 1:

Adam Grant has a brand new book on the market. It's called Hidden Potential. It probably is going to change my life. It is absolutely fabulous. He's showing up on every podcast these days. I downloaded the book on audio and I just love it because you know, when you write a book, you say I interviewed so and so and here's what they said. Well, this is a highly produced audio book and so he actually has the person that he interviewed in the video clip.

Speaker 1:

And so if you like listening to Adam Grant and I guess who doesn't? This book, his audio book, listens a lot like one of his podcasts and it's just. It's so powerful, it's so positive. It's the idea that most of us can develop additional skills, not just if you work harder about it, but if you get different perspectives from what you're doing right now and try new things.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Yeah, great, great voice out there. Had an opportunity to hear him at a shirm conference a few years ago and I've been following him ever since. So I have not checked out the new book, so I will. I will pick that up. So final question how can our listeners reach out, connect with you and where can they find the book?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so the book is available on Amazon. The seven mistakes new managers make. Janet Pollock at Janet Pollockcom. So it's P O L A C H. I would love to talk to any of you about this group coaching idea. Either brainstorm with you or think about how do you do a pilot. It's a. It's a pretty powerful approach and, again, easier as we've been talking about Kyle to pull off. Then kind of, here's the whole big program and now we're going to invest in it and who do we have to pick, and all that kind of thing.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, and we will have all that information in the show notes. So, if you can also open up your podcast player, check it out. Click on in. Highly recommend the book. Connect with Janet. Just a, just a wealth of knowledge. Janet, thank you so much for coming back again to the podcast, sharing some perspectives on a new way to think about.

Speaker 1:

Great. Thank you, Kyle.

Speaker 2:

All right, that does it for the Rebel HR podcast. Big thank you to our guests. Follow us on Facebook at rebel HR podcast, twitter at rebel HR guy, or see our website at rebel human resources dot com. Views and opinions expressed by rebel HR podcast or those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the organizations that we represent. No animals were harmed during the filming of this podcast.

Speaker 1:

Maybe,

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