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Training and Coaching

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Training and coaching is about how organizations develop knowledge, skills and a help people understand the culture. so they can contribute fully.

A new perspective

Teal organizations are self-managed, and can provide exceptional learning opportunities. Everyone is encouraged to develop their roles and, the more they embrace opportunities, the more they learn.  The key difference is that people take responsibility for their own development. There is no HR department running training courses to fill roles in the organization. It is common though for Teal organizations to offer significant on-boarding training.

Every historical stage has brought a distinctive approach to training and coaching.

Red organizations

In Red organizations it is important to learn about power: how it is acquired, and how it is used. This learning comes by watching and listening. There may be 'initiation' rites. There may be training in the tools of the trade. Beyond that, most knowledge is acquired by watching and listening as one obtains more and more seniority - like an informal apprenticeship.

Amber organizations

In Amber organizations roles are clearly divided and specific. Training is provided to enable those at each level in the organization to carry out their duties and responsibilities effectively (for example officer training in the military). For some, vocational training is offered by independent institutions (vocational schools or universities). The qualification can be  specific to a particular profession. On-going training often takes place on-the-job, enabling the best at each level to be considered for promotion.

Orange organizations

Orange organizations have adopted the revolutionary premise of meritocracy. In principle, anybody can move up the ladder. The mail room boy can become the CEO - even if that boy happens to be a girl or have a minority back-ground. This progress is supported by a Training Department, often a sub-section of HR. It is not unusual to have lists of competencies required for each role in the organization (sales people, technicians, new managers, emerging managers, senior managers, and so on). The pervasive thinking is that talent should be developed to fill the present and future boxes on the organization chart. This breakthrough in social fairness gives people options, at least in principle, to pursue the path that best suits their talents.


Coaching is often available to senior managers and leaders to help them settle into new roles and perform better. Coaching is usually not available to those lower down in the organization.

Green organizations

Green organizations build on the practices of Orange organizations by adding a twist to management development. Managers are expected to be in service to those they lead, support and serve. Candidates for management positions are often screened for mindset and behavior to assess:

  • whether they are ready to share power?
  • If they will they lead with humility?
  • how well  they will model the culture and values of the organization?

Training and coaching will often be offered to those who are successful to help them put their leadership into practice more effectively.

This elevates the importance of human resources within the organization. A large staff might necessitate processes like culture initiatives, 360-degree feedback, succession planning and morale surveys.

Teal organizations

Teal organizations do not have an HR function. However, because they are self-managed, they can provide exceptional learning opportunities. Everyone is encouraged to develop their roles and try out new things. The more they embrace opportunities, the more they learn--either from their colleagues or from the training taken to develop new skills. The key difference is that people take responsibility for their own development. There is no HR department running training courses to fill roles in the organization. Teal organizations still invest in skills training. But this is often delivered by colleagues. It is common for Teal organizations to offer significant on-boarding training. It is difficult to transfer from a traditional organization without learning the new rules, and unlearning the old ones.

Principles and practices in Teal

Training

In a Teal organization there is no need for career development programs. Instead training tends to focus on personal growth and building a common culture. Skill training programs are still needed and are open to all those who require them. They are often led by colleagues rather than external trainers because the training then becomes deeply infused with the company’s values and culture.

Personal responsibility and freedom for training

The biggest change is that employees are in charge of their own learning. They choose training to serve their own growth rather than training for career development. Provided members use the advice process, they can usually arrange any training they need. Some organizations have simplified matters by allowing colleagues to spend up to a specific amount on training without using the advice process. 

Different categories of training

In self-managing organizations there are no training programs for climbing the ladder. But they offer training rarely found in traditional organizations: training in the common culture and its processes (attended by all), and personal development training. Skill training programs still exist as required.  These are often led by colleagues rather than external trainers, people who really understand the company’s values and culture.

Onboarding

When someone joins a Teal organization it can take a while to understand the culture and processes that support it. As a consequence, Teal organzations tend to invest heavily in induction training. New hires are introduced to the various processes and given time to meet and work with a range of people across the organization. They may also be given training in subjects such as active listening, conflict resolution and problem solving.

Ongoing training for all

Training tends to be a continuous process for all in the organization. This typically happens through the advice process and through dedicating time to support the organizational culture.

The advice process enables people to talk to and seek the advice of a range of people they would probably not have to deal with in a more conventional organization. As a consequence much is learnt about wide range of issues. The variety of roles that people take on also encourages this process.

Teal organizations also end to run regular sessions to help build and develop the culture. These can include sessions where people can work on their own development with group support through to workshops designed to tune into the purpose of the organization. At FAVI Jean-François Zobrist hosted a session every Friday morning to address a specific cultural issue; these were open to anyone.

Employees become trainers

It is common practice to stop (or reduce) the use of external trainers. Classes are presented by colleagues who are passionate about the subject, and who tailor material to the language and culture of the organization. It is not uncommon for courses to go from the inside out. They might start by helping people to connect with who they are, and invite them to find authentic ways to express this as they discuss the subject matter. It could be difficult for an outsider to lead this discussion. Using members as trainers saves money and boosts morale--because it offers the trainer an opportunity to give and be recognized for their expertise.

Coaching

Coaching practices tend to be embedded in the organization and available to all. Coaching can take a number of different formats:

Team supervision

Working in teams invariably brings up tensions that can either be ignored or worked through. Dealing with the personal and underlying issues effectively is invariable a source  of significant growth.  It is not surprising that coaching support is available to facilitate this growth.

Heiligenfeld has a simple practice of coaching in team supervision. The company works with four external coaches who each have their domain of expertise (relationships, organization development, systems thinking and leadership). There are time slots with these coaches every month that teams can sign-up for. It's recommended that each team has at least one session a year; the average is two to four. With the help of the outsider, colleagues explore what a tension reveals about themselves and how they can resolve it. 

Peer coaching

Peer coaching is a way of using the power of the team to help on an individual basis. Buutzorg for example, has a peer coaching process called ‘Intervesie”. It is  structured process for helping an individual address and resolve an issue or problem with team support. Rather than falling into the common practices of offering advice or reassurance, the process allows the individual to work out a way forward on their own. There is often significant growth in the process as personal issues are recognized and worked through in a safe space.

Individual coaching

Some organizations offer individual coaching or counselling to all their members on a free and confidential basis, to both employees and their families for non-work matters. This reinforces the principle of wholeness by supporting the member in all aspects of their life.

Some companies offer individual coaching to all their members. Others extend this, on a free and confidential basis, to employees and their families for non-work matters.

Frequently asked questions

How can a member make sensible choices about her own training when she doesn't know what she doesn't know?

Even if we assume she doesn't know, she will almost certainly seek advice from someone with more experience. This will help her confirm or amend her choice. And by going through the self-development process, she will learn more about what she needs, and the learning approaches that suit her. In other words, she gets better at getting better! In a traditional environment, HR tells her what she should learn, and how she should learn it. If these choices are wise, fine. If not, money and time are wasted.

In practice

Here are some practical examples from Teal organizations:

Personal responsibility for training

Buurtzorg

Healthcare - Netherlands - 9,000 employees - Non Profit

At Buurtzorg the principle emerged that teams can spend a certain amount on training without needing to consult.

The nurses that work in self-managing teams decide on their own training needs, and look for the best provider - a medical supplier, a hospital department, or sometimes simply a pharmacist or another Buurtzorg team. It's accepted practice that a team can spend up to 3% of its revenues in training without needing to use the advice process. 

Jos de Blok, Buurtzorg’s founder, comments on how this freedom allows nurses to react quickly:

"A remarkably high number of colleagues get themselves trained in specific medical conditions and technical equipment so that they can assist new clients in the best possible way. From drug pumps to dialysis and breathing devices, they learn how the equipment works and must be operated so that the number of professionals that deals with any client stays low. Because colleagues don’t need to ask if they can learn about something, their motivation to do so increases immediately. “It is as if I just woke up, because I start again to think of all sorts of possibilities,” is what you often hear at Buurtzorg."

As the word spreads that the nurses can handle all sort of devices and techniques, doctors start prescribing treatment methods that improve patients’ lives - say, a drug pump for a person with chronic pain - that fall outside the limited standards handled by a traditional nursing organization.

Common training programs attended by all

FAVI

Metal Manufacturing – France – 400 employees – For profit

At FAVI, all engineers and administrative workers have been trained to operate at least one machine on the shop floor. This training is put to good use when orders must be rushed out. All hands are called on deck. White-collar workers come from their office space to man the machines for a few hours.

It’s a wonderful community-building practice. People from engineering and administration work under the guidance of the machine operators. They see first-hand how hard this work can be, and how much skill it requires. When the orders are shipped on time, colleagues share a sense of pride in the accomplishment.

FAVI also has a training program given to new members. But one session, only, may insufficient for someone to unlearn old habits and pick up new ones. The initial training modules are therefore expanded with follow-up training and workshops interwoven into daily life. The CEO, Jean- François Zobrist, used to chair a one-hour session every Friday morning, open to whoever wanted to join. The topic: An in-depth look at one of FAVI’s core organizational tools. (FAVI calls them fiches, or index cards, as they are literally available in the form of index cards to employees.) These include organization purpose, values, decision-making mechanisms, and lean manufacturing techniques. 

Sun Hydraulics

Hydraulics components - Global - 900 employees - For profit

At Sun Hydraulics, all new hires start with a “manufacturing tour,” no matter what their future role will be; they learn to operate not just one, but several work stations. For hourly employees, the tour lasts for two to four weeks, and they work in four to six different areas. For salaried employees, it takes even longer: one to four months on the shop floor. Only then do they take on the roles they were hired for.

Why such a long induction? People at Sun believe it’s critical to build relationships with other employees across the company to understand it from all angles. A self-managing environment provides opportunity to make things happen, to freely reach out to colleagues, to discuss change without going through a hierarchy of approvals. The more people you know, the more you understand the whole, the more you’ll be able to come up with new ideas and turn them into reality. At Sun, it is not unusual, after the manufacturing tour, for new hires to take up a role that wasn’t the one they were hired for. They stumble upon a new interest or some urgent need and end up in a different place.

Peer Coaching

Buurtzorg

Healthcare - Netherlands - 9,000 employees - Non Profit

At Buurtzorg, all nurses are trained in “Intervisie,” a peer-coaching technique that originated in the Netherlands.

A nurse wrestling with a question can ask her colleagues for help in a group coaching session. How should she deal with a client who refuses to take life- saving medication? How can she help an elderly patient accept help from his children? How to say "No" to clients, to protect herself from burnout?

Some Buurtzorg teams allocate an hour for peer coaching every month; others convene whenever a team member requests it.

“Intervisie,” the process used at Buurtzorg, follows a strict format with ground rules to prevent the group from administering simplistic advice, admonitions, or reassurances to each other. During the core process, members must ask only open-ended questions. This way they become fellow travelers into the mystery of the issue the person is dealing with. A safe space emerges that invites deep listening, authenticity, and vulnerability - the necessary ingredients for inner truth to emerge. The goal is for the nurse to see the problem in a new light and discover her own solutions. It is at once a simple and beautiful process.

Individual Coaching

RHD (Resources for Human Development)

Human Services - United States - 4,000 employees - Nonprofit

RHD sponsors a coaching program that offers 10 free counseling sessions for employees and/or their families every year.

No one else in the organization needs to be informed about the theme of the coaching, and it must not be a professional topic. The program is built on trust: if an employee is seeking support from an external coach, the topic must be important enough to be worth the money the company pays for it

Related topics

Notes and references