Leeds Beckett University is a higher education establishment with 3,000 staff. The University has a network of 24 partner colleges and works with a wide range of partners in the worlds of business, education, culture and sport.
The university offers mentoring, research and courses led by a world-class sports coaching faculty, and is rightly lauded for its work in this area.
However, until recently the University offered little by way of business coaching for their staff. Several years ago Leeds Beckett recognised this weakness and brought in Kathy Ashton as People Development Manager. Kathy is a trained coach and had already run the coaching provision at a large NHS trust. She came on board with first-hand experience of how easy it is for coaching provision to mushroom and become difficult to run and evaluate. Kathy was determined that business coaching at Leeds Beckett would be focused and well managed.
"Relationship is important to me, so I wanted to find a provider that I could have direct conversations with. I couldn't fault the Customer Service at Coaching Focus. They could not have been more patient nor more helpful."
Kathy's first step was to identify where coaching could best be used in support of corporate goals. Leeds Beckett University has been undergoing a period of transition. They are reducing six academic Faculties down to four. Simultaneously, they have undergone two major reviews. Kathy, therefore, decided to start a 'coaching in Transition' programme, with coaching offered primarily to those moving into new leadership roles during their first four to six months in post.
Online Management System
With a focused remit for her coaching provision already decided, Kathy began to look at the administration of the University's coaching programmes. She was aware of how difficult it is to oversee and evaluate the coaching function within a large organisation. Coaching can quickly go viral, spreading and becoming ad-hoc before any management systems are in place. At the same time, effectively managing large numbers of coaching programmes greatly eats into HR manpower.
Kathy began to think the solution could be an online coaching management system, something that she had already looked into in her previous role where she had met Trayton Vance, the Managing Director of Coaching Focus, and had toured his myecoach system. She liked the simplicity of this coaching management system and felt comfortable working with Trayton.
To purchase the system, Kathy had to put forward a business case for the financial outlay involved. This proved to be simple. Coaching was so vital to the University's corporate plan that purchasing a management system was considered to be a necessity. At the same time, buying Mye-coach made financial sense. The package was at the lower end of the price scale for computer systems and the savings made on administrative man-hours would more than recoup the cost of purchase.
Leeds Beckett University found Mye-coach extremely easy to install and operate. Even those who were relatively technologically illiterate had no problem navigating their way around the system. The only problem they had was convincing coaches to log on in the first place. This challenge was solved with pragmatism; a prize was offered to the first coach to log into Mye-coach, and an open workstation was set up in HR where coaches could visit and be guided through the process of registering and navigating the simple system.
Mye-coach is loaded with online coaching tools to help in a wide range of practical contexts. The Tools function received glowing feedback. Leeds Beckett University has a small number of external coaches for senior leaders, and these external coaches were able to register on mye-coach alongside the university's internal coaching pool. While all coaches gave good feedback about the Tools function, feedback was especially positive from external coaches. Kathy Ashton put this down to the isolation that external coaches can sometimes experience. While coaches in an internal pool might be able to access CPD support and documents from HR. this is impossible for external coaches. Having an online Tools function through Mye-coach allowed Leeds Beckett to support these sometimes isolated coaches, and ensure they were meeting the CPD needs of their entire coaching pool.
Of course, the primary reason why Leeds Beckett University wanted to use a virtual coaching system was to better monitor and evaluate their coaching programmes. One challenge that Kathy had experienced in other organisations was that HR didn't know when coaching programmes were due to end. This meant they could not efficiently schedule in the next round of coaching programmes and were unable to make the best use of their coaching pool.
With Mye-coach Kathy was able to see at the push of a button when each programme would finish, with cancelled or rescheduled sessions accounted for. This meant she could now make the most effective use of her coaches. At the same time, she was able to set up an efficient monitoring system for the first time. Leeds Beckett University now uses Mye-coach to flag whenever a coaching programme is due to end, and then automatically sends evaluation documents - which include both a happy sheet and a 360 indicator that measures outcomes - to coachees a few days after the end of the programme, and again at an interval of six months.
For Kathy Ashton, the system has been a success. She now has a coaching pool that is not only small and focused but also efficiently managed with the minimum administrative cost. The CPD tools have received glowing feedback from coaches. And best of all, she has the evaluation capacity to prove that coaching provision is meeting the university's corporate goals. Her plans for the future? Keep building coaching capacity, but build it well.
"Being able to demonstrate how much admin time Mye-coach saves is important. Having managed coaching previously with no system, and now doing it with one, I can clearly see the difference.
Kathy Ashton, People Development Manager, Leeds Beckett University,