Case Studies

Case Study 1: Leadership and management development programme

Client: A forward looking Housing Association based in Cornwall

Rachael Ross Coaching and Inspired 2 Learn collaborated on this project and have delivered leadership and management development programmes to around 50 line leaders. We worked with two different groups:

1. Senior Executive Team and their direct reports

2. Middle Management Team

Due to the impact of the programme, our work continues with each group, with the most recent being in September 2014.

There were two phases for the work – preparation and delivery.

Stage 1 – Leadership and management skills assessment

An on-line 360 feedback process was designed to assess core competencies using Coastline’s Competency Framework. (This had never been done in the company before.)

An assessment of leadership behavioural preferences was then undertaken, comprising:

Follow-up one to one coaching sessions were held with each delegate to interpret results and begin to identify specific individual development needs and a personal development plan.

A special “scorecard” was designed and administered, to evaluate behavioural change and return on investment. See the summary of results in the benefits section below.

Stage 2 – Modular workshop, action learning and coaching programme

An induction pack was issued to all delegates before commencing the workshops. We then designed a series of four hour modular workshops which ran over the course of nine months, and addressed themes such as:

  • Developing a culture of high performance and collaborative teamworking across departments – creating a “one team approach”
  • Setting and agreeing vision and purpose, to inspire others, developing the habit of aiming high, with increased emphasis on the “customer” (both external and internal)
  • Engaging with and motivating employees through enhanced communication skills
  • Building emotional intelligence, including the ability to challenge and be challenged
  • Coaching and mentoring skills which motivate and promote rapid learning in team members
  • Project management and time management through setting and agreeing priorities based on purpose

These interactive workshops were highly customised, covering the elements identified in the skills assessment, and backed up by reading resource packs and individual executive coaching sessions with programme participants.

Through this work, we were able to build a fruitful learning culture between the participants and designed each module to carefully build on the learning from before and expand the learning themes and goals over the period of working together. Sustained learning was helped by coaching and the use of individual learning journals.


The programme demonstrated positive returns on investment and since the start of the workshop programme in September 2011, Coastline has consistently moved up several percentage points year by year on the Sunday Times Best Companies index, and recently was named 70th in the Sunday Times Top 100 best not-for-profit companies to work for. During the course of our working with them, Coastline won Investors in People Gold Status and have achieved a 92% customer satisfaction rating with the overall services provided, making them the best performer in their region.

Several members of the Executive team have kindly acknowledged publically that the leadership programme has played an important part in this.

This e-mail received from outgoing CEO Robert Nettleton in April 2014 confirms our positive contribution – “Rachael, Barrie. Thank you for your contributions to Coastline; they have undoubtedly made a material difference to the culture here.”

Here is some evidence of change from our evaluation:

A significant positive shift in perceptions indicated on the ‘before and after’ scorecard.

Before and after scorecard summary:

Coastline table.jpg

Examples of evaluation comments about how learning has been applied to achieve positive results:

  • “Having a greater appreciation of my leadership styles and how I am perceived by others from the 360 exercise has enabled me to adapt my approach to improve outcomes/results. In addition, my listening skills have improved, which in turn has given my team more ownership of problems rather than myself trying to answer for them initially and perhaps not giving them a chance to put their ideas forward.”
  •  “I have tried to have more open and direct conversations with staff (developing trust), both individually and as team, striving to create a more dynamic and motivated environment, with an acceptance of consistent need for change in order to maintain current upper quartile standards.”
  • “Making sure I give positive feedback to other teams has helped build better relationships. Giving feedback to a range of people within the last month, including a Board Member, an involved tenant and a member of staff disappointed with coming second in an interview. All had a positive outcome and I felt much more confident giving the feedback.”
  • “The working across boundaries session led to positive action with another department and improved working for staff in terms of IT system development, resolving long standing issues on customer profiling data fields.”
  • “The MiRo and 360 results sort of confirmed what I already knew, but I now understand much more about how to best address each of my three managers to get the best out of them, and more for me. For example, I used to ‘talk around the houses’ to get a result from a manager when all along, I’ve discovered that I needed to be more frank and direct – because that is what those characters respond better to and wanted from me.”


Case Study 2: Developing as a leader – expanding communication skills

Client: A leading global oil company Exec

The focus for the coaching was the client’s wish to expand his leadership skills: he was moving into a wider arena of influence, and had been promoted into a more senior role, reporting directly to an Executive Director. He was particularly interested to explore how he could more effectively engage with people who were different from him, a common aim among senior leaders leading increasingly diverse teams.

At the same time the function was also going through a review of its effectiveness, so the coaching had to take account of this too.

Coaching Aims

Some aims for the coaching were developed, focusing on a number of core development needs:

  • Becoming more effective as a leader by letting go of the detail
  • Improving effectiveness of performance conversations with direct reports
  • Developing active listening skills and encouraging diverse points of view
  • Coaching the team to see the wider patterns and links between projects
  • Energizing people – emotionally as well as rationally

After the first session, he undertook a feedback process (designed by Rachael Ross Coaching) in order to gather some 360 degree feedback on his leadership style.

This process provided rich material to deepen insights into his own strengths, and further clarified where he wanted to make changes, and focus his learning.

A sporting metaphor emerged during the first session, as part of his personal vision: a football coach who had successfully “moved from player coach to manager.” This gave him an effective way of recalling how he wanted to be and the overall shift in style he wanted to achieve.
At each session (a mix of face to face and phone coaching sessions), he clarified what he wanted from the session as well as moving towards the overall goal. For example, there were two key meetings which took place shortly before a coaching session, and he was able to build in immediate learning by reviewing those immediately afterwards.

He worked through the development goals he had set himself, reviewing those he had been experimenting with in the intervening weeks, and developing a number of new practices to support his development goals.
Some of these goals included:

  • practising deeper listening
  • engaging in “open performance conversations” with his team, building on the very open exchange
    encouraged by the feedback process
  • making changes in how he briefed projects, by giving more clarity on standards required, stepping back and
    allowing team members to drive the agenda more often
  • showing own vulnerability by revealing more of “the full me”, and encouraging others to do the same
  • developing an informality in meetings to encourage openness

During the coaching process we were able to make a clear link between the development areas the client was working on, and how those tied into the overall model of excellence in leadership, recently launched by the organisation, which set out a number of competencies falling into “strategic” and “people related” competencies.

Coaching Results

The results from the coaching were:

  • the Coachee felt he had created more space to reflect during his working day, now he had stepped back from the detail
  • he was connecting more easily with a wider variety of people – emotionally as well as strategically / technically.
  • feedback from colleagues that he had made some definite changes in his style, for example, more useful input to teams re overview
  • feedback from HR supplier contacts that direction given to them was clearer
  • feedback from a key colleague that he had listened to her proposed approach and changed a meeting design as a result.

Case Study 3: Taking confidence to new levels

Client: Director, Global management consultancy practice

As part of her increased responsibilities as a Director of a global consulting firm, the client wanted to review her ability to sell onto new clients and win business. She explored some underlying beliefs about what selling meant to her and was able to reframe how she saw selling. She was also able to reconnect to her skills and experience as a consultant, and found she increased her confidence about work.
As a result she improved her performance at selling and over the coming months brought in a number of significant new pieces of business for the organisation. She was able to connect to the prospective clients in a new way, as she now felt she could sell to them from her standpoint of being authentically herself, rather than trying to be the “salesperson” she thought she should be. This is the feedback she gave me:-

“I just wanted to thank you for the coaching support you have given me this year. It has been immensely beneficial and professionally I have not felt this confident for a long time.

It is no secret that repeat business is a sign of successful consulting. Colleagues observed that I was beginning to sell on to existing clients with rigour and success. Coaching helped me to recognize my own strengths at selling; and also gave me a focus for fine tuning my listening and questioning skills. The proof is in the results I was able to secure £100,000 business in 10 weeks from two important clients.”

Case Study 4: Revitalising the organisation’s values and working culture

Client: Consultancy wing of a Global Engineering firm

The consultancy wing of a leading engineering firm was taking a hard look at its culture and values. There was some negative feedback from younger members of staff – especially from women – which caused the senior management team to decide that things needed to change.

However this needed to be done in a sensitive way, which involved the whole team and allowed the firm’s many good features to shine through too.

We were commissioned by the MD to start coaching sessions with key members of the team – from senior managers to junior members of staff.

This was followed by a presentation and report of the key points about the culture – both the positive aspects, and proposals for change.

As a result, we were asked to design and run an awayday for the whole team, where we facilitated a review of the values and behaviours currently prevalent and how people believed these needed to change.

Throughout the project we worked closely with HR, training and organisation development. The awayday was co-facilitated with colleagues from HR in the organisation.

The end result was a new set of values with examples of behaviour which importantly, were fully owned by the whole team.

“Your style and credibility matched up well with our senior team’s needs.“

“Excellent all round.. Extremely responsive and workshop was a direct hit.”

“We thought you kept our diverse group enthused, focused and productive.”

“The one to one coaching was a real success, in great part due to your fantastic listening skills.”

Case Study 5: Boosting innovation and creativity

Client: Global creative team in an energy business

I was asked to create and facilitate a session focused on innovation for a senior executive’s team. Innovative and creative thinking is essential to this team – their role is to support the business in developing options for new power stations, both fossil fuel and new technology solutions.

The purposes for the session were:

  • to explore a core value for the team–and the business: innovation.
  • to do something creative and fun together as a team
  • to draw out the learning about creative and innovative behaviour, and to challenge ourselves to do things more effectively
  • to reinforce and build on the team spirit that exists between team members

“The session had great energy and a sense of fun. In the group task, people experienced being innovative in its purest form – no gadgetry – just the energy generated by the group and its ideas”. (Senior Executive, a global energy business)

Case Study 6: Leadership – developing a new working style for a new role

Client: Director, Government Department, Central London

A senior manager in a large government organisation was taking on a number of new roles, and finding that he was spending long hours in the office. He was increasingly uncomfortable about the number of hours spent away from his desk, in what felt like unproductive meetings.

He had received some complaints about his management style, that it was too aggressive and demanding of subordinates and colleagues.

Over a series of face to face meetings and telephone coaching, he was able to review the current situation, and explore some of the underlying beliefs about his role at work.

Helping him to focus on his vision of the future, he was able to develop a set of goals for the changes he wanted to make. These included prioritising where he spent time, how he needed to restructure his work portfolio, and how to use the resources around him differently.

Other changes included setting goals re work/life balance – agreeing some parameters about how much time he was prepared to dedicate to work, and cutting down the number of meetings.

“You have been very sensitive to my needs and have provided me with a framework on which I can work to improve my working methods”

Case Study 7: Deepening inclusive leadership capability

Client: UK Board of a Utilities Company

As part of an organisation-wide programme, a series of coaching sessions were arranged for the UK Board Directors, following up on a one day leadership workshop on Inclusion and Diversity.

These were mostly held face to face, with the exception of one US based Director, where we offered telecoaching.

The coaching was an opportunity for each Director to follow up on the workshop, and deepen their learning from it. It was a chance for leaders to explore any concerns too. The outputs included committing to a series of practical steps that would set the pace for the cultural change the organisation was looking to achieve.

Personal learning goals were set by each Director, including skill development in areas such as empathy, deep listening, and developing emotional resources around curiosity about people who seem very different.

Work was also done at a beliefs level – confirming resourceful beliefs which supported the aim of being an inclusive leader, and unpicking a few limiting beliefs and related anxiety. This included changes to performance management of employees ensuring quality of delivery was tempered with an emotionally intelligent approach.

Some wider organisational development themes formed a backdrop to the inclusive leadership coaching, (e.g. minimising hierarchy) and the individual coaching boosted the team’s collective energy and focus on these themes.