Embedding a coaching culture at the National Health Service

Unlimited Potential has been working with the NHS Leadership Academy – offering external coaching for its Chief Executives, its executive teams and senior directors. This work is helping to embed a coaching culture at the organisation – with the aim of improved patient outcomes. 

The NHS prioritises coaching as an intervention for its leaders. This encourages a coaching culture at the organisation, leading to fewer staff grievances, higher-quality conversations, increased engagement, improved staff output and therefore better patient outcomes. For several years it has had an internal coaching database made up of NHS staff who are fully qualified and experienced coaches. Any leader in the NHS can access the database and find a coach for themselves. 

To fully embed a coaching culture across the organisation, it was essential that leaders at all levels were actively engaged in coaching. But Chief Executives, Directors and other senior leaders were reluctant to use the internal database. They needed a ‘safe space’ to talk about difficulties in the workplace with someone independent. The NHS Leadership Academy believed external coaching could support talent management and succession planning – allowing individuals to discuss career aspirations with somebody from outside the organisation. The NHS turned to Unlimited Potential to fill the gap.

Unlimited Potential worked closely with the NHS Leadership Academy to understand the NHS and its senior leadership population. It was also important that the coaching we offered seamlessly fitted in with the existing NHS process to connect people with coaches. 

Those senior NHS leaders seeking an external coach are put in touch with Unlimited Potential. We have an initial conversation to fully understand what the individual needs to achieve through the coaching. After the conversation, we find suitable coaches and hold a ‘chemistry meeting’ (or meetings) where the individual and coach meet, to discover whether they can work well together. Once a leader has found a suitable coach, they both commit to four coaching sessions.

Once the sessions have taken place, we send the individual a confidential report – and we send a summary to the NHS Leadership Academy (with confidential details excluded). We also ask the individual to evaluate the experience and the impact it has had.

“We’ve had really good reports – and we’ve had Chief Executives who want to extend their coaching with Unlimited Potential. A return customer is a happy customer.” –Director, NHS West Midlands Leadership Academy

The evaluation reveals that the coaching scheme has been very successful. Individuals feel more confident and are better able to have quality conversations with colleagues. Several senior leaders and Chief Executives have requested additional sessions as they have found the coaching to be so effective. 

Unlimited Potential continues to provide coaching to senior leaders at the NHS. Our coaching still receives good feedback and we often get requests from leaders for additional sessions. 

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 Caitlin has made a real difference to my confidence and to the way I approach my business on a day to day basis.
John Baker, Regional Director, The Jockey Club
 It (coaching) unearthed a depth of confidence that I was beginning to question and enabled me to make a significant change within myself and my work.
Luke Joy-Smith, Managing Director - Somerset Social Enterprise
 I connected with my coach on our very first call and I believe that made the whole difference for me. I wish I could dig deeper on some of my remaining issues but unfortunately all good things have to end. I will definitely recommend coaching and have been already doing it for while. It definitely changed my life.
Stephanie Malka, Director NOC Service Engineering – EMEA
 Great to see that there has been a positive outcome from this.
Simon Gosney, Head of Learning and Development
 Tim has provided some high quality coaching support to me through a time of transition both in terms of job, career and organisational changes. He is a skilled and experienced executive coach who facilitated just the right mix of reflection, future visioning, challenge, compassion and stretch. I’d strongly recommend working with him if you are going through a career or organisation transition. Fun to work with, I always left my sessions with him feeling significantly clearer and more content with my overall direction of travel and next steps.
Neil Savage, Director of Organisational Development 2gether NHS Foundation Trust
 “I selected my coach on the basis that she had a completely different approach to my structured way of thinking. Katherine challenged me and took me way out of my comfort zone – scary and uncomfortable at times but eye-opening. These coaching sessions enabled me to see things from a very different perspective, gave me the time and space to reflect on my practice and provided practical tips and approaches as to how I can develop my performance.”
Zenobia Daar, Head of People, Governance & Performance
 Please continue with the programme. For a guy, like Paul, who does not use the word 'fantastic', who then uses it..it must be really good!
Marissa Bartlett, Head of Organisational Development - Mid Sussex District Council
 Everyone learnt a lot about themselves and others. It was the first training in English that one of my mentors had done and it was really successful for him. We have all come away feeling more confident. I have been on many development programmes and I have to say it has been one of the best I have ever attended.
Radka Lankasova, HR Manager, DENSO MANUFACTURING CZECH s. r. o.
 Steve Delivered a professional, relaxed and engaging session. Relevance, interest and clarity of delivering allowed for a very productive outcome.
Andy Castle, VP of Network Operations and Engineering, EMEA
 I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Steve. He encouraged me to look at how I view myself and my actions, to actively seek positive outcomes to every day situations. My perception of myself has certainly changed due to my conversations with Steve and I would highly recommend coaching sessions with Unlimited Potential.
Rik Roberts, Team Leader