Two years ago we launched a coaching program at Rulesware, in order to provide consistent, values-driven management and support to our employees as our business continued to grow. Our employees work on a range of projects and teams, often in different locations, so we wanted to make sure they had consistent coaching and guidance, from someone who’d been in their shoes.
We know through conversations, performance reviews and surveys that our employees generally enjoy the diversity and challenge that comes from working with different teams and clients to transform their business processes. But we also know that those employees need support as they transition from project to project, and travel from city to city, delivering business transformation consulting to our clients across the country.
Today, we’re proud to say that coaching is an integral part of the way Rulesware runs its business and develops its teams, providing essential support not just to the person being coached, but to the Coach as well. Rukayah McQueen, a Senior Consultant and QA Engineer at Rulesware, can attest to that.
“When I started at Rulesware, I had a little over 10 years of experience, working at a number of established companies — and I’d never had a coach before. So I was really excited to both be a coach, as well as to have a coach of my own. In terms of being a coach, I was assigned three Coachees,” she says. “And as I got talking to them, I realized that it wasn’t going to just be about me mentoring them. It was about them mentoring me, too. I’d sometimes offer tips, or they’d just as often offer advice to me. It really went both ways. Or occasionally the conversation would involve a little venting about a project, which can be necessary and helpful too!”
Coaching Helps Coaches as Much as Coachees
Rukayah observes that coaching sessions don’t have to be terribly formal to be effective, and that she has learned a lot “about just being personable” with colleagues. For her, she says the benefit has been about connecting with colleagues as people, and building relationships that can last beyond the coaching engagement. “During my coaching sessions, I’ve discovered so many things about my coachees both personally and professionally,” she says. “It’s really not a situation where you have to watch what you say with a senior, or anything like that, but more of an open door between two employees on the same playing field.”
And she says that one of her former coachees recently left the company, and because they’d established a genuine relationship, they still keep in contact. “She’s no longer a co-worker, but a colleague in the industry,” Rukayah says. “So when she has questions about software, or anything, she’ll reach out and ask me — and I’ll do the same. It’s just a good feeling.”
How Our Coaching Program Works
Every team member at Rulesware is assigned a dedicated coach, who meets with the coachee at least twice a month, and maintains responsibility for four main areas: career development, succession, feedback and reviews, and admin.
- Career Development: The coach is responsible for understanding the coachee’s skills and goals, and should help the coachee to develop and manage (as well as measure) any plans for training or certification. The coach also suggests learning activities or materials; acts as an advocate for the coachee should any internal job opportunities arise; and generally helps the coachee to make the most of any time ‘on deck’ (that is, off an active project).
- Succession: Coaches at Rulesware also provide input on promotions during review time.
- Feedback & Reviews: Coaches stay in touch with any Project Leads that the coachees work with, in order to improve their understanding of the coachees strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement, and work/life balance. They help to ensure that project feedback is collected for reviews, and provide feedback for reviews as well.
- Admin: In addition to meeting twice monthly with the coachee (in person or on phone or Hangout), the coach generally keeps an eye on administrative tasks like paid time off (PTO) and tools like Career Builder.
The Benefits of Coaching in the Workplace
For Rulesware, the benefits of the coaching program have been clear. In addition to adding more structure to succession and career development, VP of Operations Emma Payne observes that the most obvious impact has been an improved sense of connection within the company, and a greater sense of camaraderie, resulting in improved retention, and generally happier employees.
“Our consultants move from project to project,” she says, “and while they often form close connections with their project teams, it can be tough to stay connected once a project wraps up. The coaching program not only helps people g
et to know one another, but allows for a lot more continuity in the organization. It’s also a great communication tool. Incredible suggestions and honest feedback emerge from these coaching conversations, which I think has led to an even healthier culture in Rulesware.”
Emma notes that coaching has also been an effective way to communicate company values, like courage, curiosity, transparency, integrity and collaboration. “Coaching provides an excellent way for coaches to call out, and highlight, times when our employees really exemplify our values.”
For Rukayah, the most important takeaway has been learning to listen more effectively. “All kinds of things come up in a coaching conversation, and when it comes to review time, I find I now so clearly remember all of the things my coachees have told me they worked on, and I remember all of their struggles. All of those details have become so important to me, because I know them as people.”
And with better listening, she says, comes better leadership. “Becoming a Coach is excellent training for leadership,” she says. “You’re learning about different employees, with different backgrounds and skill-sets, all facing different challenges. It’s excellent management training for anyone who wants to be a better leader.”