#cipdLDShow #E2 – Developing Coaching And Mentoring Skills In Managers To Support People Performance


IMG_20180426_093127.jpgBushy eyed and bright tailed (my eyebrows are massive!) on day two of the #cipdLDShow conference, I settled in to my first session of day 2 which was about how to develop coaching and mentoring skills in managers in order to support people performance.

The speakers for this session included Emma Smythe, Head of Learning at BAE systems and Mike Mair, Head Of Learning And Development at Bard Pharmaceuticals.

Emma kicked things off by talking about her own career and how a development conversation with her line manager which was focused on understanding her values and interests put her on a path that ignited her passion from leadership development. This previous line manager influenced her and help focus her mindset on how she would later focus.
Emma explained that coaching and mentoring is about learning from other people and encouraged the room to talk to one another later on and use it as an opportunity to learn from the experience and knowledge in other delegates.

Emma took some comments from the audience where it was apparent that being a coach or a mentor was a give and get arrangement; you give advice and you grow as an individual by doing so. You learn from the help in which you are giving others.

Whilst talking about BAE Systems specifically, Emma explained how within the business there are clever, talented and committed individuals who were very good at problem solving, dealing with complex situations and being task focussed, but also who had been at the business for a long time and that within the next 10 years this knowledge would be leaving the business through retirement.

“We are focusing on coaching and mentoring because we are going to lose a huge proportion of our workforce over the next 10 years and we need to facilitate the transfer of that knowledge” Emma Smyth – BAE Systems

Emma explained that BAE Systems has moved to a focus of collaboration and that they recognised that they needed a lot more diverse talent. They wanted employees to step-up and take ownership over their own learning and development, by being self-directed in this regard. In order to do this BAE Systems needed to re-wire their approach to learning and change the mindset of those who were more used to traditional methods of learning.

What was clear within BAE Systems was their desire to build in peer coaching and line manager support, making sure that people have the support to try out their learning in the workplace and allow people to experiment with learning, safely. To do this, Emma explained that they needed to change people’s concept of what coaching and mentoring was. Emma continued that the stereotype of the ‘wise old owl’ needed to be forgotten and so they were very clear to people on what coaching is, what mentoring is, and how they planned to do it. They taught people how to do this, they developed coaching skills so that people knew how to coach, and how to be coached.

Emma stressed that it was important for this to work in BAE systems, that their influential senior leaders were engaged and took ownership. “It needed to feel like it wasn’t coming from HR”.

The roll-out of the coaching and mentoring programme within BAE was not through a mass programme but by stealth.

Following Emma was Mike Mair of Bard Pharmaceuticals.

Bard appeared to take a traditional approach to employee development but embraced coaching and mentoring in an almost identical way.

“We wanted better development conversations. Our survey information told us some conversations were not happening and those that were, were on a spectrum of some great, some indifferent and many quite poor. We needed to give managers the skills to be able to do this.” Mike Mair – Bard Pharmaceuticals.

Mike explained that they spent time really getting to know their employees and that this is part of their ongoing focus. They wanted to understand what their people wanted to be, what was motivating them, what was going on in their world. They recognised that the more they knew about their people, the better they could be at supporting them.


Bard are using the popular GROW coaching model as part of their strategy and explained how this was translating well within the business. This helped them move away from people attending skills programmes which they recognised wasn’t a great investment any more.

Mike explained how for future PDR discussions they approached a kind of 80/20 model with 20% of a PDR discussion being input from the line manager, and with 80% of content and contribution coming from the employee.

As with BAE Systems, Bard also needed to closely define what coaching and mentoring was and to be specific in how it was different from advising and instructing. “The clarity was important” Mike explained.

Finally, a large part of Bard’s coaching programme was about teaching managers how to ask better questions and to encourage reflective practice within both the coach/mentor and coached/mentored learning experience.

A great session, with two very good case studies that clearly enthused the audience.