Empower your leaders and teams with coaching

27 May 2021

Dana Poole, Change Communications Lead at Shell, shares her experience with 106 Communications of motivating leaders and teams with coaching.

I never thought of myself as a coach, but I think throughout my career as a change and communications professional I talked to, trained, and supported people.

Sometimes I shared my experiences and advised younger people how to get onto the career ladder and get that dream communications job. Other times I simply listened to friends or colleagues about their challenges or personal goals and offered some insights. Most often, I freely and happily shared my knowledge with others.

As I became more experienced, more confident and I managed teams myself, I also observed what happened around me and shared my thoughts with leaders to help them be aware, avoid surprises and act or engage in an informed way.

Often, whatever I said or did – worked! So, I took some time to reflect on why. I hope these insights help you explore how to amplify your own coaching capabilities.

Knowledge is Power. Share it around.

I’ve always liked to learn, it’s a key self-motivator at work and in life. The days when I learn something new are good days.

I know knowledge is power, and I like to spread it around. If I learn a new trick in Outlook that might save me time, I tell people. If I know the recipe to success for an engagement tactic I share it. If I read a great article or Yammer post – I distil the key points (making it easy for the reader to digest and absorb) and I share it.

I recently did a short session on time management with one of my teams. Everyone is so busy these days so managing your time has become one of the most sought-after skills by employers.

Twenty years in the corporate world has taught me what works and what doesn’t and by sharing it, I am saving people from making the same mistakes I did.

Don’t keep useful and important knowledge to yourself. Share it. Freely and without expecting anything in return.

Care for people, truly and genuinely care for them.

As an employee, I wanted to climb the career ladder. It’s normal and in some ways expected. I liked my colleagues and even made friends, but it wasn’t until I became a contractor that I felt free of politics, of chasing promotions and I was able to work for the love of work.

At GSK I hired and managed a team. I cared, truly cared for them, I became protective and wanted to share my knowledge, to help them succeed in any way I could.  I still wanted to hold the work we did to a very high standard and develop our collective digital mindset, but I believed their success was my success and vice versa.

I learned so much from them too, and I was so grateful for their honesty, their contribution and for supporting me not as a line manager but as a fellow contractor and friend when I needed it.

I really, truly care about the people I work with. A lot. Enough to spend personal time polishing a CV, join a fitness competitions with them, do research to help them source a product they cannot find in their country, discuss personal or work challenges, lend a patient ear or give a warm hug (mostly virtual in recent times) when I observe it would help to do so.

I think today, some line managers waste the opportunity to truly make a difference in the life of their team members. I see a line manager a bit like a politician – once elected they have the power to change lives – some rise-up to the challenge and others forget about it. I’m lucky to work with amazing leaders at Shell today.

I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying – care enough to try your best.

Don’t be afraid to show passion and get personal.

When I do a training or coaching session, I don’t teach just the subject, I share myself.

I am running a series of coaching & training sessions on soft skills. Of course, I cover the basics of what it is, why is it important but I do this through a personal lens.

I give examples of what worked for me and what did not work. I tell stories from my own career that are relevant to the audience.

I joke, I laugh, I might even cry or be sad. I use practical examples and exercises to make the information easier to relate to and I’m not afraid to put myself out there.

Maybe some people will judge me, maybe some will be a bit surprised by what they hear. The only aspect that matters to me, is I am passionate about what I do, and they take away something useful they can immediately apply in their day-to-day job or at home.

As someone who has always championed measurement, at the end of each session I always ask for feedback, I ask people to be brutally honest – what other way can one improve if not being told the truth. Here is but a small part of what people tell me:

  • Dana, you’re entertaining and informative at the same time. Love your sessions!
  • Just FYI, how these sessions are helping our Team. I can’t thank you enough for all your efforts
  • Excellent session Dana, pearls of wisdom and thanks for being transparent and sharing personal experiences
  • Very helpful and awesome session, glad we connected

Don’t stick to labels, just aim to help people.

It may be my socialist upbringing or the words of my father, but I always tried my hardest to treat people equally. Respectfully, friendly, transparently without showing deference to a CEO and not treating the same way our company cleaner.

Honestly, I don’t care if I am mentoring, training or coaching: leaders, colleagues, friends, new acquaintances – I just aim to help people.

I don’t share what people tell me in confidence, I earn their trust: as a business partner, as a colleague, as a fellow human being.

I said at the beginning of my article that learning is a big motivator, and it is. But what really makes my day shine brightly is when someone I advised succeeds in their goal or gets the recognition he or she deserves because of my small contribution – on those days I walk around with a full heart and a beaming smile on my face.


Opinions and advice expressed in this article are my own and may not reflect the views of my past or current employer. You can also find me on Twitter @dana_poole where I share best practice, research I find interesting and insights from change and digital communication events I attend.

change communicationscoachingleader communicationsmotivation
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