Bonus episode from the Association for Coaching podcast channel

In this bonus series on Leadership and Learning we highlight other podcasts that feature inspiring guests. This week’s episode is from the Coaching in the Workplace series which is part of the Association for Coaching Podcast Channel. 

Sue Stockdale talks to Jen Kidby, Director of Talent and Leadership Development at Grant Thornton Canada, about the work being done to create a coaching culture within the business, how employees adapted and maintained resilience during the pandemic, and how senior leaders used podcasts to talk about their experiences of leading through a pandemic.



Jen Kidby is an accredited coach and a coach supervisor, and has worked as an external and internal coach for over 18 years. She is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and has worked in both the UK and Canada, giving her a strong foundation to help leaders and other coaches be successful. In her role in Grant Thornton Canada, Jen leads coaching for the firm, supporting over 100 Partners across Canada to bring coaching to life through their everyday leadership.

Listen to more episodes from the Association for Coaching podcast channel and connect with the Association for Coaching on social media:  Twitter  LinkedIn  Website

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Transcription of the bonus episode from the Association for Coaching podcast channel 

[00:00:00] Sue: hi, I’m Sue Stockdale and welcome to the podcast. You know, inspiration is like a magical gift, thats in all of us it’s free energy that we can give to others when we shared our experiences and insights. about what we have learned from life for work, our hope is that this podcast gives you inspiration. By listening to the experiences of guests from all around the world.

At the moment we’re busy preparing a new series that will launch in January. And for this month, we have created a special, short series on the theme of leadership and learning. It features five episodes from some of the other podcasts that I host. We hope that you find these episodes thought-provoking as well as. give you with some ideas and recommendations and other podcasts, it is that you can listen to that feature. Inspirational people. Today’s episode about leadership and learning is episode 12 from the Association for Coaching podcast channel. I spoke to Jen Kidby the Director of Talent and Leadership Development at Grant Thornton, Canada on moving forward with resilience. She explains how coaching and even podcasting benefited with remote working and team resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Welcome to the podcast Jen.

[00:01:24] Jen: Thanks, Sue so it’s great to be back with you.

[00:01:27] Sue: Now the last time we spoke was part of the coaching and the workplace series and you were talking then about the introduction of a coaching culture within Grant Thornton. How is that going?

[00:01:36] Jen: It has been a challenging year with many things to celebrate as well. For us, the coaching culture going into COVID and global pandemic and lockdown. What it’s meant is that we have had to be more conscious and opportunist around the coaching culture. So, whereas before folks would maybe bump into each other in corridors and in team meetings, we’ve had to be much more deliberate about how do we have coaching conversations and also to help people create the time for it as well. It’s so easy to get caught up in working from home there being fewer boundaries for people, and everyone’s very time conscious. So to create the time and the space to do it has become quite different this year. So that’s been a challenge for people. I think one of the most important things in the last six months has been coaching has created space for other people to make meaning. So to be able to take a step back from everything that’s happening in work. Outside of work. So the coaching culture has probably taken a direction that wasn’t planned, but we’re learning an awful lot about it as we go.

[00:02:43] Sue: I think that’s certainly a sentiment that many organizations are sharing these days is finding their way into the unknown. When we last spoke Jen you, you talked about moving from a period of hurt to healing and then hope in terms of where the organization was [00:03:00] going, how has that worked out?

[00:03:02] Jen: That’s really been something we keep coming back to time and time again, we launched a coaching program in a way that we’ve never done before early summer. I think it was probably just when you and I spoke last and that program had our coaches in the firm run small group sessions. So if you imagine a coaching set of three people, and we created a very structured program to help our program leaders, our coaches in the firm to run these sessions. And we bought in things like the change curve. So Kubler-Ross’s grief curve. We adapted it for circumstances. We brought in things like helping people to understand their value. And fast-forwarding the sorts of behaviors they want in the future. And that really helped with the hurt and beginning to move people towards healing. And whilst we’ve still got people who are all places along that change curve right now, we’ve just launched this last week, a second program, which is more in the hope more than moving forward.

We’ve actually called it moving forwards with resilience, helping people to look ahead, develop even greater resilience habits to help them as they move ahead, I think were more in the healing and the hope. Now I know there are some people who’ve had incredibly tough years who are probably not quite there with us. So we’re trying to be really sensitive to that as well and create space for those people. But also look forward as a business. We have to look forwards. We have to look at how do we not just survive, but how do we thrive going into the coming month?

[00:04:43] Sue: You mentioned it when we were off air a moment ago around how podcasting is being used to share stories within the organization, which of course is a fantastic news for me as a, as a passionate person, who loves podcasting. Tell us about how that has worked and what it’s all about.

[00:04:59] Jen: This year has been a year of firsts. It’s funny how constraints draw out creativity this year for the first time ever we asked all of our senior leaders, so 16, 17, 17 to record a short podcast, to talk about their experience of leading through the pandemic and leading an organization through. And given that there is no playbook for leading an organization through a time like this. They didn’t know what was going to happen. They didn’t know how long this was going to last. So we really wanted to capture that as a moment. So each of them recorded three to four minutes and it was as much about their personal journey as a leader, as it was about leading in the business. So whilst they spoke about needing to balance speed and quality of decision-making and they spoke about needing to create a supportive environment for others and the need to support our clients. There was a lot about that. There was as much for them personally about how they were [00:06:00]struggling at some points and a real openness and vulnerability. I’m a huge fan of Brene brown’s work around vulnerability and we draw on it quite a lot. And we talk about being courageous and being open-hearted as leaders. And what’s been fantastic to hear is the response. So we shared these podcasts with a group about up and coming leaders initially, and then we’ve began to broaden it out.

And the feedback has been, it’s been so powerful and impactful to hear senior people in our organizations to say, Hey, I’ve really struggled as well. And there’s some things I’m still grappling with. This is what I’m doing about it. I’m going, I’m going to acknowledge and be honest that I find it really tough to, it really gave heart to our participants for them to be able to think, oh, if that’s our most senior leader in our business unit, having those difficulties, it’s kind of okay for me not to be perfect and okay. For me to admit where I’m struggling and that way we can have a more human conversation about what’s happening. So it’s been a huge success. I would love to do more of that in our firm. And I think going into the coming months, that’s something for us to do in.

[00:07:11] Sue: Maybe you’re setting the benchmark for those listening to this podcast that maybe there’s a resource they haven’t yet tapped into within that organizations. The power of podcast I think also speaks to the point about hope that you just mentioned Jen, around the sense of humanness, that when leaders are authentic, when they demonstrate vulnerability and openness, for that matter, that it gives other people perhaps a sense of hope and possibility because they see that everybody is real, but all real humans.

[00:07:41] Jen: It’s been something that not just in COVID before that, as an organization, we’ve really talked about bringing your whole self to work. And I think this year we’ve really understood what that means and that’s where the messiness as well, the human emotions, the human experience. So it’s been challenging for a lot of our coaches to be able to hold a space, hold a conversation that allows for all of that to come to the surface. And that’s one of the things that we’ve been supporting a lot of our leaders with in setting them up to have these sorts of conversations and giving them some very practical tools to elicit and surface some of that humanness and some of that emotion that’s come through, but it has been tough. A number of our coaches have said having those conversations with people is it’s an incredible privilege that someone opens up to you in that way, but it’s emotionally really tough as well. So we’ve been so mindful of that and providing spaces for people to connect and talk about that as well. So a bit of a support mechanism as well.

[00:08:40] Sue: The the word coaching supervision is resonating in my head. As you say that, Jen, is that what you’re referring to or something different to support the coaches?

[00:08:49] Jen: And this is a really interesting topic for me right now for us right now, we’ve always had coaching supervision because we train our coaches to coach on leadership programs. So [00:09:00] a traditional method of coaching, if you like six sessions, 90 minutes of sessions, but over six to nine months. So we’ve always had supervision in place for that. What I grappled with, I think we’ve grappled with is what’s the space for leaders who are coaching. Who are bringing coaching into their everyday life?

What do we need to create there? And we’ve tried a few different things. And one of the things that we’re planning to experiment within the next couple of months is to create almost thinking circles or thinking groups where a small group of coaches can come together. There may be not talking about formal coaching so much, but that talking about you as a leader, this is how I’m trying to bring coaching into everything I’m doing right now. And these are the moments where I’ve had great success. And these are the moments I know I’ve missed an opportunity to really bring coaching into life and. I’ve started to do is draw on some of the coaching supervision models. So things like the seven eyed supervisor model and adapt it, reduce it and make it a little bit more simple for a non coaching professional to access, but to use it so that leaders can take different lenses on how they’re showing up on what’s driving some of that behavior. So it’s an area I think we’ve got more to learn in, but it’s an area that I think is going to create that space for our very senior leaders who are coaches for them to be able to make meaning of what they’re experiencing and what they’re doing.

[00:10:29] Sue: I love it, how you’re describing Jen, that sense of experimentation and willingness to step into the unknown, not to have a fixed way of approaching this integration of a coaching culture to learn along the way. It’s wonderful to hear that. One of the things that I’ve always noticed with organizations when they’re introducing a coaching culture is the sense of how do you measure or evaluate. The progress that’s being made, recognizing that the coaching conversations themselves are confidential. So people aren’t, the coaches aren’t going to share with you. What’s being spoken about in those sessions. How do you, as a, as a leader, get a sense of evaluating the progress it’s being made?

[00:11:09] Jen: We tend to take a pretty strategic view of this rather than being very mechanistic and trying to isolate what was the impact of that one conversation. And I know a lot of organizations do that and that’s great for us that doesn’t work because for us, coaching has always been about culture. And it’s always been about strengthening culture. So instead we take measures of things like the great place to work survey that we have just entered for the 14th time. So we look at that data and when we get recognized as one of the best workplaces for mental health, for workplace flexibility, for women. For example, for us, that talks back to our coaching culture and also our, our business results. So we often hear stories about how coaching is used with clients. So this year in particular, I was speaking to one of our partner coaches out in Atlantic [00:12:00] Canada at a month or two ago. And he was saying he’d been supporting one of his clients, a family owned business, a couple he’d been supporting them about their business and he didn’t really realize the impact it had. And a month later he had another call with the wife in this partnership, and she said, I have to tell you how valuable that conversation was. You created a space for us to really use you as a sounding board and to really share what was on our mind and the tough times that we’re going through in a really safe way and in, in a way that allowed us to take a different perspective. So for us, when we hear stories like that’s about our coaching culture, that’s because that partner coach has come through our programs is an active coach and is aware of the power of listening, the power of open questions. So we tend to measure it in that way. And I know for every, not for every organization that wouldn’t work, but for us, those stories and that progression we’re making in the business and in our culture is how we measure coaching culture and how coaching works.

[00:13:02] Sue: So I imagined for you, Jen, as the person driving to a degree, with everybody else, the coaching culture forward, how do you keep motivated? How do you keep positive this year?

[00:13:14] Jen: That has been front of my mind. And it’s been really tough at some moments, particularly in the height of everything that’s happened. There were some moments where coaching has not been the urgent priority that the business has needed. So I found it really tough. However, I’m so fortunate to work where I do because such value is placed on the human experience at work. And there’s a couple of things this year. For me that have been quite new, actually I’ve strengthened my connections with groups of like-minded people, but outside of the organization early this year, I set up an OD think tank with senior OD professionals in other organizations, a safe space for us to come together, to share our experience of leading change and transformation. Now it’s been amazing. I have my own coaching supervision group, who, which is outside of Grant Thornton as well. So that’s been fantastic. And I’ve been joining a lot of the Association for Coaching activities and also the global supervisors network who’ve been focusing specifically on coaching supervision.

So part of it for me has been about perspective and connecting outside of the system that I’m such a big. Another part of it has been I’m so lucky. I worked with an amazing team. I have incredible colleagues who just bring humor and silliness and warmth to so much. And then the other thing that’s new for me this year is I’ve become a yoga teacher. So I completed my yoga teacher training over the summer. So I now teach yoga, which is great for me to feel as though I’m giving back in a very different way through a physical practice, aligned with breath and mind, which does have great links with coaching. For me, it’s another thing which is outside of the work systems. So I’ve worked pretty hard [00:15:00] this year keeping myself in a good space so that I can help others.

[00:15:04] Sue: I think what you’re seeing there, Jen is an important point for any coaches or leaders listening to the podcast is work on yourself first before you then are able to be effective and engaging, inspiring, motivating, or leading other people. And I think the focus on self is sometimes a really good reminder that we need to hear. And so I love to hear the examples that you’re describing. I’m thinking about the context of leaders listening to this podcast. Jen, what are some of the, the good practices or ways of working that embed the concept of that coaching culture on an everyday basis?

Sometimes people take for granted in organizations, the things that they are doing. That are actually facilitating the sense of engagement and involvement with people. Are there any disciplines or things that happen naturally within Grant Thornton that you can share with us? Examples of good practice?

[00:15:58] Jen: So some of the things we do to help our partner coaches you see the impact are through sharing stories. Sometimes it’s hard as you say, when a leader has had a conversation with somebody and then maybe he doesn’t see them. Yeah a month or two, or maybe they work in a completely different part of Canada. Sometimes it’s difficult to see that link between the action I’ve taken and the consequences and the impact.

So we come back to a lot of storytelling. Again, we come back to sharing stories locally. Business units and regions within Canada. And we also help share stories through podcasts. So our leadership has been sharing podcasts this year, in addition to the ones that I’ve mentioned already. So it’s been through a lot of it has been through storytelling and also this year we’ve been bringing together some of the leadership teams to support them virtually as well.

And that’s created a bit of time and space to take a step back, reflect and make. And I think that’s the piece that I mentioned earlier has been tough for me at moments this year I’ve seen where we really need to help our leaders create space for themselves. It comes back to what you said. You put your own mask on first and we have an oxygen mask on first and there’ve been moments where I could feel in my gut.

That’s what we needed to do. And it just wasn’t the right time. And that for me, It was difficult because I could see the impact of not doing that. We are doing it much more now, but there’ve been moments this year where I think that could have played a really big part. And I think a message for any leader who is listening is to create that space, whatever it is for you, whether it’s going for a walk in nature, whether it’s listening to music, whether it’s yoga, meditation, being with friends, whether it’s journaling, which has starting to become a big thing in our organization as well, to create that space so that you can join some of those doors.

[00:17:51] Sue: Some great examples there practical things that people can do. Jen. So looking forward. So what are the next steps on the Grant Thornton journey to develop a [00:18:00] coaching culture?

[00:18:01] Jen: The big theme for us is the future of work. So in the next couple of months, we are going to do some information gathering from the firm we’re going to tap into a lot of different people. I’m using a new crowd sourcing tool that we’re about to introduce, and we want to take everything we’ve learned through everything that’s happened in the pandemic and use that to help shape the future of the organization. So for example, one of the questions we’d just started asking ourselves is what’s the role of the physical workspace, where we can now work virtual.

Most of us can work virtually what’s the function of all of those beautiful office buildings that we’ve got and pay an awful lot of money for. Is it still to have lots of separate desks and offices and office space or is there a different purpose? So we’re just beginning to turn our attention to what are the aspects of our strategy and culture that can be executed through a physical workspace and what are those aspects?

Maybe we don’t need the physical workspace for, so we’re just on the very start of that journey and starting to ask ourselves some of those questions. And I see it as a really big opportunity actually to re-imagine what the workspace, but also the workplace and the experience of work can be. So I think that’s where coaching is going to show up in a really huge way, because I think that camaraderie, connectivity, culture. Being able to really connect in depth and have those conversations. I think that’s going to be a big part of our future of work conversations.

[00:19:37] Sue: Sounding like we’re going to be landing up for another podcast next year, then Jen,

[00:19:41] Jen: that would be fantastic.

[00:19:43] Sue: What happens next? That’s a big question to be exploring and sounds like some courageous leadership to be engaging people in that conversation to set the direction and tone for the future.

[00:19:54] Jen: It’s a really strong recognition in our firm that our firm is simply the people in it. We offer services to clients. So the experience we create for our clients comes from the culture that we create and the people who we hire and develop and grow. And so it’s about what is it that they need to do their best work to create that sort of experience with our clients. So it’s a really exciting journey. I think it’s one that will. last a number of years as we begin to evolve and, and shift from where we have been served to where we might be in the future.

[00:20:25] Sue: That’s brilliant. So if people want to find out more about you and the work that’s going on within grant Thornton, Canada Jen how might they do that on social media? Are you on LinkedIn or other means that people can find you?

[00:20:38] Jen: Yep. I’m on LinkedIn. So I’d be delighted to connect him with anyone who’s listening. Who wants to talk more about what we’re doing at Grant Thornton or the work that we’re doing around coaching and also the Assocation for Coaching. Another thing I should’ve mentioned that. This year as part of my drive to get different perspectives. I started working as the regional co-chair for Canada, for the association for [00:21:00] coaching. So beginning to bring some of the great things that the association for coaching does into Canada a little bit more. So that’s another way to get in contact with.

[00:21:09] Sue: Fantastic. It’s been fantastic to talk to you again, Jen, to hear the progress that’s been made to hear your honesty and openness about the journey that grant Thornton is undertaking, and I hope they will have a chance in 2021 to hear the next stage of this part of the progress. I’d love to share the next chapter. Thanks for your time, Jen.

Sound Editors: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him) and Rob Lawrence (he/him)

Producers: Sue Stockdale (she/her) and Association for Coaching