Action Learning: Collaborative Coaching of Non-Profit Directors.

What do you get when you bring together a group of coaches/consultants and 8 executive directors?? Here’s what the directors reported:

  • Most remarkable 5-person therapy!  I got a number of great small Aha!s which confirmed the good things that we’re doing, as well as identifying areas for my personal growth.
  • Clarity – what I came in with was not what I ended up talking about.  Really good therapy!
  • Phenomenal process!  Such useful information in a safe way.  Hugh Aha!  I had issues that were really symptoms of a bigger problem. It’s seldom that I get to sit down with folks in a non-threatening process.  The team got me down to the data and away from my assumptions.  I got great insights, ideas and steps forward.  I appreciated the expertise and the variety of insights.

The Boston Facilitators Roundtable (BFR) is an organization that I lead, whose members are coaches and Organizational Development consultants.   In Nov. 2014, we offered the third iteration of a very successful event hosting executive directors (ED) for collaborative coaching by BFR members.  Working in small groups, consultants ask questions to help the directors get clear about their problems, examine their assumptions and frame their future action.  As often happens, a director realizes that their initial framing of the problem is not accurate, and they arrive at a clearer understanding of the actual problem.

I designed the successful format for this program with input from other BFR members. There are a few key elements to the process:

  • The director presents an organizational challenge, and consultants get 5 minutes to ask clarifying questions, not more.
  • Then the consultants discuss the problem among themselves for 10-15 minutes, while the director sits back and listens. Directors report that this sitting-back part is fascinating, as they listen in to experienced consultants discussing their problem.
  • The directions to the consultants are very clear about the purpose of this event: to help the directors get clarity. As good coaches, we know the importance of asking useful questions, and holding back on giving advice. At a later point in the format, the directors usually ask for suggestions – and that’s when we think it’s ok to provide advice, not earlier.

This is an Action Learning program, which is designed to provide multiple layers of learning:

  1. The directors benefit from the coaching and consultation from consultants
  2. The consultants benefit from hearing the approach and the questions that each person asks, which builds our coaching skills.

As President of the Boston Facilitators Roundtable, it’s gratifying when the directors and BFR members get high value from our programs.  To read more feedback, click here.

This program would be beneficial for any senior managers, directors or board chairs.  Also, if you’re a foundation that would like to multiply the value of learning for your grantees, let’s talk.  We can augment this program to include a coaching piece to help directors or board chairs recognize their personal dynamics and how that impacts the board and/or the director.  Let me know if you’d be interested in having such a program for your organization.

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