Honored for a commitment to coaching
By Jeff Carlton
Haylie Miller, PhD, has always enjoyed a productive and beneficial relationship with her supervisor, Nicoleta Bugnariu, Interim Dean of the School of Health Professions.
That’s why Dr. Miller, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy, admits she initially was skeptical of the Office of People Development’s efforts to implement a formalized coaching process for all employees at UNT Health Science Center.
“I worried that it would add a lot of red tape and rigid structure to a process that already was working well for me,” Dr. Miller said. “I was really happy with the relationship I already had with Dr. Bugnariu, and I didn’t want that to change.”
When she became a first-time manager, supervising Research Assistant Gabriela Sherrod, Dr. Miller recognized the value of the structure provided by the coaching process and became a convert from coaching cynic to supporter.
“I realized that I didn’t know how exactly to be the kind of supervisor for others that Nicoleta was for me,” she said. “I needed a scaffold.
“Coaching gives us a chance to regularly revisit our shared goals for the whole year from a birds-eye view, reminding us of things that might get shoved to the back burner if we only did an annual evaluation. It holds employees accountable to their goals and supervisors accountable to providing the resources their employees need, so that we are always moving forward with a clear plan.”
Winning over converts such as Dr. Miller has been a critical part of UNT Health Science Center’s coaching journey. It began in the summer of 2014, when the university first trained coaching champions to lead coaching workshops.
The latest milestone: The International Coach Federation – North Texas Chapter recently awarded its 2016 Prism Award to UNTHSC for “enhancing excellence and business achievement through its commitment to coaching.”
“The award recognizes that UNTHSC is positively impacting results – and our team members throughout the organization – by exemplifying and promoting a culture of coaching,” said Steven R. Sosland, Chief People and Performance Officer.
The results of the coaching journey, part of a long-term effort by the university to increase employee engagement and improve retention of staff and faculty, have been both comprehensive and impressive. In fiscal year 2016, 76 percent of all faculty and staff received some form of coaching, and 82 percent of non-faculty staff members had a written coaching plan, said Jessie Johnson, People Development Advisor at UNTHSC.
The UNTHSC philosophy has two distinct approaches: in-the-moment coaching that occurs organically and formal coaching plans that emphasize individual and team goals, measurements, progress, resources and tying goals back to strategic objectives of the university.
“All of this really boils down to relationships. How do we equip supervisors to better support team member development?” Johnson said. “Coaching is really just a tool to help other people achieve their goals. It helps people accomplish things they didn’t think were possible.”
Up next is to train supervisors to focus on appreciative inquiry, a style of coaching that uses positive questioning to amplify the strengths of team members and improve performance. In addition, the Office of People Development wants to better incorporate faculty and students into the culture of coaching – and help team members better understand how to be coached. Also in the works: a pilot program that matches team members to coaches outside of their department.
The highlights of the Health Science Center’s coaching journey have been the professional successes of those who have bought in, Johnson said. For example, there was a HSC team member who wasn’t prepared for her next promotional opportunity, until coaching sessions helped her identify the need to improve her public speaking and communication skills. When the position reopened, she was a competitive applicant and earned the promotion.
“Coaching helps people realize what it’s possible for them to accomplish,” Johnson said.
For Dr. Miller, the coaching resources provided by the Office of People Development were helpful as she transitioned from being a recipient of coaching to someone who also was a coach herself.
“These resources help promote transparency and communication, and ensure our expectations are closely aligned,” Dr. Miller said. “The Office of People Development has put some structure around the process, which makes it easier for me and others to be more effective coaches.”