January 30, 2018 // 1:39 PM

Coaching: A New Way Forward

Written by Juanita Fox

When I arrived at Garden Spot Village about a year ago I was relieved I would never have to do another performance review as long as I was employed by Garden Spot. I always faced employment reviews with the dread associated with report cards and parent-teacher conferences. Was I doing everything I should? Was I missing important tasks? Should I be doing more? I was always relieved when those uncomfortable meetings were over and I could go back to my job, checking off the employee review for at least another 12 months.

Garden Spot’s unique approach to change and innovation is present at every level of the organization. Innovation and new ideas are encouraged. Leadership actively requests and receives constructive feedback and implements plans to respond. Supervisors, overwhelmed by the burden of ineffective performance reviews encouraged leadership to think about the process in a new way.

Garden Spot Village leadership approached North Group to help facilitate a new way forward. The result? Coaching replaced dreaded performance reviews at Garden Spot in 2013.

Now, instead of formally meeting once a year, staff and supervisors meet three times a year. And the meetings are forward-looking, staff-driven and collaborative. During the first meeting of the fiscal year staff – from entry level to the executive team – set goals for the coming year. Goals can be personal or professional. Buying a house, taking steps towards continuing education or finding a new way to complete an everyday task are all acceptable goals for coaching.

Two follow-up meetings offer opportunities for supervisors to encourage and challenge staff to take the next steps towards reaching their goals.

North Group provides new coach training and refresher training throughout the year for the nearly 100 coaches.

Gina Breslin, North Group, facilitates the training. She says supervisors tell her the process is a rewarding opportunity to impact their staff. Plus, people are invested in the process. Instead of a supervisor pushing data in and holding staff accountable to an unachievable matrix, coaching is about staff development – at the professional and personal level.

Kelly Sweigart, sales associate, started at Garden Spot Village in July 2007. As a teen she went through employee evaluations and felt anxiety leading up to the meetings. Sweigart says coaching is less stressful and more engaging. She says, “With the coaching not only do I not have stress leading up to the coaching meetings, but it’s actually something I think about more often at work. Just last week I was doing something and thought, ‘That would be a great goal for this coming year.’”

Garden Spot pioneered coaching as a replacement for employee reviews and was recognized nationally by LeadingAge for the innovative process.