Renee Robertson (@reneetriology), coach and CEO of Triology Development and The Robertson Coach Institute, faced a big problem as a former employee of WorldComm. WorldComm or (MCI-WorldCom), at the time Robertson worked there, was one of the largest companies in the world.
At the time, Robertson was doing quite well. She had progressed through sales leadership and was looking forward to growing within the company, while also preparing for a family in the future.
Then, July 21st happened.
Robertson describes the scene in her book, “The Coaching Solution: How to Drive Talent Development, Organizational Change, and Business Results.” One of her sales managers called and told her to “turn on the news and sit down”. As she did, the realization and shock set in.
The company she worked for was declaring one of the biggest bankruptcies in history up until that point.
Robertson’s husband asked her, when he received the news, what she would do. After dealing with a few moments of shock, Renee Robertson turned to her husband and said the following “ This company, my colleagues and our employees are going to need what I have to offer now more than ever.”
Robertson’s solution to the problem was an innovative one. She would develop the company’s own employees through an internal coaching program designed specifically for them. The would take over two years to get support for the program, but once it worked, it helped that company reach incredible new levels of sales success.
The Solution, Part 1: When a Sales Leader Becomes a Coach
At the time of the crisis, Robertson was not a member of the direct sales staff, she had become a coach and advisor.
Her journey to that role began in 1995. As a successful sales executive in a global company, she often had to hop from continent to continent to get things done.
While it was exciting for her, Robertson wanted something that would allow her to devote more time to home and family. She happened to come across a magazine that discussed this new thing called “coaching” and immediately felt drawn to it.
Robertson continued to show interest in coaching after she learned that a friend was a coach. With her friend’s support, she began taking courses to become a certified coach while maintaining her position with MCI-WorldCom.
Once she became a coach, she used those skills with the company.
Robertson’s experience at MCI-WorldCom in developing an internal coaching program form the basis of what would become “The Coaching Solution: How to Drive Talent Development, Organizational Change, and Business Results”.
In the book, she presents a 4-part guide to creating, implementing and maintaining an internal coaching program based on that experience.
The Solution, Part 2: How Internal Coaching Saved MCI-WorldCom
The focus of “The Coaching Solution” is on internal coaching, using internal resources to improve and retain talent, as opposed to external coaching.
Most of us are used to external coaching, in which a business brings in an outside expert to help with some aspect of business performance.
Internal coaching, as opposed to external coaching, is looking for more than a quick fix (such as improving sales in one region). It involves developing a comprehensive strategy for improving the way a company does business.
In Robertson’s situation, MCI-WorldCom needed help retaining customers and employees who were understandably afraid of the company’s reputation.
Robertson believed that the solution to all of these problems had to come from within the company. MCI-WorldCom had an extensive network of resources that they could use to start and develop an internal coaching program.
The problem, she later found out, was the culture. That culture had become closed to innovation and learning while growing, making it harder to deal with the challenges of growth that were becoming more apparent.
In short, the business was moving forward without really realizing where they were going.
Robertson’s solution was the creation of a new internal culture by focusing on four key areas:
- Objectives: What do we need to achieve?
- Leadership, What do our leaders need to do?
- Teamwork: What do our employees need to do?
- Feedback. How do we know if we’re going in the right direction?
Robertson used these four main areas to foster a new internal environment at MCI-WorldCom. (“The Coaching Solution” goes into much more detail.) For example, Robertson addressed top sales talent retention by improving the conditions under which sales talent was recruited and trained. This improved the short-term problem of retention but also helped in the long-term with creating a stable pipeline of talent.
Critique: Is Internal Coaching Right For Every Business?
Internal coaching worked for MCI-WorldCom, but can it work for your business?
Larger companies at the scale of WorldCom should have no problem implementing the concepts in “The Coaching Solution” if they have the appropriate culture. Smaller businesses may have a tougher time with implementation, especially if they only have a few key employees.
The planning and the analysis that comes from that planning however, can be done by any size business.
Every business can foster and develop internal champions that drive performance and growth. Whether or not that development takes place in a formal or informal program depends on the operating budget.
This article on “The Coaching Solution” is based on an electronic copy of the book provided for reviewing purposes.