Coaching Up Close: Inspiring Essential Buy-in for Family-Centered Coaching

Kevin Lewis, Deputy Executive Director & Assistant Vice President of Resident Services at The NHP Foundation, under which Operation Pathways operates, shared his experience on how he embraced the coaching mindset and inspired essential buy-in for Family-Centered Coaching.

“FCC helps to rethink and reshape how you approach your work. We made this shift, to the coaching mindset, by pulling back and looking at a lot of what we did previously and realizing there were gaps. Taking a coaching approach has helped us to bridge the disconnection and loneliness that staff feels not being part of a centrally located organization. Coaching has helped us not only see the gaps, but reach the ultimate goal of supporting the people we serve better.”

Operation Pathways is a multi-state organization working to ensure affordable housing through innovative programs that engage, empower, and support residents to achieve the future they desire. With over three years since the implementation of Family-Centered Coaching, they’ve seen and experienced transformational outcomes. Coaches and residents feel seen, heard, valued, and supported. One of their major lessons learned has been how to inspire essential buy-in. They make sure that coaches know why they are using this new approach and how it will benefit them and residents.

“We are moving from an organization that sustains people to one that transforms people. FCC is a tool and a mechanism to meet our participants’ needs. Our residents need to know that somebody believes in them and is willing to support them in reaching their goals.”

“A lot of times in human services we forget that our participants are people who have hopes and dreams. That dream, that flicker of hope is still alive, it just needs to be reignited. Coaching gives you a platform and a tool that transforms people’s lives and reminds people of that flame. The FCC approach acknowledges that every individual is in charge of their life and is empowered to make their own choices. We train staff to embrace this mindset.”

Operation Pathways wanted to offer more of what their community wanted and less of what they thought their residents needed. FCC was a bridge to this resident-centered philosophy.

“Too often, in services and support to people in low-income communities we do not value the knowledge and skill already present in these communities. We tend to overlook the power in the people, and devalue or marginalize their experiences. FCC shifted this thinking in our organization and we were seeking to make this type of shift in our organization’s service delivery. Thus, the investment of time, money, and other resources was a no brainer for us.”

Steps to Inspire Staff Buy-in:

  • Model personal growth and connection. Personal development is a big part of an organizational culture shift. Allowing staff the time and space to grow and connect as individuals affirms these as values. When leaders model these behaviors, they invite the same in staff, who in turn offer that safety to participants.

Initially, we noticed that the people we trained weren’t fully vested. We had to get people out of the habit of just checking boxes and get them to buy into the why. We moved away from the more nuts and bolts of the training into understanding the FCC role and helping staff understand how this would make staff and residents feel. We made changes to our training, and now, the first training is a get to know you session.”

“We take the time to build rapport with the group. When people aren’t feeling connected they are not willing to share and if they are not sharing, there will be no growth. We had to make the training relevant to staff, by getting their attention and building relationships first.”

  • Make training meaningful and manageable. Prior to training, consider what you are asking from your staff. Demonstrate support for them by engaging in training and making it accessible and relations.

There was a lot of planning that went into our initial three day in-person staff training, where over half of the the members of the organization attended–including the entire leadership team. We also created a virtual training structure for staff who could not attend the in-person sessions. Then every Friday throughout the year our FCC training team meets to plan and/or train a new cohort of teammates. The training takes place over a six-week period for an hour and a half each session. This training allows us to build relationships and put staff in the role of being coached.

We asked tough questions to get people to process and think. We had to get a budget for the training and after leadership was on board we spent a lot of time in the strategic planning process, identifying all the potential holes by asking questions and then developing solutions to those holes. This was a long process, but FCC was too valuable to not be successful.”

  • Lift up bright spots and big goals. Connect FCC to both everyday successes and long-term strategy to build momentum. All your small wins help build capacity and inspiration for sustained change.

Monthly: “We have a monthly team call with an FCC spotlight. This is where we share a story about FCC. It stays in the forefront of what we’re doing. We’re going to remind our staff as often as we can, that this approach is important to us, and this is important to us because it’s important to our residents.”

Annually: “You can train folks, you can encourage folks, you can tell people’s stories, but the old saying is, if something is not measured, people don’t really buy into it. We have made FCC a part of yearly goal plans. Staff had to try to engage their community members in a coaching relationship and when we made this adjustment we did see a shift.”

  • Use powerful questions to encourage reflection. One of the core coaching skills is asking powerful questions. Model coaching and inspire buy-in by asking meaningful, open-ended questions. Everyone–from staff to leadership to participants–has hopes and dreams that deserve to be supported. You will invite reflection and ground change through a coaching relationship.

  • Align your processes with coaching. Reflect on how coaching aligns with your operational processes. Show staff that your a creating an environment that supports this approach. 

In human services, as practitioners, sometimes we look at the people we serve, as others. It is important that staff see themselves in these approaches, because when you can see yourself as both the coach and as coachable, it is a powerful training. The initial training changed our lead training team as individuals, it elicited reflection, it allowed us to ask and explore powerful questions and that was what we brought forth into our organizational training. We rarely stop to ask ourselves questions like: What do I want? What do I need to do to get it?”

“What needs to change? Does the supervision process need to change? Is it a program process that needs to change? Does your outcome process need to change? Does your training process need to change? Does your hiring process need to change?”

  • Demonstrate the value of the change. Operation Pathways understands that it takes getting their staff and residents on board with the process, by transforming their process to see the full benefit of the FCC approach.

“If you want to make a change in your organization you have to invest and examine what you’re doing and how it connects to this new approach. You have to show that the change is really valuable by showing you buy into it. Put it down on paper and make it a part of your process. If it’s not a part of your process, you’re not going to do it.”

The Prosperity Agenda provides these resources as the designated national administrator of Family-Centered Coaching.