Change From Within: Introducing Coaching and Mentoring to Experienced Staff in a Service for People with Learning Disabilities

Author(s): Geraldine Boland, BSS, CQSW, MSc, Training & Development Manager

Department: St Michael’s House

(29 Jul 2002)

The aim of this study was to explore the efficacy of managers becoming on the job coaches and mentors for experienced staff. A course entitled ‘Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring’ was designed by the author. It was attended by sixteen managers, employed in supervisory and middle management positions. During the period of the study the organisation underwent profound changes and unsettled staff relations resulting from an industrial dispute.

A qualitative methodology involving action research and grounded theory was considered appropriate. Data was generated using individual interviews with a sample of four participating managers and from a focus group of eight experienced staff engaged in a mentoring relationship. Detailed course evaluations were completed and records of the telephone tutorials were also kept.

The action research project took place over a five-month period. As co-researchers, each manager participating developed a change management plan, including projects that they deemed necessary at a local level. Six core categories emerged. The presence of a strong personal relationship as a foundation in the mentoring relationships was highlighted.

All co-researchers identified the impact of fast paced organisational changes on them, and the competing demands on the time required for individual support sessions. The study considered whether introducing managers of experienced staff to coaching and mentoring would have an effect on quality of service to people with disabilities. The study raises questions about the role of the first line manager in leading change. This study confirmed the importance of forming relationships with experienced staff to engage them in a process of reflection and continuous learning.

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