Liz* gave a short presentation on the benefits of internal coaching by an external consultant. She spoke of the unnecessary expenses that come with creative and non-creative associates not getting along. Instead of spending 50% per salary** towards replacing people, she pitched that they bring in an objective accountability partner to bring the teams together. Liz told them of how she’d seen this keep top talent, turn creatives into leaders, connect people of all flavors, and create an alluring company reputation that led to ongoing referrals. Heads around the table nodded in agreement and murmurs of excitement were heard. It seemed like an obvious solution to the internal battles that raged daily, the high rate of attrition, and the low morale that resulted in mediocre creative.

The head of the company sat motionless. He wasn’t bobbing his head at all. Instead, he said, “People don’t stay here. They leave after a few years. Why would I invest in them?! No thanks.” Then he got up and left the room. You could hear the crash of jaws as they hit the floor. Eyes darted and looked away. The air was filled with futility. People shuffled out with defeat written across their bodies. What in the heck was he thinking? Of course no one stays in such a miserly environment.

Don’t invest in your folks and they won’t invest in you. 

I see this every day with both private and corporate clients. The majority of what clients discuss in coaching sessions is how to navigate an environment where they don’t feel valued. They hear talk of mindfulness and supporting each person, but there’s little walking the walk. Here are three true and ineffective approaches:

  1. A conversation with someone in Human Resources. This is smart for many reasons, but there is an agenda for both parties that’s undeniable so this meeting is laden with limitations.
  2. A required once a week meditation session led by an HR partner who has never meditated before and is following a cheat sheet. It’s a nice intention, but it’s barely touching the surface of what meditation can do. 
  3. Authenticity training that includes physical positions and ways of interacting. How can you teach authenticity with required poses?! This is forced, awkward, and truly inauthentic.

People want to be their own best selves, not someone else’s version of best self.

Leadership is a great responsibility. If you’re in position of authority, of supposed power, take right action. Allocate funds towards investing in each person individually. Make each person feel valued through action, not just talk. Help each person evolve to bring their best to your company. Make it so they want to deliver top quality at all times. Create an environment where they feel loyal to you, loyal to the company that believes in supporting people even if they leave in 4 years. All of this happens when people are given the chance to talk through and learn from their day to day experiences. When they’re given a confidential and objective accountability partner, they can hear the feedback more easily because they know the agenda is simply about them succeeding. And when this meeting happens weekly over a period of time, the momentum leads to genuine, positive change that ripples throughout the department. 

Look at your attrition numbers and consider how hard it is to replace these people. Do you have a pipeline of candidates approaching you because you have great reputation or are you spending time and money trying to find candidates? Do your associates bicker or partner? Do you hear crickets or laughter?

Take action. 

Investing in internal coaching within a team or across teams is a small financial investment for the ginormous ROI of ongoing creativity, collaboration, and loyalty. It’s time to walk the walk.



* Name changed for privacy

* * Recruiting, interviewing, hiring, orientation and training, lost productivity, potential customer dissatisfaction, reduced or lost business, administrative costs, lost expertise and damage to the company’s reputation.

Image by XoMEoX

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