CHI's executive coaches have an inside track

March 1, 2013

Coaching formation program trains leaders to guide up-and-comers


Alan E. Bowman was just starting out as a senior leader with Catholic Health Initiatives 10 years ago when he was assigned an executive coach from outside the health ministry. But he found he was spending more time explaining CHI's mission and values than working on the leadership issues he was hoping to confront.

"This coach was very helpful in some ways, but I was really disappointed that she didn't seem to understand who we were, what we were about," said Bowman. He is vice president for ministry formation for Englewood, Colo.-based CHI. "I felt I was doing the lion's share of the work getting her on board."

At the Catholic Health Assembly June 2-4 in Anaheim, Calif., Bowman and Diane S. Menendez, CHI's Kentucky-based director of coaching and mentoring, will lead an Innovation Forum session describing the system's internal coach formation program, which already has trained more than 40 leaders who have assisted more than 100 CHI executives or potential senior leaders.

The workshop, titled "Leadership Coaching: Incorporating Catholic Legacy and Empowering Leaders Within the Healing Ministry," will include hands-on work with CHI's trademarked Legacy Dialogues, a series of videos focusing on key cultural characteristics required for the ministry's future success.

Participants in the Innovation Forum also will get a taste of the practices and experiences used in the coach formation process, including "one-moment meditation," role-playing, prayer, reflection, journaling and discussion.

On-boarding talent
Bowman developed the coach formation program along with Menendez, who had been an executive coach for 15 years before joining CHI in March 2010. Bowman is also a participant in the program and a "neophyte coach" who is assisting a senior executive in the national office.

"Health care today is a very complex, rapidly changing and growing landscape, moving toward more outpatient ambulatory venues," he said. "How does a leader of an acute care hospital, for example, retool himself or herself to become effective in these emerging markets?"

Bowman compares the work to what his grandfather, a master carpenter, did years ago in being able to choose the right tool for every job. "Coach formation helps empower leaders to find the right tools for the current challenge, which may be different from the tools needed for the last challenge," he said.

In developing the program, he and Menendez got strong support from Fr. Thomas R. Kopfensteiner, now CHI's senior vice president for mission.

"We would not be doing what we're doing today without Tom," Bowman said. "He was really the senior leader who championed this at the President's Council."

"CHI's decision to create an internal coaching formation program was a decision to invest in our leaders, and more specifically to invest in the on-boarding of new talent and emerging talent identified through CHI's strategic talent process," said Fr. Kopfensteiner.

"Coaching, within CHI, is viewed as an ongoing formational opportunity for our leaders," he added. "The internal coach formation prepares experienced leaders within our ministry to coach and mentor the future talent that will propel our healing ministry into the future."

Active listening
Sr. Janet Henry, RSM, vice president of mission and ministry for St. Joseph Regional Health Network in Reading, Pa., was also part of CHI's first coach formation class and has found the experience invaluable.

"Even in my personal life, in my relationships with family and friends, I find myself listening differently and asking questions more," she said. "It's wonderful to listen to people reveal their own ideas and their own solutions. It's a very different world of interaction for me."

Sr. Henry said her main role as a coach is to help clients to "get clarity about what they are really asking."

"Many times from their day-to-day experiences they have the solution within themselves to the challenges they are facing," she added. "They become the problem solvers. They understand what skills and talents they have within themselves."

Participants in the coach formation program keep their own jobs, and must have the support of their managers. They spend their first week together in a group of 15 to 20 people and will remain in training with that group for 15 to 24 months, Menendez explained.

Every other week they participate in a webinar on a professional topic. On non-webinar weeks they meet with their practice trio or quartet, observing one another's coaching techniques and offering feedback.

Each participant usually takes on his or her first client after three months, with Menendez offering guidance in matching the new coach to an appropriate client. Observation and feedback continues, with the full group meeting for a second face-to-face week.

The training is built on CHI's core values — reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence — and meets the professional standards of the International Coach Federation, she said.

Menendez believes the program would benefit any Catholic health system that uses external coaches and could save the system between $16,000 and $25,000 annually for each coach trained.

Bowman said CHI — with more than 83,700 employees in 80 hospitals and 40 long-term care or assisted living facilities in 18 states — had been "spending a lot of money on external coaching" and "using valuable time to help the coaches find out who we were.

"The advantage to this program is that people have already lived inside the ministry," he said. "From the inside we can help leaders be more effective."

Take a lap
As a small example of the way senior leaders can benefit from coaching, Menendez cited the case of a CHI hospital administrator who found in his yearly feedback report that he was seen as "not available, not relational."

His coach observed that the executive was walking quickly through the halls of the hospital, not noticing when people smiled at him. He challenged the executive to "experiment with doing something differently" to solve the problem.

The executive decided to remove the coffee pot from his office, "and it got him on the floors of the hospital, saying hello to people three or four more times a day," Menendez said. Problem solved.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.