Coaching Program a First Among Universities

Dr. Dorothy Shaw makes coaching part of her everyday practice - photo by Martin Dee
Dr. Dorothy Shaw makes coaching part of her everyday practice – photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 11 | Nov. 3, 2005

By Lorraine Chan

Elite athletes like Tiger Woods along with Fortune 500 CEOs have long touted the potent benefits of coaching.

A more surprising advocate of coaching is Dr. Dorothy Shaw, Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs, at UBC Faculty of Medicine.

Shaw was one of the first clients of UBC Coaching Services, a unique program that UBC Human Resources’ Organizational Development and Learning (ODL) unit piloted in 2003. Through the program, UBC makes this service available free of charge to its 15,000 staff and faculty members. Its leaders believe UBC is the only university in the world to do so.

“Coaching supports what I’ve always believed — that communication has to be two-way, either with students or patients,” says Shaw, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology.

During 2000 to 2005, Shaw served as the Associate Dean of Equity in the Faculty of Medicine and saw up close the need to spark change.

“If you want people to excel, they have to feel valued,” says Shaw.

Shaw says UBC Coaching Services helped her and senior colleagues clarify their goals and values. “We became clear that we want to create a culture where it’s the norm to give positive feedback. We’re looking at ways to help people bring more balance to their lives.”

To hone her leadership abilities, Shaw completed a six-month training and coaching certification program at Royal Roads University in Victoria last September.

“Coaching is asking questions, listening without judgment,” says Shaw. “It’s about helping people understand they have the answers within and discovering a small change that can act as the lever for even greater change.”

The strong feedback and support from Shaw and the Faculty of Medicine were key in growing the service, says Erna Hagge, who leads UBC Coaching Services.

“While other universities provide executive coaching,” says Hagge, “we want to develop everyone’s leadership potential as part of UBC’s Trek 2010 vision and People Plan.”

Hagge travels to San Jose, California this month to present UBC’s coaching initiative at the 10th annual International Coach Federation (ICF) conference, an event that attracts more than 5,000 delegates.

Coaching’s popularity signals a widespread cultural shift, says Hagge. “We’re moving away from the deficit-based society to instead looking at what’s right about the person, the situation or organization, and building from there.”

To date, more than 200 UBC staff and faculty have received individual or group coaching sessions. For confidential, one-on-one sessions, clients commit to a three-month contract. Every two weeks they spend one hour with their coach, either in person, or by phone with occasional e-mail support. Upon completion, they may request another three-month contract if coaches are available.

Non-university clients must pay $200 to $400 an hour for UBC Coaching Services. UBC Human Resources is working on a pilot project to offer students complimentary coaching by next fall.

The program has 42 volunteer coaches who are all certified by ICF or the International Association of Coaches. Ten are UBC faculty and staff — who coach in addition to their regular jobs — and 32 are external coaches with private practices in B.C., Alberta and Toronto.

Vancouver coach Doug Brockway has volunteered with UBC Coaching Services since its start in 2003. Brockway is currently seeing two UBC clients and would take on more if his busy schedule allowed him to.

“I want to see this program succeed because I believe in the power of coaching to create a sustainable work environment,” says Brockway, a former behaviour therapist.

He usually charges $325 per hour and has a client list that includes Telus, BC Hydro, Fairmont Hotel and Steelcase Canada.

“The existing culture at UBC is for senior managers to be available 24/7,” says Brockway. “It’s lonely at the top, and I’m a safe place for them to bounce ideas, to strategize. It could be something as simple as, ‘I need balance, this weekend is mine.’”

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What Attracts People to UBC and What Makes Them Stay and Thrive?

During this summer and fall, UBC consulted staff and faculty about best people practices in areas of faculty and staff renewal, leadership, management practices and day-to-day workplace
contributions. Input from interviews, surveys and focus groups will shape Creating the Extraordinary: A People Plan for UBC. The People Plan aims to create a study and work environment that carries out the vision articulated in UBC’s Trek 2010 strategic plan. The People Plan will be implemented between June 2006 and December 2009.