Amy*, a Sustainability Manager for a large food and beverage manufacturer, has aspirations to not only change her company, but also to do her part to save the planet. She is responsible for increasing the environmental responsibility of the organization, which includes initiatives like decreasing energy and water usage, waste reduction, and sustainable agriculture. I’ve had the privilege of coaching Amy for the last three months, helping her to advance her goals, improve her effectiveness, and boost her confidence.
Amy, like most change agents, is leading change from the middle. While she is responsible for implementing the sustainability projects, she doesn’t want the initiative to be considered “Amy’s job.” All the work to incorporate environmentalism into how the company conducts business has to be done by her colleagues as part of their regular jobs. A major theme underlying our coaching conversations was how to prevent Sustainability from becoming a separate silo within the organization.
One of Amy’s primary objectives was to implement a sustainable manufacturing scorecard across all plants. When we started coaching, she had developed the draft scorecard and still needed to get engineers in the plants to collect data and complete the scorecard. It became evident that our first order of business should be to get the Director of Manufacturing to approve and commit to using the scorecard to manage the plants. We also talked about how she might use incentives to motivate the plants to improve their scorecard numbers in the future. By the end of our three-month coaching engagement, the scorecard had been approved and the engineers were diligently working toward meeting the deadline for completing it this month.
Another item we tackled was developing a responsible sourcing program, a preemptive move motivated by the activity of the company’s biggest retail customer. Amy developed another scorecard, this time to monitor the environmental performance of suppliers. The buyers in the purchasing department would be responsible for communicating the new requirements to their suppliers. Since sustainability factors are fairly new to buying decisions with the industry, Amy expected a bit of pushback against what will become new criteria for acceptable suppliers. She knew that without the buyers’ support, the suppliers might refuse to cooperate. In our coaching conversations, we looked at the buyers’ potential hesitation, brainstormed ideas, and developed a plan to get them on board. At this time, the supplier scorecard has been rolled out with support from the buyers.
Amy had a lot of irons in the fire and was feeling overwhelmed. In particular, the recycling team she led had become stalled, but she didn’t have time to follow up or take on the tasks herself. After discussing possible solutions, she decided to delegate team leadership to a member of the team. After just one e-mail inviting her to take over and giving her direction, the new team leader took it and ran with it. Now the recycling team is moving forward, and Amy only needs to check in occasionally. She is spending less time on the recycling program and the team is thriving.
Some of the other issues we worked on were: getting responses from unresponsive people; knowing when to push back; and influencing people who still have yet to fully understand the value of sustainability.
Now, Amy finds that she is better able to foresee obstacles to the changes she wants to implement. Using the methods learned in coaching, she figures out what would motivate people to participate in change. She also uses new approaches to influencing change that she hadn’t previously considered.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. It happens with many daily steps in the right direction. By taking the time to determine whom to influence and how to do it, like Amy, you can make progress toward improving your own organization.
Interested in working together to influence change in your organization? Visit www.enclaria.com/coaching to learn how.
* To maintain confidentiality, my client’s name is disguised.