Internal coaching principles: Confidentiality, vulnerability, unbiased dialogue
By Aditi Patil
At Wipfli, leadership development isn’t a tenet reserved for senior managers or other associates with their sights on becoming a partner or principal. While many organizations discreetly tap individuals they foresee as the ones expected to climb the leadership ranks, our firm has adopted a far more expansive mindset when it comes to creating opportunities for our people to develop skills, knowledge and abilities that help them grow in their career at Wipfli and in life outside of work. We have moved from an invite-only approach to leadership development that is accessible to all, inclusive to everyone and scalable across our international presence.
The firm prioritized and made many significant investments in providing all associates with access to professional development resources and training opportunities. We offer two flagship immersive leadership experiences:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Based on the bestselling book by Stephen Covey, this training helps participants learn, develop and live the habits.
- Lead4Success: This training is focused on leading yourself and others.
In addition, Wipfli’s LEAP program pairs high-potential women at the firm with executive-level sponsors to help them establish success goals and navigate their leadership journey. The sponsor provides connections to others at the firm and mentoring that help participants in their advancement path.
Our newest professional development opportunity takes a more personalized approach: The internal coaching program is a series of conversations with a certified coach that is intended to help participants uncover their own solutions to questions and challenges. Its success depends on three guiding principles: confidentiality, vulnerability and unbiased dialogue.
Our three-person coaching team, led by Brian Hennessy, helps associates identify limiting beliefs that may be potentially holding them back. In a sense, the coach helps people get out of their own way and reach their potential, in terms of personal and professional goals.
It may be easier to describe what coaching is not: It’s not giving advice, it’s not finding opportunities for you and it’s not judging you or your current abilities or behaviors.
Benefits of coaching
We see value for those being coached on a variety of levels from improved client interactions and communications overall to higher levels of firm engagement.
When we started the pilot group in January 2022, about 20 people in our tax group were our initial participants. People met with one of our coaches every other week for an hour over 12 weeks.
We are lucky to have Brian in this lead role. Brian has deep experience across all aspects of human resources, in addition to being a certified coach through the International Coaching Federation, which is the gold standard in coaching. Coaches undergo a rigorous certification process and many hours of coaching before they get to this milestone. Being an internal coach, Brian is also able to bring his organizational awareness to his coachees as well.
Some of the people he’s coached have been able to accomplish huge things through this journey. We’ve had 124 of our highest-performing associates receive coaching, and they continue to be highly engaged and achieving great results for our teams and clients. A significant share of our most recent group promoted to partner and principal completed coaching.
It may sound a little corny, but the process works because it essentially gives people permission to be true to themselves. There is no template for finding success, but you can gain confidence through coaching to get to the next level in your career.Wipfli is taking this on to help individuals reach big goals they set for themselves but also to help build a robust pipeline of up-and-coming leaders. Coaching really is a conduit for creating the firm of the future.
Aditi Patil is a manager in Wipfli’s talent and organizational development team who writes the Everyday leadership with Aditi series on LinkedIn. Learn more about how Wipfli invests in associate growth and explore open positions in our careers section.