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on a positive impact

My Five Keys to Coaching Success

When I was asked to be an executive coach to Johnson & Johnson (J&J) secondees working on long-term secondments with our frontline NGO partners in Africa, I accepted the invitation without hesitation.

As a retired J&J senior executive, I am uniquely positioned give back to my Company and I have a new opportunity to serve the geographic region in which I had spent the majority of my forty-year career. As a mentor to emerging J&J leaders, I’m fortunate to be able to draw on my experiences to help my mentees evolve their understanding of global health challenges and how to best support people on the front lines of care.

The J&J Secondment Program, now in its fifth year of operation, offers employees in the EMEA region the opportunity to take part in secondments of up to six months with NGOs in the field, transferring their business skills and knowledge to make a positive long-term impact to those working on the front lines of delivering care.

For some secondees, initially transferring into the NGO sector from a corporate background can be challenging, and I see it as my role to ease the transition. Time management and resource issues can be the least of the challenges for J&J secondees, but once overcome, my mentees can — and have — delivered meaningful impact to our partners. This impact was life-changing for one of my mentees.

With nearly five years of coaching under my belt, what have been my biggest lessons learned along the way with J&J secondees? Read on to learn my five keys to coaching success!

  1.  Trust: Partner with your mentee by showing up when needed.

Knowing where to start can be a challenge for a secondee who is leaving home to venture into the NGO space in a foreign country. Motivate and inspire your mentee by sharing your knowledge to help them get on the right path. It’s about taking the time and care to show up — even when it might be inconvenient.  

  1. Transparency: Partner with your mentee by sharing your own experiences. Offer your mentee a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and an eye to the future.

If your secondee is stuck on a problem, share a couple of recommendations that have worked, or haven’t worked, for you — then see where your secondee takes your ideas. One of my favorite aspects of coaching is watching my mentee take my suggestion and then turn it into their own idea. I also encourage them to learn from other secondees who have inhabited the same space.

  1. Dialogue: Partner with your mentee by encouraging them to talk about their successes and mistakes.

When your mentee faces a problem, it’s tempting to jump in and offer advice too soon, and often more difficult to hold your tongue. Instead of giving them the answers, ask them what they think they need to do to recover, and help them determine what they need to do to get there.

  1. Honesty: Partner with your mentee through early and constructive feedback.

With a time-limited project, regular and impactful meetings are essential to stay on track and deliver the desired result for the NGO. Through these meetings, you can help your mentee troubleshoot a problem early on and share honest feedback to keep them focused on their desired outcome.

  1. Recognition: Partner with your mentee by celebrating their successes.

It’s incredible to be alongside my secondees to watch them grow, and being able to share a part in their success is the best part of the job. I feel an immense sense of pride when I see my mentees’ achievements publicized in blog posts, newsletters, and over social media. I’ve been so lucky to have served as a coach to five incredible J&J Secondees — Ramiz, Sara, Nicola, Mariana, and Urban — who are shining examples of our Company’s young leaders. I originally became a mentor because I wanted to give back, but my secondees and this coaching program have given so much more in return!

Denis Robson