ISU Workforce Training’s Leadership Coaching Program aims to Develop Engaged Leaders

Jan 10th, 2017 | By | Category: Pocatello News

By Laura Soldati
For the Idaho State Business Journal

Scott Stephens teaches one of his classes at Idaho State University. (Photo by Laura Soldati)

Scott Stephens teaches one of his classes at Idaho State University. (Photo by Laura Soldati)

POCATELLO – Business consultant Scott Stephens moved back to Pocatello in 2012, after years of working with RLG International, a consulting company that specializes in Leadership Development and Coaching.

For months, he tried to launch a coaching and consulting firm that would provide these services to companies in Southeast Idaho, but found it difficult to sell the concept.

“In my conversations with potential clients, I found that they didn’t fully understand the importance of “how” to develop effective leaders,” Stephens explained. “It was difficult to get them to take a chance on a concept they weren’t sure of.”

He eventually landed a consulting job with Idaho State University’s Workforce Training, and an idea was born. 

The day before his official start date with ISU, Stephens attended a meeting with the regional manager for the Idaho Department of Labor to talk about training needs for area businesses. The first thing that DOL manager mentioned was a growing emphasis on cultivating “soft skills” in workforces, and a deficit in effective training models currently available.

“Every business [she encountered] in the area was concerned about the soft skills of the work force,” Stephens said. “They were perplexed about how to address this need.”

That’s when Stephens spoke up about his coaching experience. Both his boss and the regional manager were intrigued, and they agreed to write a micro-grant to fund a trial run of this program.

Soon after, he met Paul Tolman, a former training officer for the Pocatello Police Department, whose involvement with training new recruits led him to look into methods using Emotional Intelligence.

Stephens and Tolman began actively lining up clients willing to take a chance on this program. Stephens contacted Dave Lewis, production director at Spudnik Equipment Company, LLC and his team to see if they’d be interested in a trial run.

Spudnik jumped at the opportunity.

“As companies try to improve their efficiencies and bottom line,” says Lewis, “[the] focus tends [to shift] toward process improvements and cost reductions, and we often overlook our most important asset, our employees.”

The team at Spudnik wanted to strike a better balance between process improvement and employee development.  And they knew a way to do this was leadership coaching.

The purpose of coaching is to provide a means for individuals to become the best version of themselves possible. While consulting and training focus on giving someone the answers, coaching gets them to actually do it, and centers on behavior rather than intellect.

“We now know,” says Tolman, “that behaviors are influenced by both personal and professional habits.”

One of the most powerful parts of the coaching process is the concept of accountability. Coaching encourages the individual to have a higher degree of self-motivation, which leads to greater personal growth.

“It’s an effective process,” Lewis said. “Employees continue to get more engaged as they actively participate in goal-setting and making decisions.”

Spudnik is beginning to see good results, which has encouraged other companies to jump on board.

“I began to see the value right away,” says Corey Woodford, production support manager at Premier Technology, Inc., who signed on for the coaching program in October, and also added Leadership Training sessions, in conjunction with coaching.

“The guys,” Woodford continues, “are focusing more on soft skill development. I definitely sense a shift in interaction between supervisors and the people they lead.”

Most companies in the region do not have a training platform that is strong enough to support leadership-training efforts. As Southeast Idaho workforces draw closer to retirement age, the need to begin training the newer generation becomes increasingly important.

“A solid coaching program,” Tolman says, “can be extremely helpful in developing a platform of leadership and development that companies can start to build on.” 

Stephens and ISU Workforce Training are working to fill this need.

“In the next two years,” Stephens says, “I would like to have 10 new companies as clients and a strong cadre of coaches to draw from. Ultimately, I would like it to become the “go-to” leadership development program in the area – if not the state.”

Laura Soldati is the president of The [L] Agency, LLC, a public relations consulting firm. She is also an adjunct professor at The College of Idaho, and an instructor and leadership coach for Workforce Training at Idaho State University. 

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