Posted by Jean Tweet
We have increasingly been working with corporate functions teams, such as HR, IT and finance, and we have become interested in the unique challenges that these teams face when they are working with front line business.
Corporate functions teams support the front line people in delivering to the client, which means that they are likely to not have direct control over that delivery. Not being in the front line of delivery can sometimes feel far from the action and from the glory. We also hear that it’s not uncommon for front line functions to think of corporate functions as ‘an overhead’ because they are not directly delivering on the business objectives of the organisation. Along with not feeling valued, often in conversations with them they tell us that they feel they are under constant pressure to prove their worth.
And yet corporate functions are key to the success of an organisation. There is flow of added value through the organisation from the front line, through business support functions and directly to the client. When corporate functions give great service to the front line business people, they are in a better position to give great service to the client. A strong backbone of corporate functions has the potential to shine through all the way to the client.
Changing the way the business works with corporate functions is difficult. But changing the way corporate functions work with the business is achievable. Where they are coming from, their state of mind and their motivation – all affect how the business will interact with them. Instead of providing ‘technical’ service to the business, we can start talking about partnering with the business, consulting to the business. The leap we are trying to make is from a two-dimensional service provider to a 3D business partner.
We have been running Partnering with the Business programmes with real results and good client feedback. The aim of the programme is to empower corporate functions, equip them with tools and develop their skills to be true partners to the business. Our approach is to mix theory and lots of practice to root their learning in the real world. We take a very practical approach and ask people to bring real cases from their work in which they want to make a difference. People use the programme to plan their strategy and take it back to their work. And the results are impressive.
What we see happening is that when people gesture something different they get a different response. In a recent workshop, one participant described how since she had started being more inquisitive with her internal clients and listening more closely. As a result of this she was able to provide a better service and built a better relationship, all of which was leading to greater job satisfaction for her and a better outcome for the client.
Again and again, we see how important is the quality of the relationship when it comes to corporate functions consulting to the business. It is a significant addition to the technical core of the internal consulting work.
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