Small business: Business coaching - Shane Wratt

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Shane Wratt, Manager, Outward Bound for Business

Shane Wratt, Manager, Outward Bound.
Shane Wratt, Manager, Outward Bound.

The Outward Bound school in Anakiwa, Marlborough Sounds, aims to show people their full potential through challenge in the outdoors. The Outward Bound for Business courses have been designed for employees and thousands of New Zealand organisations have attended the school since it opened in 1962.

What are some of the issues business owners and senior staff bring to the Outward Bound for Business courses? Where do they need help?

As people move to senior roles, there is a shift away from technical skills, towards coaching and relationship management skills. Many managers are ill equipped with this change which results in poor leadership and poor team performance.

Organisations - especially those in the technical fields of law, accountancy, auditing and IT - need to start building dual -technical and relational- development pathways that include relationship management, coaching, self-awareness and leadership. This needs to happen much earlier on in careers.

Business owners and senior staff that come to Outward Bound often have a need to build personal belief and confidence. Our business courses are successful in helping to build the courage to step up and take responsibility for your role and your own career direction. This kind of development is difficult in the traditional workplace training setting because often its wrapped up with identity and beliefs.

All Outward Bound programmes are designed to help people to realise they are capable of more.

Our customised business courses take this one step further by putting it in the context of the workplace.

Organisations commonly ask us to address teamwork issues - there is often a big need for improved communication across different business units. When organisations don't get this right they have large silos occurring and teams competing for their own goals - often this dynamic can undermine the organisations mission or vision and lead to poor workplace culture and performance. Outward Bound programmes are tailred to shift this dynamic to a more collaborative one.

What sorts of outdoor challenges do your business teams do and what do they learn from them?

For individuals on general courses our outdoor activities include a high ropes course, rock climbing, sailing, navigation, team initiatives, morning exercise and a solo experience in the bush. For teams we design the course specifically for the needs of each team. We could use any one or combination of the activities listed above. The activities are introduced and debriefed according to the objectives of the programme. Some activities work better than others to highlight different outcomes - stepping outside your comfort zone and becoming aware of your internal dialogue works well in the ropes course. On a rock face, we develop the principles of providing feedback and one on one support. Our team sailing involves team members passing on and teaching newly learnt expertise to their peers, and is a powerful and highly effective way to learn. Every one of these activities require involvement and this is what makes the real difference in the learning equation.

Is it a good idea to send your whole senior team on a course rather than just the boss and one other. How do SME owners choose who should go on a course?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It goes back to what you are trying to achieve - what are your objectives? When you are wanting to shift the culture and lead from the front then yes, send the senior team to experience classroom sessions around desired culture and strategic objectives, and connect each manager on a relational level rather than the common operational level. However, if you are wanting to provide leadership development opportunities that push individuals to step up, lead with confidence and bring the team with them, our Navigator course is a great choice for individuals.


Next week: Hiring a new staff member is a big step for a small business. They need to be reassured that the company can afford it and that the position is absolutely necessary for its growth. Tell us what a new person has done for your business and any tips you might have on your workforce planning.

- NZ Herald

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