It is important that coaching becomes an element of the leadership culture in the company.

Interview with Tina Sobocińska, HR and Communication Director at DHL Parcel Polska


Coach U: How do you combine the roles of a manager and a coach?

Tina Sobocińska : I combine them naturally, which is due to my leadership style. Its main distinguishing features are setting directions and patterns, participation and continuous development. Coaching is a very helpful leadership practice today and is perfect for the world of dynamic change, innovation and transformation. It is a method that not only engages and stimulates thinking, but also opens the space for dialogue, asking questions and searching for the best answers. It brings out the best out of leaders who can build agile teams and engage employees. It produces a creative approach to solving problems, implementing new solutions, as well as self-development with a sense of influence and responsibility for its effects on an individual level.


CU : What builds your authority as a manager coach?

TS: I believe that I base my authority on personal integrity, openness, courage and the ability to admit my mistakes. It is also important that I focus on the activities of the team, I provide space for the implementation of large projects with full responsibility for their effects, which is also associated with attributing success to their authors. I am very satisfied with the achievements of my team. I appreciate working with strong, professional and committed people. I know what my role is as a manager and I am happy when others with my support pursue their professional and personal dreams, introducing innovations in the company, implementing risky projects, changing our reality into an even more modern and attractive workplace.

CU : What was a breakthrough for you in applying the coaching style?

TS: A dozen years ago I took part in the first certified coaching program in Poland organized by Coach U. The group of participants were experienced executive coaches open to further development, well known on our market. I learned a lot from both the lecturers from the UK and Canada, as well as from the program participants. My motivation to learn was very strong. I wanted to be a good manager – a coach and know how to introduce a coaching culture in the company. I went through a very intensive program with my family, because I was on maternity leave then and I took two little daughters and my parents-in-law with me to help. Thanks to the training, I understood that “people have answers”, and coaching is the great strength that helps me refine the answers and translate them into real actions.

Another breakthrough discovery for me was the coach’s supervision. Today, inviting executive coaches to cooperate, I ask if they have a supervisor. Why? Because the coach has an important influence on the coaching process and, while maintaining the confidentiality of information from the coachee, he should have someone to discuss his experiences or doubts with.

My greatest practical experience in applying the coaching style was working as a leader of a 100-person team with an average age of 29. It is true that millennials expect from managers leadership based on transparent communication, accessibility, inspiration, space for engagement not only in work and development, but also in CSR activities. They want their leader to be part of it with them. This is more important than the job title or the number of hours you spend working.

CU : What barriers did you overcome along the way?

TS: As the leader of the millennial team, I accepted the fact that this generation has a different approach to work than me and my peers – more contractual, with high expectations in the context of respecting their work-life balance. Young people, apart from work, do fantastic things, pursue their passions, and work as volunteers. For anyone who has doubts about the value of the millennial generation, I recommend watching the wonderful effects of their involvement in social and ecological activities, and helping their colleagues in need. The question is, how can a manager-coach build the commitment of his team to work with equally excellent results and build a culture of sharing this knowledge?

Thanks to this experience, in the last years of my managerial work, I changed my approach to my work-life balance. I have become a person who sets the limits of my temporary engagement in work so as to have time for my family, for development, and for pursuing my passion. I also understand better and better the needs of others in this regard. I am a coach for myself in the area of ​​managing my energy.

CU : To what extent do managers in your company use the coaching style?

TS: At DHL Parcel, coaching is woven into a set of good practices. It is an element of managerial trainings, workshops for participants of the talent program, but also individual employee development plans or the diagnosis of leadership styles. At the same time, we make our leaders aware that it is important to use the entire range of leadership styles, because each of them has a different application, from an affiliate style that helps build trust in moving through change, to directive style in justified cases.

CU : How do you support managers in using the coaching style?

TS: By my own example in many situations, especially in 1:1 meetings and team meetings. I use coaching in my relations at all levels, also with my managers and colleagues. Often unconsciously, asking open questions and giving space to create non-standard solutions.

CU : What are the barriers to managerial coaching?

TS: One of the barriers is the lack of self-awareness, openness to feedback, self-confidence or defining one’s added value to others. Managers who remain in the role of an expert may fall into the trap of blocking the application of coaching, fearing that they will not answer an employee’s question, and thus lose their authority. A leader who says: ” I work with people better than me” is still rare, and it is worth to mature into such a state by bringing out what is best in others, including through coaching.  

CU : What should happen for managers to coach more often?

TS: I recommend training programs for managers, coaching between people at an equal level of the organization (peer-to-peer), continuous education, sharing knowledge, but also research, e.g. 360-degree feedback building self-awareness, how our behavior and leadership styles affect others and what is worth developing.

It is also important that coaching becomes an element of the leadership culture in the company. In order to build it properly, examples of coaching behaviors visible from the highest managerial levels, including the management board, are needed.

The last, very important element motivating leaders is a conscious HR team that competently integrates coaching into the set of managers’ practices, indicating the benefits of coaching as one of the development options, next to e.g. mentoring or career sponsorship. An option that helps leaders of the present and future to fulfill themselves. As Richard Wright says, “People can starve from a lack of self-actualization as well as from a lack of bread.”