Thinking about Options, three words that spring to mind are leadership, ambition, and learning. Having joined as a 20-year-old placement student, I perhaps had the standard mental checklist of items that any intern or graduate looks for in a company before applying. These included training, career progression, autonomy, travel, fun, and learning. In this blog, I want to highlight the enhancements to our learning and development philosophy over the past couple of years. Not only have we established our own University, certification programmes, and buddy schemes, but our flat structure has allowed us to introduce and maintain a hybrid programme – assisting the younger workforce when they have demonstrated they’re ready to take the next step in their career.     

On the theme of learning and development, as of January 10th, 2022, 20 Options employees have completed the “Options Elevate – Executive Coaching Programme”. Our senior management team constructed the programme in May 2021, and participants ranged from recent graduates to senior managers across the company. Our goal was to add to our already deep stack of learning and development resources and provide a course that encourages you to figure out your goals, leadership styles, how you make decisions and to help you answer the question that many of us are anxious to tackle – “Who am I?”.   

The Options Elevate course was led by Phil Glasgow, Head of Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy for the Irish Rugby Football Union. We were no strangers to Phil and his expertise. He was the inaugural speaker on a series of virtual, interactive sessions and spoke to our global team about resilience and high performance. At the time, we only had a rough idea about what the Options Elevate programme would entail; however, Phil worked with the team to deliver a tailor-made programme over six months.

What Elevate involves

One of the Elevate programme’s first tasks is a one-on-one chat with Phil to learn about what makes you tick, how you work, and what you want to achieve in your career. This step included a practical assessment. This assessment didn’t assess cognitive competence, proficiency, or personality, it focused on providing insights into the thinking and emotional strategies suitable for you. This session is an individual 60-75 min meeting that builds a solid foundation to enhance the overall coaching experience. I found this section very helpful for future meetings, as it allowed us to refer to some solid data points.

Following this, each participant got the chance to meet with Phil on five different occasions throughout the six months. These individual sessions were personal to you, allowing you to work with Phil for 1.5 hours per session, discussing many different topics relevant to your journey. On top of this, we also arranged a couple of wider group meetings, such as a deeper dive into decision-making and how people in Options performed in these areas. I got to absorb all of Phil’s knowledge and advice in this space. Still, it was also fascinating to see the different dynamics behind daily decision-making processes and how this varied across regions, departments, and even age groups.

What Phil has learned about Options

“The Elevate Executive Coaching Programme participants represented staff from a range of areas, roles and experience within the company. From the outset, it was clear that all staff were highly engaged in the programme, and everyone was keen to excel and progress in their careers. Everyone at Options is busy – this can at times feel overwhelming, but most of the time, it is seen as an opportunity to grow and develop. The relatively flat structure of Options and the promotion of individual proactivity provides opportunities for growth; however, this relies on an individual’s ability to identify opportunities and take the initiative. 

Decision-making was highlighted as a key area where there was opportunity for growth. We completed a decision-making project involving a series of group coaching sessions and the creation of guidelines on how to approach decision making more effectively. One key takeaway was the importance of not rushing the process but taking time to better understand the context. This helpful resource is now freely available for staff.

Options is a place that values connection; continuing to take time to intentionally connect with others (within and outside work) is an important way to gain a greater appreciation of the wider business as well as fostering an enjoyable work environment.”

What we have taken away from Elevate

For me, Options Elevate was an experience that allowed me to take the next step in my professional growth whilst providing the drive to tackle the “Who am I?” question. Without going into too much detail on my journey, I’ll briefly reference some standout items from the course that stuck with me:

  • Context is everything

Working or performing in any team in a remote environment; it struck me how significant it is to provide the context in challenging, time-sensitive, high-pressure situations. With the world remaining remote and moving onto a hybrid model to some extent, it’s clear that context will be key for us going forward, especially when it comes to strategic decision-making. Some will not have the benefit of sitting in the office and subconsciously learning from the discussions happening around them or knowing when a member of your team is in the midst of a challenging situation. Providing context can be as simple as sitting down with team members and getting their feedback about how a particular scenario played out, what our strengths were, and the areas that we need to improve. On top of that, taking an extra 30 seconds to explain what/why you have made a certain decision should be the new norm. This is something that the leadership team in Options have always had at the forefront of any major decision-making process. For example,  over the past two years, every employee in the company has received MEMOs from our CEO about decisions that were being made and why (example of one of many MEMOs here). In addition to this, we all got the opportunity to voice our own opinions through broader group calls, walking meetings, and even anonymous surveys.     

  • The problematic conversations in leadership

Speaking to Phil, I found it fascinating to hear about the various ways you can approach challenges in leadership, one being difficult conversations. Phil pointed me towards an article on the topic, and one quote stood out to me – “many problems in life stem from one thing—avoidance of conflict. Parents avoid it; leaders avoid it; people avoid it. And we all suffer for it.” Leadership and management are topics that I’ve been naturally drawn towards for some time now, so any knowledge in this area I was keen to take onboard. It was very insightful, even just to speak with Phil about his methods over the years and how I could tailor my approach in this area.

To finish, we have significantly benefited from the programme. As our first group of 20 individuals take the next step in their professional development, we are lining up another group of 20 to write their own Elevate programme with Phil. I’ll leave you with some of the feedback provided personally by some of the recent members of the course.

              “The Elevate programme was both cathartic and stimulating, allowing me to reflect on any issues and offering guidance on how to achieve my goals moving forward. Phil’s supportive yet candid approach enabled me to think in ways I had not previously, providing clarity, better situational awareness and encouraging a growth mindset. 

“I came away from each session feeling energised and armed with actionable insights to improve my daily performance.” 

“Over the last six months, I had the privilege of being coached and mentored by Phil Glasgow. Some may already know, but he typically works with high-performance teams to achieve their goals, whether in sport, business, or home. Thanks to Options Technology for sponsoring me, as I’ve never had the opportunity to complete such a personalised self-development course. I certainly did learn a lot about myself and carry this with me in my work. Excited for the next round of colleagues to be selected for the same!”

  •      Liam Fegan, Belfast Support Team Lead at Options.
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