Systemic Team Coaching

Andria GillisSeason 5Episode 4


Discuss valuable insights on leadership development and feedback with Andria Gillis, an experienced executive coach specializing in systemic team coaching. Dive into practical strategies for fostering open communication, enhancing emotional intelligence, and driving organizational transformation in this podcast conversation. Join Andria as she shares her expertise and insights to empower leaders and teams.


Andria Gillis

Executive Coach

Andria Gillis is an accomplished executive coach and team coaching practitioner with over 15 years of diverse business experience spanning operations, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Her client base includes top executives and leaders across various industries like retail, healthcare, and finance, where she employs a coaching style based on evidence and focused on solutions. Drawing from neuroscience and psychology, Andria aims to foster personal growth and business results, advocating for purposeful work environments, valued customers, and inspiring leadership. Her mission is to empower individuals and organizations to navigate and thrive in our rapidly evolving world. 


Andria Gillis (00:01):
I often will share the advice that my aunt always gave me as a child, you never give feedback on something that somebody can't change in five seconds. So it's kind of this idea that when you look at leadership and look at feedback models, there are countless models. Like my partner and I counted over 23 different models for how to give feedback. At the core of it, what's important is that you give somebody advice or feedback or feed forward what they can do better in the future. People can't change the past. So as soon as you start questioning or telling somebody how they could do something better in the past, that kind of triggers the defensiveness. So how can you say, going forward, let's look at doing this even better by doing this. And one great model is what worked well, even better if.
Troy Blaser (00:54):
Hello everyone. Welcome to today's episode of Simply Feedback, the podcast brought to you by Learning Bridge. I'm happy to be here. I'm your host, Troy Blazer, and I'm excited to introduce our guest. Our guest today is Andria Gillis, who is an accomplished executive coach and team coaching practitioner with over 15 years of diverse business experience spanning operations, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Her client base includes top executives and leaders across various industries like retail, healthcare, and finance, where she employs a coaching style based on evidence and focused on solutions. Drawing from neuroscience and psychology, Andria aims to foster personal growth and business results, advocating for purposeful work environments, valued customers, and inspiring leadership. Her mission is to empower individuals and organizations to navigate and thrive in our rapidly evolving world. Andria, welcome to Simply Feedback. It's so great to have you with us today.
Andria Gillis (01:56):
Hi, Troy. It's great to be here and I really enjoyed hearing that introduction. Sounded great.
Troy Blaser (02:03):
Good. I'm interested to get to know you a little bit today and maybe in that vein, a question, we always like to start out with on Simply Feedback is maybe to ask you to tell us about a time that you received some feedback in your life. Maybe it had an impact on your professional life or your personal life. Is there a story that you can share with us as we get to know you?
Andria Gillis (02:21):
Yeah, I was thinking about this and what was coming up for me is a really impactful piece of feedback that was really hard for me to hear. I'm being a little vulnerable here. When I started my business five or six years ago, I was moderating panels where I would cultivate groups of individuals, experts in their area and we'd be talking about emotional intelligence and what that looks like at work. And I was a new business, so I'm drawing on my friends and my network to be the panelists and and support me. And I asked a good friend if she would moderate the panel for me. She's a journalist and she said no. She said, your panel is completely white. We live in a really diverse city and I don't support that type of work, which was like a gut punch for me. I was embarrassed. I felt defensive. Because I hadn't notice because these are my friends. It hadn't crossed my mind. So that moment really caused me to pivot.
Andria Gillis (03:15):
Simply because it was this large blind spot that I had. And since then I've been really intentional around making sure that my panels are diverse, my sources in the leadership development courses are diverse, and I'm trying to get the widest perspectives into the works that I do. So, you know, thank you to Jen. If you do listen to this. It was definitely a moment that I will never forget in terms of feedback.
Troy Blaser (03:39):
Yeah. So now I'm curious, did Jen end up moderating that panel? She said no, but maybe you found someone else to do at that time. How did it kind of turn out?
Andria Gillis (03:49):
She didn't do it, but put me in touch with some other great people who could do the work, who could offer that more diverse lens. I took a look at my network and reached out to some other experts. So it was just a moment of recognizing that while I thought I was an ally, it really helped me to step into like, no, you have to be actually really intentional and be an advocate and a sponsor of diverse perspectives.
Troy Blaser (04:13):
Yeah. Not just neutral, but actually proactively paying attention to it. And I imagine that particular panel you had probably already invited the panelists, so it's not like you could say, well, my friend said she wasn't going to do it, so you're disinvited so that I can get a more diverse panel this time. But, like you say, it was a pivot so that you can move into a new direction kind of going forward. And that can be, like you say, a gut punch, a vulnerable moment where you're like, oh, I thought I was one thing and this feedback has pointed out that there's more to it than that.
Andria Gillis (04:44):
Yeah. A little bit of cognitive dissonance in there.
Troy Blaser (04:47):
Yeah. Well, so you mentioned your business that you started a few years ago. I wonder, would you tell us more about the work that you do?
Andria Gillis (04:55):
Yeah. I started People Lab as a way to bring more compassion and empathy into the corporate world. And working with managers, directors, one-on-one, I was noticing that we'd have great results, but we were stuck inside the system that they were in. You know, what's going on in their organization or what's going on for them in their leadership style. So I started to become curious about how you can actually impact the system. So I started studying the work of Peter Hawkins who created the title of Systemic Team Coaching. I've moved into looking at things from that lens, which is a really nested system of who is the individual, who is the team? What is the actual political, legal, environmental, technological impact on the team. So we're creating this really non-linear perspective of what the opportunity is for this team or this organization. And often that means looking at how they, how clear they are on their mandate and what they need to do, or what does great collaboration look like. How do we get the team aligned on purpose and how do we learn from each other? Because the world's moving so fast, we need to be in a more collaborative learning space as teams. So that's the work I'm really interested in. And that's where, you know, People Lab is kind of heading as we evolve.
Troy Blaser (06:19):
I really can identify when you started to talk about this idea that you work with individuals and they may get some great feedback, some great coaching, but then to take that back to the organization, there may be obstacles there for them to implement that just because of the system that they're in. It makes me feel like times where maybe I've gone off to a conference by myself, but representing my company and you get all these great ideas and then you come back and it's like, well, I can't do all these great things here at my company because of X, Y, and Z. Right. And so I like that idea of taking a step back, looking at the whole system, the whole environment, and making changes there. So you said it's called Systemic Team Coaching. What are some of the factors that would make for a successful team coaching intervention at a company?
Andria Gillis (07:04):
I'll give you a real example. I was working with a team who were part of a startup and they were revenue operations team. And they were just constantly putting out fires. The data wasn't clean. You know, they're always in a responsive mode and had spent the first year of their existence just putting out fires, solving problems, but nothing proactive was happening. They brought us in to help them switch from being a reactive to a proactive team. And that really involved them understanding as a team, what do each of us do? How are we serving the bigger mission of the organization, and what do we want our stakeholders to know about us and what do our stakeholders need? And what's in that gap? So we were able to help them see themselves as thought leaders in their space and experts, and really lean into being a proactive partner with their stakeholders rather than a reactive service organization.
Troy Blaser (08:03):
I get the sense that at least for them it was broadening the picture a little bit. Helping them get a bigger vision of where they fit in the organization. And because they have that bigger vision, then that maybe helps them turn to be more proactive to say, no, I have a mission and I know where I want to go. Instead of just reacting to what's coming in because they have that bigger picture, maybe a little bit.
Andria Gillis (08:26):
Yeah. And some of the interventions we might do is attend business as usual meetings and see what the dynamics are and can we remind them of how to bring that whole picture into those meetings, which is a really powerful way to, to make real shifts and change, you know, the coaching model as opposed to, like you talked about that going to a leadership convention, coming back to all kinds of ideas. And then what, right, like you're inspired and you get some traction and then you kind of go back to the status quo.
Troy Blaser (08:54):
Absolutely. Yeah.
Andria Gillis (08:55):
So the coaching model, it's a longer engagement, so we keep coming back to it over and over again so that it starts to integrate. So there's a stickiness to a coaching model or leadership development or team coaching that doesn't exist in a one-off weekend or training mat model.
Troy Blaser (09:12):
That makes sense. So the podcast is Simply Feedback. And so Andria, I was curious, how do you use feedback in the work that you do in your various engagements?
Andria Gillis (09:22):
Yeah, I think there's a couple ways that I use it. With one-on-one with executives and managers, we try to make sure that they're asking for feedback and that they're open to receiving feedback. Because if you can model what it looks like to be open and not defensive and you hear something that's a, a problem, you start to create that psychological safety in the workplace and make it safer for others to give feedback. So that's kind of the number one thing I think is creating a culture where it's expected that you ask for feedback.
Troy Blaser (09:53):
Is there specific advice that you give to leaders who maybe are hesitant to embrace that feedback?
Andria Gillis (09:57):
So, it's not the traditional sandwich model of good thing, bad thing, good thing, right. But that what worked well, what would be even better if.
Troy Blaser (10:06):
One of our mottos, I guess here at Learning Bridge, we, we talk a lot about receiving feedback graciously and acting on it visibly.
Andria Gillis (10:13):
Oh, I love that.
Troy Blaser (10:13):
And certainly it can be a scary thing for a manager to be in the position to receive feedback, but we talk about a lot of ways to receive that in a way that can be a, you know, a safe way to receive it, a way to use it to your advantage, even if it's delivered in, in a way that doesn't feel very friendly. There are still a lot, a lot of ways that you can say, okay, well I understand. How can I really incorporate that into my own narrative, my own story. I kind of sidetracked us. You were talking a little bit about the ways that you use feedback in your work, obviously with individuals maybe getting 360 degree feedback. Are there other assessments or tools that you use as you're working with teams?
Andria Gillis (10:55):
Yeah. So with teams we use a assessment called the Team Connect 360, and that's a survey that goes out to all the members of the team, the leaders of the team, and all the stakeholders as much as the organization is comfortable, how far out can we get context and information about how the team is working. And you know, we're talking about do we understand the team's purpose? Do we understand what needs to be created to succeed in the future? What do your stakeholders need from you in the future? Where are they changing and moving towards? So that's the Team Connect 360, which is a great model for working with a team. And then sometimes we go into the individuals themselves and something like the Gallup Clifton strengths where they can get a real sense of how they show up as individuals and what they might be noticing in other individuals. So it's great to give an organization some language. So often we'll do that as well. Another one that they use quite a bit is the EQI 2.0 and EQI 360. That one I find it's really well in organizations that are already pretty open to feedback and they already have some self-awareness as leaders. Emotional intelligence is kind of that next level in in leadership. Having that awareness of how you show up as a leader.
Troy Blaser (12:11):
So in your experience, how, are there ways that you can foster that culture of feedback in an organization so that that feedback is sought on a consistent basis and it's, it's given an effective way. You mentioned earlier about that idea that your aunt's advice of giving it, giving them feedback on something they can change in five seconds or less. Right. But how can an organization foster that kind of a culture?
Andria Gillis (12:35):
So, you know, I think we, I've already talked about modeling.. But the other piece is clarity of what success looks like. Like if I've changed this behavior, how will I know I'm successful? What are the benchmarks that you're looking at implied or explicit? How will I know I'm successful? What are we measuring? So having that follow up to the feedback is really important. So as leaders being really intentional, but where can you start to introduce feedback? And feedback doesn't always, it's not always negative, right? Like feedback is all around us. So how can we get into the habit of giving feedback? You know, sometimes it feels mechanical at first . But can you start meetings with what were the wins this week? Like, I noticed that you did a great job on this, Troy. So you start to create places where conversations can happen easily. People should never find out anything in their review that they didn't already know. Right?
Troy Blaser (13:32):
Yeah. Yeah.
Andria Gillis (13:33):
So those creating opportunities for those conversations to happen.
Troy Blaser (13:37):
So talking about measuring things, I'm curious, how do you measure the impact or the success that an engagement would have for you in a coaching engagement? For example, how do you set the expectations so that you can tell whether you've succeeded or not?
Andria Gillis (13:51):
So in initial conversations with the client, we're talking about what is their pain point that we're solving for? What's the cost of that pain point? So often team coaching is a great tool when there's low employee engagement or you know, high turnover, high churn. That's a substantial business cost. Can coaching help build that retention and, and stop that churn so that that is something that, you know, the client can measure. That's an external measurement. We also talk about qualitative versus quantitative measurement. Right. Qualitative measurement being how do people feel about the program? How do they feel about their job? Or another way to think about it is, how satisfied are they with their position? How satisfied are they with their professional development? And by doing kind of a soft qualitative, where are we starting from at the beginning of the engagement? How do you feel now at the end? What shifted can be a really powerful way for, for the organization or the team to see what's moving. And for me as well to see, you know, what interventions worked and what, there's still opportunity for the team to grow.
Troy Blaser (15:00):
Yeah. I wonder, is there a specific experience you've had recently where you've seen feedback cause a point of inflection? I mean, you talked about it for you personally earlier with that feedback, but as a coach, have you been able to be part of an interaction where feedback has really made an impact on someone's career as they've received that?
Andria Gillis (15:21):
Yeah. I have a, a client who came to me a couple years ago as an executive, getting ready to move from a national position to a global position, and was told that one thing that was going to really help him in this transition was to think about executive presence and emotional intelligence. The feedback he got was that he's very low in emotional intelligence and tends to be too direct. So in our work together, he was able to shift from emotional intelligence is the latest buzzword, I'm curious about it, but I don't subscribe to it, to, you know, we essentially did a book club and read about emotional intelligence and how that showed up for him at work. And so tried to connect the theory of emotional intelligence to what he was experienced day to day, and where were the opportunities for him to see the impact of that work on his team. And his team noticed this, he was bringing back feedback that his team felt more relaxed, that there was more banter in morning meetings. And that he was having higher quality conversations and seeing better impact because he was paying attention to the people on his team and how he showed up for them. So that was, it's quite a privilege to be along for those conversations.
Troy Blaser (16:39):
I agree. It, can be very rewarding to see changes like that happen over time. And presumably he made the jump to the global position and is finding great success down the road now. That's fantastic. I mean, I can assume that's probably what partly why you went into coaching is for experiences like that right. To, to feel like a successful coach who has made a difference. Andria, I really like this idea that you mentioned about essentially doing a book club with this individual to kind of learn about emotional intelligence and what that means. And so it made me curious if someone else wants to do a book club, are there a few books you would recommend that might be good candidates for a book club? Whether it's emotional intelligence or some other topic that you think would be valuable?
Andria Gillis (17:21):
Yeah, I mean, the book we used was Daniel Goldman's Emotional Intelligence. Two other great books are How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett. Bit of a textbook. She has another book called Seven and a Half Myths About the Brain, which is also good, highly readable. And it's Real Time Leadership by Carol Kauffman is another great book about, about leadership and how you show up.
Troy Blaser (17:43):
Cool. I appreciate that. I may, I may have to take some of those personally and do my own little bit of reading. It sounds like it could be interesting. Well, you know, as you think about our audience out there listening, HR professionals, executives, other coaches, perhaps, is there some specific advice that you would share to our listeners as you think about the work that you do?
Andria Gillis (18:06):
Well, what I was thinking about is this idea we have in team coaching about transformational KPIs. And that is, you know, we all kind of know what you, what you measure grows. So, so what are you measuring around as an organization, as a team around these softer skills around emotional intelligence, around being aligned with purpose? So, for example, I had a team and they were trying actually that same team that was trying to move from being reactive to proactive and being seen as thought. One of the KPIs that they wanted to start measuring was, did we have all the right people in that meeting? So they would just do a little check, like, yes, no, because they, you know, it saves so much time if you have the right people in the right meeting. And, you know, that's just something they started to measure. So little things like that, like, like transformational KPIs that can help you measure what you're accomplishing as a group that you wouldn't be able to accomplish on your own.
Troy Blaser (19:07):
I love it. That can be a useful thing. And, and like you said, what gets measured gets improved, right? .
Andria Gillis (19:13):
Troy Blaser (19:14):
Something like that. So being very purposeful about saying, we want to get better as a team. What are we going to measure in order to be able to do that? What, what things are going to help us transform.
Andria Gillis (19:24):
Yeah. It, and it helps to hold the team or the individual accountable to it as well. Right. It's not just a, a nice idea and yes, let's do it. Let's check in. Let's check in. How does, how is that going? What's getting in the way? Yeah.
Troy Blaser (19:39):
Well, are there other projects that you're working on that you want to share with us? Whether it's with People Lab specifically, or, or outside of People Lab? What are you really passionate about right now, I guess?
Andria Gillis (19:50):
Yeah. I'm really excited about two partnerships that I have. One of them is with one of my longtime coaching collaborators. Her name is Mel Boyd-Brown. And she and I have spent a year developing a leadership development program and we've tested it out and we're just getting ready to launch that. So I'm really excited about that because it takes that coaching approach to leadership development to get that stickiness and that long-term growth over time. And the other partnership I'm really excited about is working with a man named Andy Forrest, who's an expert in machine learning and AI. And we're helping organizations figure out what they want from AI and why they think it's a good idea for their organization and how can actually serve purpose instead of being a shiny new thing. So he's the expert in the AI and the machine learning. And then I help the organization figure out exactly what they're trying to solve for with playing with it. Because you know, everybody in your organization is playing around with it. How do you create absolutely responsible policies and intentional use to, you know, be a great intern and help for your company rather than replacing individuals.
Troy Blaser (21:01):
That sounds like it really is an area that's really, there's a whole lot happening right now. And I think many, many organizations are asking themselves those very questions. Right? What does AI mean for us as an organization? How are we going to use it to improve the organization? Are there pitfalls that we need to be aware of? So that does sound like an interesting space to be working in right now. I was going to ask the leadership development program, does it have a name that we can be watching for or is that still in progress?
Andria Gillis (21:32):
Yeah, that is a great question. It does not right now. It's a leadership development program. Any suggestions?
Troy Blaser (21:38):
Not yet. No. Is it something through People Lab or is it outside of People Lab?
Andria Gillis (21:43):
It's through People Lab. Okay. Yeah. There's information about it on our website.
Troy Blaser (21:46):
Okay, cool.
Andria Gillis (21:47):
But you're right, it does need a catchy title.
Troy Blaser (21:50):
Sounds like you guys have put a lot of work into it, though. I hope that you find success in it. It is so nice to have projects that you're excited about, passionate about, and it's like, I can't wait to get out and share this with everybody else because there's so much fantastic material here. In that vein, I guess if people have enjoyed this conversation, if they want to continue the conversation with you, is that something you're open to and how can people get in touch with you?
Andria Gillis (22:15):
Yeah, I would love that. Probably the easiest way is on LinkedIn, Andria with an I, Andria Gillis, LinkedIn, and my website is because I'm based up in Toronto and Canada.
Troy Blaser (22:27):
Awesome. Well, Andria, thank you so much. I've enjoyed our conversation and our time together today. I've learned a few things. I will think about that book club opportunity and see how I can incorporate that into the work that I'm doing. . But it's been great to get to know you. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Andria Gillis (22:45):
Oh, my pleasure, Troy. Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation.