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Changing culture through better leadership

Introducing high-level coaching to Commanding Officers

Empowerment through self-awareness

The British Army is a beacon of leadership, moulding and developing the lives of more than 600 officers per year who commence training at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) each year. Coaching forms a key part of the commissioning course, building greater self-awareness for the Officer Cadets’ future roles as servant leaders.

The progression up the ranks can be swift for the most talented Officers and inevitably includes a promotion and appointment to the prestigious role of Commanding Officer (CO). A coaching programme forms part of the Generalship course towards the end of an Officer’s career. However, the timeframe between Commissioning and Generalship spans decades.

The influence of a CO cannot be underestimated. Often, the style of leadership at this, the most influential of appointments, cascades down to touch almost everyone in the Army. Prior to taking up this post, most of COs will have received little, if any, specific leadership development or self-awareness interventions since commissioning many years previously. Acknowledging that COs have a huge influence across both the unit they are responsible for and the wider culture of the Army, a decision was taken to add a coaching programme to the existing two-week Commanding Officers Designate Course (CODC).

Moving outside the Army 'echo chamber'

CDS Defence & Security was selected to provide deliver the coaching programme using world-class coaches with a mix of civilian and military backgrounds in order to really test and challenge the Commanding Officers. The coaching programme is comprised of four interventions:

  1. Everything DiSC® - A personality and preference profile to define personal and inter-personal skills and leadership styles.
  2. Initial coaching session focusing on goal setting and what each CO hopes to achieve from their time in command.
  3. 180 degree feedback from up to 12 members of each CO’s unit
  4. Final coaching session to delve deeper into the 180 degree feedback and understand how each CO is viewed as a leader

The driver for the coaching programme was to improve self-awareness and good leadership by fostering an enhanced leadership culture at unit level. The coaching places particular emphasis on personal development needs and specific challenges in a command context. The ultimate aim is to create greater cohesion across individual units, resulting in improved retention levels and an increase in operational effectiveness.

Embraced approach to coaching

CDS Defence & Security are working with three cohorts so far, totalling 115 Commanding Officers. Feedback to date has been incredibly positive and we are pleased to report that all aspects of the coaching interventions have been well received and are already starting to have a demonstrable impact.


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A research-led scenario which tests decision making in pandemics and global events.

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