Creating a Coaching Culture: The AIB Coaching Academy

by Pedro Angulo

As we examine large organisations, we see that coaching cultures are essential to business success and by definition, customer satisfaction. Rather than sending people away for training, organisations now bring educators in-house to teach formal qualifications. Pedro Angulo of Allied Irish Banks reveals the thinking behind The AIB Coaching Academy.

“Our AIB purpose is to back our customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions and in order to do that we, in HR, are focusing our work on enabling our people to also achieve theirs.”

There are many definitions of coaching out there but my favourite one is by Sir John Whitmore; “Unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance.”

Our AIB purpose is to back our customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions and in order to do that we, in HR, are focusing our work on enabling our people to also achieve theirs.

In AIB we are keen to develop a customer centric, collaborative, accountable coaching culture. We believe that coaching leaders add value to their companies by adding value to their people. They stimulate thinking, growth, and unleash people’s potential by challenging and supporting them to be at their best. There is plenty of evidence supporting that leaders with strong coaching skills tend to be highly self-aware, empathetic, emotionally intelligent, good at building lasting relationships, skilful at enabling insight and learning, and delivering strong results in a collaborative and inclusive manner. This, in turn, delivers great benefits for organisations such as increased productivity and engagement, improved customer service and greater collaboration.

Coaching and mentoring are playing a key role in supporting our cultural journey. At a high level, we currently have the following initiatives in place:

  1. Coaching networks. The networks meet once a month. We have one in HQ and another one in Airside. The plan is to establish additional networks across our main locations. The main objectives of the networks are:
    1. Develop the participant’s coaching skills & build internal coaching capability
    2. Promote best practices in coaching
    3. Provide an opportunity for people to learn from each other
    4. Promote self-reflection and continuous personal development
    5. Develop an internal coaching panel
  2. The coaching panel. We went through a rigorous selection process last year with the aim to identify top class Irish coaches as well as some international ones. The purpose of this panel is to enable our leaders the sourcing of credible external coaches and to deliver better value for money.
  3. The aim of MentorMe is to empower everyone in AIB to develop their own career and gain insights from experienced people throughout the organisation. The programme is fully web enabled (automated) and mentors and mentees are matched online according to the mentees’ needs and the mentors’ capabilities. Mentees are provided with three mentor options and it is up to them to select their preferred option and drive the mentoring relationship from there. MentorMe was set up with the following three objectives:
    1. Career development: Experienced AIB leaders giving advice on how to develop careers in AIB
    2. Talent development: Encouraging and supporting staff to realise their potential and become the best they can be
    3. Network building: Share experiences and advice with AIB staff outside of your own area and comfort zone.
  4. Senior Leadership programmes. All senior leadership programmes develop the coaching skills of our leaders and gives them an opportunity to put them into practice. We make heavy use of one-to-one coaching as well as triad coaching.
  5. Getabstract Coaching. We use Getabstract, an organisation that offers condensed learning via summaries of books, talks and economic reports. Their service includes a large library of coaching books and talks.
  6. AIB Coaching Academy. The Academy has been designed and tailored to the specific needs of AIB. The programme is being led by Paula King and David Clutterbuck; two highly experiences and respected coaches internationally. More specifically, the programme has been built with the following three goals in mind:
    1. To develop the coaching skills of our people leaders
    2. To encourage them to become coaching advocates and champions
    3. To enable our leaders to create a coaching culture in their teams and AIB

The Programme has three 3-day modules delivered over 6 months and it is accredited by the EMCC at Practitioner Level.

  • Module 1: Self as coach
  • Module 2: Building a coaching culture in your team
  • Module 3: Becoming an AIB coaching champion

Participants have already completed module 1 and the feedback has been very positive. According to Clare O’Flaherty (Organisational Effectiveness team);

“Being part of the Coaching Diploma has given me a fantastic opportunity to develop on a number of levels. On a personal level, it increases your knowledge and self-awareness. There is a strong practical element to the course which allows you to really develop and embed the coaching approach and principles in how you interact with colleagues, manage teams and individuals. The course has opened my mind to the benefits of coaching as part of a development programme and how powerful a coaching culture can be.”

Coaching is not a panacea, however, we understand that there are other ways / styles to lead people (directive, participative, affiliative, etc.) and that the best leadership style should be dictated by the situation.

Creating a coaching culture that supports your organisation’s purpose and strategy takes time. Furthermore, creating this culture is probably more of a journey rather than a final destination. We are confident that we are moving in the right direction but we also know that we need to keep working at it.


Pedro Angulo

Pedro is Head of Leadership Development in AIB, Programme Director in the IMI (Irish Management Institute) Diploma in Strategic HRM and President of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He has previously worked in senior management roles in Angulo Consulting, Prospectus, Penna Consulting, Deloitte, IBM Business Consulting Services and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Part-time senior lecturer and examiner in the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School (UCD) from 2000-2008. Have also lectured in DIT, NCI and IBEC programmes. Teaching areas include Business Strategy, Organisational Behaviour, Strategic HRM, Managing People and Change Management at undergraduate, postgraduate and executive levels. He is currently Head of Leadership Development at AIB