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Introduction to Full Potential Group coaching

FPG Case Study: Tesco Non-Food

Creating a coaching culture

February 2003 ongoing

Client background

Tesco is Britain’s leading food retailer. During the last few years, the company has successfully developed its brand into the non-food sector and now stocks clothing, electrical and home entertainment goods, toys, sports equipment, cookshop and even lighting and furnishings in many of its larger stores. According to ACNielsen HomescanTM, 45% of Tesco shoppers now buy non-food as part of their regular food shop.

Tesco clothing brands, which include ‘Cherokee’, ‘Florence and Fred’ and ‘Value’, are the fastest-growing in the UK in both sterling and volume. The retailer’s competitive advantage reflects its long-term commitment to creating value for customers and to developing and supporting its people.  

Objectives and challenges

Tesco’s business strategy is for long-term growth. A key goal is to be as strong in non-food retail as it is in food. In 2002, Tesco stepped up its efforts to add clothing to its customers’ shopping lists, and John Hoerner, the former head of Arcadia, was appointed as Chief Executive of Tesco clothing. Hoerner is passionate about people development. With ambitious growth plans underway, he recognised that in order to seize market share from the traditional high street clothing retailers, helping his people to be more effective in their jobs while ensuring a healthy work/life balance, would be key to the long-term success of the business.

Full Potential Group (FPG), Britain’s leading executive coaching and people development specialist was brought on board in November 2002. The goals of corporate coaching were to:

  • Enable people to live and work at their highest potential
  • Fast-track leadership development of people in senior roles
  • Provide a platform for talent development and succession planning
  • Help retain high potential employees
  • Provide support for middle managers, highlighting their genuine value to the business
  • Achieve enhanced employee commitment, satisfaction and work/life balance
  • Develop competent coaching leaders and managers capable of applying coaching principles and practices on a daily basis
  • Sustain competitive advantage and year-on-year growth of 30+%

Hoerner said, “I wanted to give people someone they could to talk to about work and personal issues to help them take a balanced and rounded approach. All too often, one side can impact the other. A person can have a different type of discussion with a coach than they can with their boss. Coaching can be very helpful at making people more effective at their jobs. It helps steer them to reach their full potential.”

Programme delivery

FPG designed and delivered three bespoke coaching programmes. These were first implemented for Tesco clothing and then rolled out across the whole non-food business.

The programmes were led by FPG founder and managing director Carole Gaskell. FPG is one of Europe’s longest established coaching specialists. Gaskell set up the business in the 90s after coming across performance coaching while working in the entertainment industry in the United States. Inspired by the benefits coaching could deliver to individuals and teams, she became one of the first UK graduates of the world’s leading coaching training organisation CoachU and today works with many of Britain’s best-known companies. 

”Coaching is about optimising potential – igniting passion and creating a special magic for the business. It’s about getting people energised,” says Gaskell. “As a manager, it’s about having the tools and techniques to motivate your people. The coach sees more for the individual or team than they see for themselves.”   

The three coaching programmes were:

1. One-To-One Executive Coaching 

Executive coaching was initially focused on the development of Head Office personnel involved in Tesco’s clothing business. A pilot programme was run for 12 individuals who were matched with their own executive coach. Over 12 months, each received a combination of 10 face-to-face and telephone coaching sessions. 360o leadership feedback assessments were conducted at the beginning and end of the programme to benchmark success. The programme was subsequently broadened out to executives across the non-food business and today, almost 100 people have benefited from one-to-one executive coaching.

2. Excelling as a Manager 

Two separate groups of managers took part in a six-month coaching programme. Core elements of the programme included 360 o open feedback, two separate 1-day workshops focused on developing talent and enhancing effectiveness and between four and 10 telephone coaching sessions per manager, depending on individual requirements.

3. Embedding a Coaching Culture

The next stage of the Tesco coaching programme was to further embed a coaching culture and to build in-house coaching expertise across the non-food business. The programme was conducted at two levels:

“Coaching Champions - Leadership Coaching Programme” – FPG helped equip those in leadership positions with comprehensive leadership coaching skills, enabling them to fully develop the talent within their business units.  As a result of the programme, senior managers became leadership role models, with the expertise required to cascade coaching skills and the full potential coaching philosophy throughout the organisation.  The programme comprised of 360o leadership assessments at the outset and at the end of the programme; coaching skills workshops; a series of one-to-one coaching sessions for each person; and group conference calls.

“Manager as Full Potential Coach” – FPG provided managers with the expertise required to embrace a coaching approach as a fundamental part of their day-to-day role.  The programme focused on role-plays and the practical application of coaching tools and techniques in the workplace. 360o coaching assessments were conducted at the start and end of the programme which also comprised of group coaching workshops and a series of one-to-one telephone coaching sessions for each person.


Tesco non-food business has been highly successful, with coaching contributing to this success. Today, Tesco non-food is the fastest-growing sector of the business with year-on-year growth of 39%.

With FPG’s help, Tesco has begun to develop a coaching culture where people can excel, yet achieve a healthy work/life balance.

Hoerner says he has seen a positive increase in people’s effectiveness across the non-food business and believes coaching is now vital to its success – especially in encouraging staff to “step up a notch” to deliver Tesco’s strategy and ambitious growth plans. Hoerner has seen a marked difference in the leaders who took part in FPG’s executive coaching programme. He says, “In more than half of the people on the programme I can see a real difference. In a third, I can see an amazing difference.” 

According to Hoerner, a further advantage of providing corporate coaching is that it is seen as a prestigious benefit among leaders and managers. “90% of people who have had coaching like it a lot and think it has helped them in their job as well as their personal life,” he added.


Other key benefits of the coaching programmes include:

  • 100% retention of those in leadership positions - over half concerned received internal promotions within a year of their coaching
  • Significant improvement in staff motivation and morale in the middle layers with over a third of managers being promoted to more senior roles
  • Staff survey revealed substantially higher scores in people’s attitudes to the business, environment and the way in which they were managed
  • Personal 360o assessments carried out at the end of the programmes showed significant improvements and progress for every participant.

Hoerner’s advice to other companies thinking about embarking on a coaching programme is to “take a long-range view”. “Coaching works well for companies willing to invest in their people and make provisions for the future. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Helping a person to gain a better balance between their work and home life is a long-term thing.”

Gaskell agrees. “Companies are recognising that coaching is not a soft option or a quick fix. Expanding an individual’s or an organisation’s potential for growth is challenging and takes time. It requires honesty, a willingness to confront obstacles and difficult issues and the courage to stick with changes when the going gets tough.”

For those willing to embark on the journey though, the rewards can be great. “Coaching can have a dramatic impact on a company’s culture, people and bottom line. When successfully woven with the fabric of an organisation, coaching can accelerate talent development and improve retention, drive innovation and help companies achieve competitive advantage,” added Gaskell. Tesco, is certainly a case in point. With a culture for investing for the future, Tesco is today reaping the benefits from the careful planning and hard work it put into integrating coaching within its business.

Next: Click to view Tesco Property Services: Leading the Business Forward case study