Performance Edge Coach Life: Amy Bowley

an artistic image of people sat on the floor surrounded by postit notes and laptops


As a coach with Leading Edge Performance, I get to speak to interesting people and gather insight about their lived experience within a team or organisation through decompression interviews. My recent interviews form part of a comprehensive programme for B&Q focused on its store leadership structure.

B&Q is a British institution. Through the five decompression interviews I carried out with employees across the business, as part of a much larger set of interviews both in-store and virtually, I heard such pride-filled accounts of working there. Just as important, I could see how grateful the employees were that the organisation they worked for wanted to know their lived experiences and emotions.

The leadership at B&Q were keen to better understand the vibe and feel from different levels across the store structure, up to regional branch management level, and incorporate this insight alongside existing research to help with successful delivery of a stores structure programme.


Enhancing surface-level data

With my people-focused background, I bring an array of insights in organisational culture and employee engagement. It’s fantastic to see such desire from a big institution like B&Q to get past the surface-level employee engagement survey data and go deeper to gather more insight around drivers of performance and culture.

Employee engagement surveys are a very useful benchmark relied on by many global organisations to keep them in touch with their employees’ views on the company. But when an output is typically measured on a scale of 1–5, what does ‘3’ actually tell you? A human perspective is needed to influence and guide action on that data point.

Our decompression interviews help to access the human intelligence – the thoughts and feelings – to add insight and perspective to the technical intelligence, such as survey metrics, and the tactical intelligence, such as sales patterns.

I interviewed five B&Q employees, a mix of store staff and business managers, following a skeleton of questions covering agreed themes and approaches. I love this type of interviewing. The question skeleton is my guide – and I need to stick to that premise – but I’m free to go deeper, even slightly off tangent, when something poignant surfaces.


Strengthening trust through accurate representation

It’s a strong value of mine to make sure the person I’m interviewing feels that what they say is important and will be heard – and that they will be represented accurately.

Decompression enables this. As with my fellow coaches, I ask open, explorative questions to facilitate a natural discussion. Using ‘why’ and ‘how’ and embracing the silent moments gives someone the space to think, consider the theme and respond truthfully. Everything we hear and note down plays an important part at the analysis stage, where, as a team, we are challenged to provide the evidence to support the themes we’re feeding back from the interviews.

All five conversations were interesting and insightful. Employees were so grateful to be asked for their opinions, regardless of how they felt about things – and this made for an open and flowing discussion.


A mix of perspectives

Most often, when I interview in a business context, the people are on a linear line – for example, members of a senior leadership team. Something different (brilliant, actually!) about the B&Q decompression project was how it touched on different levels within the business, meaning I got to interview a store colleague and someone in a regional management role further up the chain – and acquire a mix of perspectives.

This provided interesting insights on the importance of leadership style, from both the team member’s point of view and the leader’s point of view. It was great to hear many harmonious accounts.

I’m known within our team for taking lots and lots of notes in interviews and writing very detailed reports. I do that because I never want to walk away thinking “They must have meant…”. I only ever want to walk away knowing “They said this – and this is what they meant by it”.

I know my colleagues feel the same. We’re privileged to spend time with people and go deep with their feelings and emotions – and we want to represent them accurately and gather human insight that is useful for our stakeholders and makes a positive difference overall.

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