Inside Job

Interview with Jackie Keddy about her long career in the Metropolitan Police and her current role as coaching champion in the Met’s Leadership Academy
Sarah-Jane North

Jackie Keddy really has seen it all and an awful lot of it was not that pretty. In a career with the Metropolitan Police Service spanning 25 years, she has dealt with burglary, murder, domestic violence, sexual offences, child abuse: all manner of unsavoury and criminal behaviour. Dealing with men and women at their worst would prove too much for many people, yet Keddy is still there today, striving to make a difference. “Somebody’s got to do it,” she says, when asked how she stayed so long.

Although no longer at the sharp end of policing, Keddy firmly believes that her days out on the beat, on the operational side of the police force, helped to inform the more strategic role she adopted in
January 2004. Keddy began her new role as staff officer to the then deputy assistant commissioner of the serious crime directorate, Bill Griffiths, assisting him in handling a portfolio that encompassed
major investigations, hostage negotiations, intelligence, kidnaps and several high-profile, headline-grabbing cases.

The road to reform

This was to be a key year not only for Keddy but for the Met itself. Keddy went to work for Griffiths, while the Morris inquiry was launched; an independent inquiry into professional standards and employment matters in the Met, commissioned by the Metropolitan Police Authority. The six-month-long investigation led the inquiry to call for root and branch reform of the way the Met was managed. Among its conclusions, the inquiry highlighted a conspicuous lack of “people focus” in many areas and the need for more focus on leadership and management, to create a well-motivated workforce that would deliver better policing. The inquiry’s report, The Case for Change, was published at the end of 2004.

As 2005 began with a new commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, in place, Griffiths took on the post of police staff director of leadership development. Keddy seized the opportunity to transfer with him and kicked off a new era in her career. “This was new ground for me and I was excited and proud to serve with him,” she says. One of her first duties was to help implement Blair’s Working Together for a Safer London initiative.

For Keddy this meant working within a team responsible for integrating the organisation’s values and behaviours into the management and leadership practice of the Met’s senior officers. Having sifted through the 5,500 responses to a questionnaire asking staff to outline what those values and behaviours should be, Keddy’s team produced a definitive list and a guide to the behaviours that would and perhaps more crucially, would not maintain those values.

Turning point

It was around this time that Keddy attended her first coaching workshop. “I went as staff officer to the workshop and was very interested in the concept of coaching conversations in our organisation and in the research that demonstrated that many successful organisations had extensive coaching programmes for leaders,” she recalls. “I reported back to Bill [Griffiths], who is also a firm believer in the benefits of coaching, and set up a meeting between him, Tony Nelson from the Learning and Skills Council and Shaun Lincoln from the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL).”

This meeting was to be a turning point both for leadership in the Met and for Keddy: it led to 12 police officers and other staff, including Griffiths and Keddy, attending a three-day solution-focused coaching course with CEL.

This, in turn, led to the launch of a pilot coaching programme, with 36 coaching clients selected from across four Metropolitan boroughs. This was to be Keddy’s pet project alongside her staff officer role. “I went to speak with the senior management teams [in each borough] to explain what we wanted to do,” she recounts. “I didn’t want [the coaching] to be considered remedial but sold it as a development opportunity. They bit our hands off to be part of it.”

Positive impact

Keddy’s research had revealed that although coaching was already taking place in the Met, with many senior leaders having external coaches, it was a service they had obtained for themselves either outside of the Met entirely or via their operational unit. “There were oases of good practice but essentially they were all doing different stuff,” she says. The pilot was a success. Coaching clients reported improvements in problem-solving, motivation and overall self-confidence, while coaches said they felt it had a positive impact on their own behaviour as leaders, with some indicating their behaviour was more likely to be consistent with the Met’s newly defined values as a result (see Met pilot ‘a success’ , Coaching at Work, vol 2, issue 5).

The Met’s Leadership Academy, under whose remit the coaching programme falls, is now training a further 25 internal coaches and a four-day programme to train internal coaches, based on the European Mentoring & Coaching Council’s competencies, took place in October. Some 97 applications were received for the 12 available places.

“I believe coaching will be the glue that joins the organisation together,” Keddy says. “The benefits include more time for managers, for staff to maximise the way they work, better use of resources, better staff motivation, raised morale and much more. “The Morris inquiry put the Met under scrutiny and recommended more support and leadership. And that is what the academy is addressing.”

Keddy revels in the fact that staff feel there is kudos instead of stigma attached to having a coach. She dreams of the day when she is able to offer internal coaching to anyone who feels they need it. She is also convinced that making coaching conversations a normal part of everyday life at the Met is the way forward. “It’s all down to language. If you embed coaching into conversation so that people are unaware they are being coached, then that will be the lever for a major culture shift,” she asserts.

In her 25-year career, Keddy has already seen the Met undergo major change. When she joined, female recruits were still referred to as WPCs (women police constables), and she was nominated “mother bunny” at the Hendon police training centre and required to act as a mother figure to new female recruits, because the commander believed she had the right qualifications (being a mother of two herself). She admits, too, to working with several people at that time whose leadership styles were far removed from the coaching pattern being encouraged today.

And in many of her past operational roles she feels coaching could have made a positive contribution. “I wish I had known then what I know now, because it is about maximising the true potential of your team,” she says.

My practice: the art of simplexity

I believe in “simplexity”, the art of making complex things simple. I think we all tend to overcomplicate things and if something hasn’t got some huge theory behind it we don’t take it seriously. If it’s simple and blindingly obvious, we tend to dismiss it. It’s because I believe in simplexity that I think the solution-focused approach appeals to me the way it does. My approach to coaching has been informed by the work of Steven de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, who pioneered solution- focused brief therapy, which is all about being concise and focusing on the solutions to a problem rather than dwelling on the problem itself.

Future perfect

I’m not problem-phobic but by focusing on the solutions you help people to look beyond the problem, to what the future could be like. I love the “future perfect” concept, looking at a problem from the third-person perspective and asking the miracle question: “Leaving reality aside, if a miracle occurred while you slept tonight and you woke tomorrow to find that your problem or issue had gone, what would be the first thing you’d notice that is different? And what would others notice that was different about you?” This gets them to focus on the problem not being there and they begin to see what life could be like without that problem or situation. Incorporating this with scaling is a powerful tool.

I also like to get the person thinking about how they have tackled such problems or situations in the past, or how different behaviours, attitudes and approaches have already helped to make it less of a problem. They begin to come up with their own “islands”, steps and actions they have taken or could
take to improve the situation. I note down actions they have come up with that they can take away and implement. The onus is on the actions coming from them.

I recently used this method informally with a colleague who had been handed a massive project. They didn’t know where to start and during our conversation I made them think about what they had
done before when faced with starting a new project from scratch. Although their immediate response was: “Well, I’ve never had to deal with one this big,” they soon came to realise it was the same sort
of situation, just bigger, and that it made sense to start in the same way. This approach really helps a person to focus.

Hybrid approach

At the Met we have drawn on the OSKAR1, GROW2 and CIGAR3 models for our programme and created a hybrid approach that we believe is the best method for performance coaching here. As a manager, it’s about having a toolbox to dip into. An experienced coach won’t choose one particular model but will dip in and out of various models in order to get it right for the individual client. Coaches under construction need a framework to fall back into as a safety net. I am also convinced of the value of networking and sharing good practice, and am a shameless borrower of good ideas.

Our “First 100 Days” programme for chief superintendents and senior police staff is an idea borrowed straight from Liz McCann, coaching co-ordinator at the BBC. Anyone newly promoted to this role is offered a coaching session before they make the move, followed by three sessions in the first 100 days in post, which prevents them from feeling as though they are drowning in their new responsibilities.

I’m also a great believer in coaching the coach. No organisation should bring in coaching without supervision as sessions can easily descend into cosy chats. This is public money we are spending, which we are very aware of. The benefits are being measured, it’s constantly evaluated and it is an investment that is necessary and will ensure that quality policing is delivered to the public.

Jackie Keddy

  • OSKAR: Outcomes, Scaling, Know-how, Attributes, Action, Review
  • GROW: Goals, Reality, Options, Will
  • CIGAR: Current reality, Ideal future,
  • Gaps to fill, Action to take, Review and reinforcement

See “Short and sweet”, and “Lost and found”, Coaching at Work, vol 2, issue 4

Volume 2, Issue 6


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