Coach Your Team to Greatness

Emergent BioSolutions is a global specialty pharmaceutical company that seeks to protect and enhance life by offering specialized products to healthcare providers and governments. Emergent, which is well known as the manufacturer of the only FDA licensed anthrax vaccine at its Lansing facility, has grown into a major job provider in the region.


While Emergent has built a well-deserved reputation for great science, the company has quietly developed an equally impressive program of developing great people through an internal coaching culture that should be held up as a model for others to emulate.


The roots of the Emergent coaching program began in 2002 when then vice president Mike Tanner recruited consultant Anne Cauley to help the company build a program to develop managers. Tanner agreed to become Cauley’s first coachee, and soon four other top executives underwent coaching. Before long, there was so much demand for coaching that the Emergent team decided to train internal leaders as coaches which led to its Peer Coaching Program.


One key to the success of Emergent’s coaching program has been the ongoing endorsement and active participation of top site leaders. Another factor is active encouragement and acceptance by the management team to allow people to take time to dedicate to coaching. Building a “coaching culture” takes visible action and support, and not just words.

Emergent’s Peer Coaching Program now has 37 trained coaches. All managerial staff is given the opportunity to have a coach after their first six months on the job. Coaches and coachees are partnered for one year or until specific coaching goals are completed.


Coach training is a cornerstone of Emergent’s Peer Coaching program. Training programs teach prospective coaches empathy, building rapport, listening and asking questions. The training promotes a non-directive coaching style that is geared towards helping coachees grow professionally through self-discovery and self-awareness.


Emergent’s coaching program was expanded in 2006 to include non-management employees. 106 coachees have gone through the program in which a coach and coachee are partnered for six months. Specific goals are identified at a coaching kick-off meeting with the coach, coachee and coaching administrator. The program is voluntary — employees have to apply to be coached, which increases the likelihood that coaching will be successful.


“It makes it easier to lead them through change,” said Bob Merriman, principal scientist in quality control and a coach since 2006.


The tangible results of Emergent’s coaching program are impressive. 42 percent of coachees in the non-management program have received promotions during or after coaching. Annualized turnover among coachees is significantly lower than the site-wide turnover rate.


The coaching program also helps recruit new talent. People who interview for jobs here have heard about the coaching program and want to be part of it,” said Jessica Bermejo, a manager in manufacturing support and coach since 2008.


While coachees have received a great deal of benefit from the program during the past decade, participating coaches will tell you that they receive equal benefits from helping their colleagues achieve their goals.


“It’s been fantastic,” said Mark Lyons, PhD, principal scientist in analytical support and a coach for the past year. “You know it’s about them, but you can’t help but get things out of it as well.”


The benefits of the coaching program at Emergent go well beyond coaching sessions, training programs and the measurable results. Coaching techniques have become an everyday way of life that are often woven into casual conversations and approaches to problem solving.


“In my day-to-day work, I use many of the same techniques that I have learned as a coach,” said John Zenk, manager in computer systems validation and coach since 2011.


Coaching programs often fail because organizations aren’t willing to dedicate the resources needed. Emergent advises companies to start small and carefully monitor the results of every coaching relationship. “You need a clear understanding of what coaching is and how much effort is required,” said Cauley.


It’s an effort that must start at the highest level of the organization. It is also one that the folks at Emergent BioSolutions will tell you is well worth the investment.


For additional information regarding Emergent BioSolutions Internal Coaching Program please contact Susan Prorak, Senior Manager, Human Resources Development at 517.327.6884 or email


Ross Woodstock is a certified coach at Kolt Communications, Inc. He specializes in executive coaching and leadership development. He is also a communications strategist working with clients on their marketing, public relations and advertising programs.