Building a Successful Coaching Culture

Building Coaching Cultures

In November, the Global IOC blog highlighted the need for leaders to develop coaching skills.  Interestingly, in the work the Global IOC does with leaders, most leaders who begin the coach development programs share that they are already coaching.  Yes, they are!  And yet, there are opportunities to strengthen innate coaching skills in formal coach development programs.  For example, our Essential Leadership Coaching Skills program focuses on differentiating between positive and negative emotional attractors. Did you know that when someone hears a negative comment or interprets it as negative, his or her brain goes into flight or flight?  This is huge when coaching direct reports.  Participants also learn the difference between being a critical thinking partner and being a director of others’ behavior.  The following discussion will focus on how to expand the coaching practices beyond an individual leader into the entire organization.

What Organizations Will Need in 2023

Our volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world will continue in 2023.  Additionally, many of the issues that troubled organizations will continue to impact them.  LinkedIn shared a few workplace trends that they see coming for 2023. They include; retention of key talent, employee wellness including mental health initiatives, company culture enhancements including diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, and hybrid work.  Creating coaching cultures can help to address these continuing and emerging trends.  Coaching cultures provide adaptability with the pace of change, actions for closing knowing-doing gaps, delivering targeted individual just-in-time development, increasing the range, effectiveness, and flexibility of leadership behaviors, and acceleration of performance.

Why focus on a coaching culture?

Investing in a coaching culture has a direct impact on the organization’s bottom line. In research conducted by the Association for Coaching, the quantitative benefits of coaching as identified by the buyer were increased productivity, reduced costs in managing direct reports, and other associated costs of management.  The qualitative benefits exceeded the hard costs resulting in better people management skills, higher motivation, enhanced client relationship skills, and stronger alignment with the organizational mission and objectives.

In today’s environment retaining top-performing employees is critical to success.  A Fortune 100 company found that losing just one key player can result in a $250,000-$500,000 loss for the firm depending on the role.  Beyond key talent retention, they found that investing in a coaching culture resulted in higher annual revenues (when compared to peer groups), continued improvement of engagement scores, increased in customer enthusiasm metrics, and improvement in key performance indicators year over year.  The Sales Executive Council suggests that 87% of training is lost within a month without on-the-job reinforcement.  This number can also be found in a few research studies.  When coaching becomes part of a culture, the reinforcement of learning leads to the sustainment of expected behaviors.

What differentiates a coaching culture from coach training? 

Coach training programs can only go so far in aligning organizational strategies with behaviors and closing knowing-doing gaps.  As a result, many organizations are investing in building coaching cultures in order to create long-term sustainment of new behaviors.  Coaching cultures are not simply a stated organizational goal rather they are built to serve the core strategy of the organization.  Coaching cultures bring together the elements of how managers, leaders, associates, and other stakeholders engage one another.  In other words, coaching occurs at every level, is used with individuals and teams to advance initiatives, and is built into strategy documents.  Coaching cultures are led by senior-level managers who integrate and cascade the changes throughout their own teams.   Coaching is built foundationally on consistent training along with tactics, goals and measures to ensure consistency broadly across the organization.  In coaching cultures, coaching is integrated seamlessly with other people’s management processes.  Finally, successful coaching cultures build recognition and reward programs into the culture.

Integral to building any coaching culture is a coach development program that provides leaders with the most effective way to develop teams, drive performance, and retain key talent.  As leaders develop in their own coaching success, their coaching behaviors and insights lead to more motivated people, increased job satisfaction, higher levels of engagement and strengthening of bonds between individuals, teams and the organization.

Building a Culture

Megginson and Clutterbuck in “Making Coaching Work: Creating a Coaching Culture”  shares five components that must be built into a coaching culture.  First, link coaching to business drivers by ensuring that coaching becomes part of strategy, processes, and high performance.  Second, support for coaching is driven by both the leader and direct report in a strong relationship of development.  Third, leaders at all levels of the organization are provided with coach development from core skills to advanced skill training along with continuing education and oversight for those skills.  There is a movement from directive coaching to coaching as a thinking partner as leaders develop capabilities rather than basic competencies.  Fourth, recognition and reward for coaching need to be built into performance plans and annual bonuses.  Finally, a systemic approach to coaching emerges in which the culture becomes embedded and coaching becomes the norm throughout the entire organization.

One of the challenges to building a coaching culture is where to locate the program within the organization.  In most organizations, it resides with the Human Resources team while in others it might be led by the Training and Development team or a leader who champions the culture.  In any case, Hawkins adds a few suggestions to that of Megginson and Clutterbuck.  A sponsor for the coaching culture must be invested in seeing the development from the beginning stages until the culture becomes embedded or the norm.  Second, the organization must develop a vision of an aspirational culture while measuring the current culture.  It is critical to know the starting point along with the vision for the future.  Third, Hawkins recommends that outside coaches assist the stakeholders and senior leaders as they collaborate to guide the structure of the coaching culture.  The external coaches will also develop the internal coaching programs necessary for the sustainment of the culture.  Building a culture takes time, stakeholder sponsorship, and the support of leaders at all levels in the organization.

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