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What is a Coaching Culture and How Can You Build One at Work?
To embed a culture of coaching in an organization, leaders should focus on promoting emotionally intelligent, meaningful, and effective conversation. Establishing such an organizational culture is not easy, but its benefits more than justify the effort.
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.” – John Whitmore.
A culture of coaching can deliver a wealth of benefits to your organization, unlocking its potential. It can do the same to individual leaders, managers, and employees on a personal level.
Coaching can take your employees where they can’t take themselves.
What is a Coaching Culture?
A coaching culture relies on adopting a coaching mindset and coaching practices on every organizational level. The leaders, managers, and employees who make up a coaching culture communicate through meaningful and honest conversation, building an environment where:
- Information flows freely back and forth, aiming to unlock individual and organizational potential.
- Leaders and employees exchange feedback readily.
- The conversations that ensue may be short, but they are efficient at solving problems and providing support.
- Employees challenge each other to do better in alignment with the organizational purpose.
In my leadership coaching books and blog posts, I have always insisted that to understand the culture of an organization, one has to listen to the conversation around the water cooler. In successful organizations, this conversation is friendly, free-flowing, and, most importantly: coaching-focused.
The Benefits of Coaching Culture
By instilling a culture of coaching throughout your organization, you can:
- Make your employees feel more valued, engaged, and connected to your organizational purpose
- Encourage the psychological ownership of organizational goals
- Provide employees and leaders on all levels with a sense of purpose
- Encourage skill development, thereby stimulating productivity
- Streamline your leadership development programs, ensuring internal succession for top leadership roles
- Improve motivation and morale
- Reduce employee turnover, saving money and resources in the process
How to Build a Coaching Culture?
A coaching culture starts with executive coaching. Getting the leaders acquainted with the principles and benefits of a coaching culture is the equivalent of planting the seed.
Leadership coaching professionals engage in a trickle-down exercise, demonstrating the benefits of a coaching mindset to the top brass instead of asserting its value.
Making Coaching a Centerpiece of Organizational Leadership Development
After targeting the current executive brass of an organization, it makes sense to embed the coaching mindset in the leaders of the future. Senior managers and high potential employees make outstanding early adopters for such transformative concepts.
Coaching is about Asking Questions
Business coaching provides concrete solutions to concrete problems. Leadership coaching asks questions. It is better to ask employees what they like about their jobs than to ask them whether they like their jobs. Asking the right questions is an essential skill for coaching.
The right question carries its answer with it.
In the bustle of everyday corporate life, it’s easy to allow training sessions and various processes to hijack the essence of coaching. By asking the right questions, leaders, managers, and employees learn more about their reports and peers than through rigidly framed training sessions.
Actively Nurturing a Coaching Culture
The theories behind the coaching mindset are worth little without the willingness of company leadership to follow through with action. In this context, action translates to:
- Keeping the conversation channels open at all times
- Granting employees the opportunity to voice their feedback whenever they want
- Allowing all stakeholders to shape the coaching culture of the organization together with the leaders
Reassessing the Value of External Coaching Support
Organizations tend to look for outside support whenever they implement transformative measures. When establishing a culture of coaching, however, external support can be counterproductive.
The initial executive coaching can come from an external source. From there on, however, the organization has to rely on internal talent to lend the momentum and keep it going through the ranks.
To foster a culture of coaching, it is essential to get its basic building block, conversation, right. Emotionally intelligent, effective, and meaningful conversation may be more challenging to implement than one would think.
Check out my books to learn more about how to engage in such conversation.