Since 2001, we’ve coached leaders in organizations at the forefront of the digital revolution, such as Microsoft and HP. Over this time, we’ve seen how the threat of disruption and the need to innovate have driven new ways of doing business.
The good news is that many organizations are quickly adapting to new distribution channels and business models made possible by modern technology. However, keeping up with emerging trends in culture and management styles has proven to be much more difficult.
A common assumption we’ve encountered is a belief that if leaders learn some coaching skills, they will be better positioned to motivate and inspire employees, and will therefore deliver stronger results.
Although that is technically true, this is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Coaching isn’t just a set of skills, it is also a mindset and a role that leaders must choose to adopt. Whether or not leaders in your organization can become effective coaches depends largely on the type of culture present in your organization.
|Command & Control Culture||Coaching Culture|
|Asking for help is frowned upon and seen as suspicious||Asking for guidance is expected and encouraged|
|People don’t look forward to their annual performance reviews||Feedback is given openly and in good faith on a continuous basis|
|Problems and mistakes are hidden from superiors whenever possible||Employees display courageous accountability and “own up” to mistakes|
|People aren’t trusted to do the right thing without guidance||People are trusted and empowered to rise to the occasion|
|If someone needs feedback, that means something is being done wrong||Feedback is seen as a gift that elevates performance|
Command & Control Cultures
The type of culture many leaders are used to working in is known as a “Command & Control” culture. In organizations where this style dominates, employees are expected to follow orders and stick to protocols – no questions asked.
In a “Command & Control” culture, people get ahead by demonstrating competence and hiding failure. Open conversations with a supervisor are rare, especially when they are about challenges and weak points.
On the other hand, a coaching culture fosters openness and trust between employees and leaders. People are still expected to meet performance expectations, while concerns and issues can be tabled without fear of judgment.
With a coaching culture, people are encouraged to take responsibility for contributing to their own growth and development. This leads to important questions getting asked earlier, increasing organizational speed and fostering better conversations.
Building a coaching culture starts with promoting a coaching mindset
A coaching mindset is about creating safety and promoting openness. How leaders behave when people make missteps and share opposing ideas determines the type of culture in your organization. Coaching cultures foster stronger relationships and enable powerful conversation which in turn increases creativity and contribution.