Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of organizations that are talking about their desire to implement a “coaching culture”.
As most industries shift to favor agility and speed, leaders realize that it’s important for employees to be empowered to make quick decisions in support of broader organizational goals. In order for people to move quickly, the need for psychological safety and trust in the workplace become more important.
Ultimately, moving to a ‘coaching culture’ accomplishes these objectives by empowering people to move faster and contribute to the overall success of the organization at a higher level.
What is Coaching? How Does it Work?
Coaching is a mindset, a skillset, and a role that operates from a place of safety and trust. Unlike mentors, managers, or leaders, coaches don’t assume expertise or subject matter authority. Instead, coaches carefully manage a process of discovery and exploration with clients that helps them gain clarity, focus, and direction. It is important to understand that coaches are not there to give you the answers, but to help you better understand yourself and others to make the best choices in every situation for success and happiness.
When leaders and managers learn to use coaching skills in their roles, they are empowered to become better listeners and more holistic thinkers. They also become more skilled at exploring options and opportunities with others.This method of interacting with employees supports them to take more responsibility for their actions and development. When they feel empowered, they take on more responsibility for decisions they make.
How Coaching Cultures are Created with Coaching Programs
When organizations begin to foster coaching skills in their leaders and managers (usually through a training program), they begin to see a few things happen:
- First, feedback begins flowing faster through the organization. Leaders are equipped to have deeper, more vulnerable conversations up, across, and especially down. Not only does this increase individual performance, but it also allows information to be exchanged more readily between teams and silos.
- Second, people start feeling more safe at work. Because they are able to have honest conversations with their leaders and coworkers, employees have a better sense of “where they stand”. Conflict and imperfection can now be seen as a necessary-yet-difficult part of working together, as opposed to things to be avoided, downplayed, or punished.
- Third, people start to become more curious. A core element of coaching is inquiry – asking powerful questions of others to help them think through things from different perspectives is the best (perhaps only) way to help them truly grow. This spills over into meetings, projects, and conversations with suppliers and vendors. Problems get uncovered faster, issues get resolved sooner, and people are more “in the loop”.
- Finally, the level of openness in a coaching culture is something that sets it apart from other types of organizational culture. The psychological safety and question-asking habits create unique opportunities for vulnerability and candor. When organizational communication is this open, things get done faster as no one is trying to hide issues from others.
Coaching Cultures Don’t Just Manifest on their Own!
Although these four core elements of a coaching culture tend to remain the same across organizations, how those elements are interpreted and enacted within a specific organization will vary. There can be many different “flavours” of coaching culture, depending on what type of culture already exists. Feedback could be supportive and reinforcing, or it could be a little more no-holds-barred.
Similarly, an organizational culture with a high level of safety could be all smiles and hugs, or it could have a practical “get down to business” attitude that lets people share ideas more freely, even if they get shot down after some brief consideration. When we work with clients to develop coaching skills training programs, one of the most important success factors for the program is how well the content and delivery are aligned to the culture that already exists. Our focus is to customize to what is already working well in your culture and then adding to it.
Connect with Your High Potential Employees – Creating a Coaching Culture
Yesterday, I met with the President of an international construction company. We were discussing his desire to provide better mentor-ship to some high-potential young leaders in the company and yet he was challenged with the scarcity of time he has. He said it would be useful to invest in a coaching program to implement a quality coaching culture in his organization.
This is a common topic for the executives we coach, so much to do…so little time.
So the question is…
- How do you prioritize?
- How do you decide where to put your energy?
Many prioritize according to what needs to be done now, which seems to make sense as these to-do items appear to be more urgent.
However, think about this…
- How urgent is it that you develop a pipeline of capable leaders in your organization?
- How urgent is it that you set your company up for successful growth?
How urgent is it that you have people in “entry level” leadership positions that are fully engaged and excited about contributing value to the organization?
Mr. President and I brainstormed how he could connect with young leaders in a 5-minute walk along conversation. Here’s what we came up with that he felt would serve him:
What’s going well?
- This helps them focus on and share the positive things that are happening. It is easy for entry level leaders to get mired in what is ‘not perfect’ so helping them celebrate the wins is important! Having a team that is comfortable is essential to building a coaching culture within the workplace.
What’s getting in your way? What are the obstacles to a coaching culture?
- This lets them know you are interested in hearing about the obstacles, that you want to know what they are struggling with, that talking about failure is acceptable and encouraged.
- It will also keep you abreast of how things are going in the organization in general, especially if ‘obstacles’ include such things as cross-department collaboration
The biggest step in creating a coaching culture is understanding that your employees are human, and in order to see them perform well, or understand why they are struggling, you must get to know them on a more personal level.
How can I help?
- This encourages them to ask for help if it is legitimately needed to navigate a situation, or gain permission to take a higher degree of ownership if it is something that is within their control to sort out
What questions can you come up with to create a 5-minute connect with your team that will be impactful and help emphasize the coaching culture that you want to create in your organization?
Share below and comment!
Are you ready to implement a coaching culture?
- How close is your current culture to a coaching culture?
- How quickly does information flow in your organization?
- Are problems buried or highlighted in a candid and safe way?
- How safe do people feel proposing changes to the status quo?
We understand the many demands on you as an HR leader and the demands to skill up your talent, give them growth opportunities, support their success in role and ready leaders for higher roles that secure the success of your organization in the long-term.
We work with HR leaders to create a proactive, flexible, and results focused program. We work strategically to add on to what is already working well in your organization. And then deliver on our promises to manage your program well and deliver strong results to support the success of you and your team.
This short, simple, and practical guide is written for leaders who are looking to understand and harness the power of coaching cultures and coaching skills in their teams and organizations.