Cultivating a Coaching Culture in Your Organisation



By Louise Mc Namara, Director at Invisio 

Indulge me for a moment and think about the things that concerned you in your work life before the current crisis. Were you concerned about any, or indeed all of these?:

1.    Customer experience
2.    Risk of errors
3.    Profitability
4.    Employee retention into the future
5.    Employee well being
6.    Engaging your employees
7.    How you are responding to the changing landscape?

And what about now, in the current world crisis, have any of these concerns gone away? Or do some of them concern you even more?


I will revisit these seven areas later in this article. In the meantime, let’s talk about cultivating a coaching culture in your organisation. It may seem like an indulgence in these times but I believe that it is even more important now than ever. In part 1 of this article, I will explore what is a coaching culture and why it matters; the business case. In part 2, I will go on to explore what a journey toward cultivating a coaching culture might look like and share some case examples of such journeys. 



What is a coaching culture?
Simply put ‘a coaching culture is one where not only formal coaching occurs, but where most people use coaching behaviours as a means of leading others’, Fiona Eldridge.

In his book The Heart of Coaching, Tom Crane says ‘a coaching culture is present when all members of the culture fearlessly engage in candid, respectful coaching conversations, unrestricted by reporting relationships, about how they can improve their working relationships, and individual and collective work performance. 

All have learned to value and effectively use feedback as a powerful learning tool to produce personal and professional development, high-trust working relationships, continually improving job performance, and ever-increasing customer satisfaction.’

If you unpick this definition of a coaching culture, how would it be to have this culture in your organisation? What difference would it make to you, your managers and teams and the organisation? What difference would it make to your customers, your users, your stakeholders? 

As I think about this definition, a quote we all know well comes to mind ‘success is a journey, not a destination’. So where is your organisation on this journey? Where would you like it to be?

Some of the typical behaviours in organisations with a strong coaching culture include:
-    Within specific areas, employees are invited to come up with their own solutions and ways to achieve the set goals
-    Managers are applying coaching skills and a coaching attitude during team meetings and conversations across the organisation 
-    Within set boundaries, people are involved in decision making processes and feel more committed and involved
-    Problems are explored in a non-judgmental way, by asking the question ‘what can we learn from this for the future’.
-    Employees recognise their own responsibilities and challenges and are the leaders of their self-developmental journey.

Is cultivating a coaching culture, or enhancing the coaching culture you already have, something you believe will benefit your organisation? You might believe it is but are you ‘pushing an open door’ so to speak? If not, you might need  to make a business case to  get the commitment you need to move forward. 



The Business Case for a Cultivating Coaching Culture
You may have attended the recent IITD member event where Donald Taylor shared the results of his annual Global Sentiment Survey ‘What will be hot in L&D in 2020?’ where he shared that the number 1 response, in Ireland, was coaching & mentoring. Of course that was completed by L&D professionals, but what will convince your organisation leaders that it makes sense?


Would your organisation leaders be interested in a culture that has the potential to result in:
-    Improve organisation results
-    An ability and appetite to adapt as needed
-    A commitment to the process of development and learning by all
-    Increased productivity
-    Greater employee happiness at work
-    Open communication
-    Greater trust and respect
-    Improved working relationships
-    A conscious focus by all on developing talent at all levels
-    People showing greater compassion for each other


Research from Centre for Creative Leadership, The Behavioural Coaching Institute, Eldridge and Dembowski  and Sherman and Freas indicate that a coaching culture positively impacts all of these. 
Getting back to the 7 concerns you considered earlier, all of those are impacted by employee engagement as you will see in the table below. Cultivating a culture of coaching within an organisation has quickly becoming a key enabler of  enhancing employee engagement. 




We often hear about the five generations at work. Which of these generations is most prevalent in your organisation? Millennials make up around 30% of the workforce. They want real-time feedback. They want coaching, they actually know what coaching is, and they are expecting to have those types of conversations with their manager,


What about your performance reviews? Do people look forward to them? When you build a coaching culture, that empowers everyone to be able to have real-time, powerful conversations in the moment to address challenges, behavioural issues, and also give that positive feedback, the focus on formal performance reviews reduces and conversations are more meaningful. 


In part 2 of this article, which will be published next month, we will explore what a journey to cultivating a coaching culture might look like as well as sharing some case examples. 


Find out more about Coaching by Invisio here  


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