Knowledge Center: Article

Leadership Development

Creating a Coaching Culture That Works


 Coaching culture

The UK’s economy is growing at the fastest pace since the recession, yet organizations still face uncertainty. Since this volatility is set to continue for the foreseeable future, organizations must look within to grow and flourish. Enabling leaders and employees to succeed is a crucial part of ensuring competitive advantage. Those who realize their full potential can have a dramatic impact on financial performance, employee motivation and engagement, and a whole host of other metrics within the business. 

Create an underlying mind-set change 

How do you enable your employees to perform at the best of their abilities in the long term? Creating a coaching culture within an organization is one of the best ways to create an underlying mind-set change. This strategy is much better than merely attempting to change how your employees behave. A mind-set shift is far more permanent and has a domino effect by helping individuals change their behaviors. A leader who focuses just on, say, IT and his or her responsibilities in this part of the organization is far less effective than one who considers his or her accountability for the whole organization and how it operates and who then acts accordingly. Shifting the mind-set of leaders can have a dramatic financial and strategic impact on the business and can help eradicate inefficiencies or ineffectiveness and promote growth and entrepreneurial agility.

While investing in leadership development can bring tangible business benefits, it is expensive in time, money and opportunity cost. Therefore, organizations implementing a coaching culture want to ensure that it is one that allows them to deliver sustainable impact and that benefits far outweigh any costs.

Often leaders have clear problems that they wish to overcome through development, such as managing their stakeholders or their team more effectively. Ironically, for those looking in at senior leaders, one of the areas that leaders often struggle with is confidence. Many are still waiting to “be found out” and this can manifest itself in limiting behaviors, such as disempowering or controlling their direct reports. This can impact the team as a whole, especially since one of the most cited reasons for people leaving a company is the way that managers behave. Great coaching starts by identifying the problems that participants wish to overcome and ascertaining clear development objectives. However, this alone is not enough. Coaches must identify clear performance goals that fall out of these objectives so they can measure the impact and success of the training. 

Tracking performance has a positive effect on the individual and the company as a whole. Leaders throughout the organization will have more confidence in coaching if they can measure the results and see if they have a tangible effect on the business. Tying development to performance goals or other measures also gives the participant clear reasons to change the way they behave. If a leader focuses his or her efforts on retaining three large clients at risk and uses the development to help them do so, they have more impetus to achieve this goal. This ensures that participants are accountable for the return on coaching investment, and it is clear to see if they are working to replace limiting behaviors and mind-sets with liberating ones. 

Keep open communication with management

Coaching cannot be undertaken in isolation. Just as it is important to link development objectives and real-world results, it is also crucial to involve the participant’s manager in the training. While the coaching itself should be confidential in order to engender trust, setting up ‘three-way’ meetings between the leader and his or her manager is critical. These sessions help coaches understand the manager’s expectations and allow for leaders to get feedback and gain the organization support that will help them to develop successfully. Meeting managers again at a future time also helps maintain momentum and track the leader’s progress.

When companies look to implement a development culture, they tend to focus on mid- to senior-tier level leaders because they are understandably seen to have the most impact on the business. However, these are not the only employees who will benefit from a coaching culture. It is often said that businesses are only as good as their best employee. In these uncertain times, many companies are seeking to ensure that all their employees are working at their full potential, not just their best employee. A well-implemented coaching culture is clearly beneficial for the business, including financially. But unless it is well structured, relevant, and contextually useful, it will have less impact. 

This article was originally published in Institute of Leadership & Management on February 17, 2015