Bill Gates famously said, “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player. We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Now, just imagine if coaching pervaded your entire organization – everyone is either a coach or a coachee. Can you imagine how much your organization will improve, let alone individual employees?
In the “State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report”, Gallup CEO Jon Clifton wrote, “What can leaders do today to potentially save the world? Gallup has found one clear answer: Change the way your people are managed.”
Well, creating a coaching culture in your organization will not only change how your people are managed – it will change your organization and, if enough companies do it, coaching culture will change the world. That is the promise and potential of a coaching culture.
What is a coaching culture?
In a workplace, a “coaching culture” is “one where every employee, regardless of their level, is empowered to learn, grow and develop to their fullest potential, and feels supported by their leaders” (Forbes). At the heart of a coaching culture is the premise that every employee is resourceful enough to come up with answers and solutions to his or her own questions or problems, and has the power to hold him/herself accountable to get the job done. Therefore, a coaching culture is a workplace where people welcome feedback from others, share feedback with others in good faith without fear of retribution or pushback, and trust and respect their colleagues at all levels of their organization. A coaching culture requires all these building blocks if it is to be robust and succeed over the long haul.
Why is a coaching culture important for your organization?
A coaching culture is important for your organization for many reasons – here are my top three.
A coaching culture can increase your organization’s performance by unlocking your employees’ potential. According to the Gallup report, there was a 20% to 28% higher likelihood of high performance by their teams after 14,000 managers were provided coaching training.
A coaching culture can build a positive supervisor-subordinate relationship. British business consultant and author Marcus Buckingham said, “people leave managers, not companies.” 2019 research by DDI prove this claim: 57% quit their manager. However, Gallup recorded a 21% to 28% reduction in employee turnover after it trained managers in coaching.
A coaching culture can increase employee engagement. There was an 8% to 18% higher employee engagement after Gallup’s coaching training for managers. “Employees who feel trusted and supported by their manager are 3.4 times more engaged” (David Morel, Forbes).
Challenges to create a coaching culture
As in any change initiative, creating a coaching culture is not without its challenges.
The top challenge is lack of leadership support and buy-in. If the leader of the organization does not understand the value of a coaching culture and does not have the personal attributes that go with it (for example: humility, listening, and vulnerability), then a coaching culture is unlikely to take root.
A second challenge is resistance from senior management and line managers due to a lack of knowledge about a coaching culture and what it can do for them, their teams, and the organization.
A lack of time and resources can also hinder the roll out of a coaching culture.
Another challenge can be the organizational culture itself. Organizations with huge power-differentials, autocratic leadership, poor communication, and low trust and respect are huge barriers to the establishment of a coaching culture.
How to instill a coaching culture in your organization
Obviously, the most important thing is for the leader herself to experience the power and possibilities of coaching, so that she can evangelize, cajole, and compel the adoption of a coaching culture across her organization. The leader must also walk the talk: she needs to demonstrate coaching qualities in her behavior. For example, if she doesn’t listen actively to members of her own leadership team, it is unlikely that others in the organization are going to embrace a coaching culture.
In addition, the leader must galvanize the early adopters, especially those in his leadership team, to push the coaching culture envelope across the organization.
Third, training must be provided to leadership team members and line managers, so that they have the tools as well as the personal qualities (for example: humility, active listening skills, and vulnerability) to coach their people.
Fourth, coaching must be integrated into every learning and development program of the organization. For example, every leadership development program must have a mandatory, comprehensive, and effective coaching training module.
Ideally, bonuses, increments, and promotions must be tied to the completion of coaching training as well as the employee’s performance as a coach to his team.
If the lack of time and resources is an issue, then a coaching culture can be initiated as a pilot project in one of the departments or business units, and gradually spread to other areas of the organization later.
If the organization culture itself is a barrier to establish a coaching culture, then the leader must first change himself and the culture of his organization before attempting to institute a coaching culture.
Given the many benefits of having a coaching culture in your organization, you should now move swiftly, deliberately, and decisively to make a coaching culture an integral part of your organization’s identity, etched in its very DNA. The fruits of your labor will be a high-performing, agile, and resilient organization. Which leader would not want to have that?