Evoking a Coaching Culture

“How do you “create” a coaching culture in an organization? What can I do to “establish” a coaching culture in my organization?” These are valid questions that HR, people officers, talent developers, organizational developers and leaders are asking themselves a lot these days. They have discovered the benefits of coaching and would like everyone in their organization to share the joy. They have realized how much more effective people can be and how much faster they can grow when they are coached rather than told what to do. Remember the old Steve Job’s quote: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do — we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

The danger is that people armored with new-found enthusiasm for coaching start evangelizing in their organization and put off anyone who does not want to be “converted”. Sometimes well intentioned initiatives go wrong because the coaching mindset goes out the window and is replaced by an almost missionary fervor to make everyone a great coach. I’ve seen performance indicators and annual goals specifying “development of coaching skills” or “adopting a coaching mindselt”. Another often used mechanism is a broad rollout of (almost) mandatory standard coach training programs.

Ok, I must admit, I have not seen data — but to me it seem that these initiatives cannot work. In a sense and staying within the metaphor they are not practicing what they are preaching. You simply cannot “make” someone a coach who does not want to be a coach. You’ll be generating (well-founded) cynicism and resistance (yes, I mentioned the word!).

So what instead? If you want to go fast, go slow. Here are some of the things you might consider (but as always, you’ll have to check what works in your organization — there is no one-size-fits-all):

Define “Coaching Culture

Suppose you had the best coaching culture in the known universe, how would you know? What would you be noticing? What would others be noticing? How would they respond? How would the others respond? — get a rich picture of what you’d be seeing. Include all areas of your organization:

  • how would recruiting be different?
  • how would onboarding be different?
  • how would performance management be different?
  • how would talent development be different?
  • how would succession planning be different?
  • how would exits from the company be different?
  • how would the different units of the company be different?

Always start by looking at the resources

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is that your organization is exactly where you want it to be, where are you now in these fields? What is already working well? Who are the people who are already living a coaching culture?

Work with the resources

Evolution tops revolution. Start with those areas in your company who are already espousing a coaching mindset. Highlight their successes, make them attractive. Ask yourself: “If we were one step higher on the scale, what would we be seeing?” and go for those small steps. And only work with those who want to work with you — they’ll come around soon enough if they see that it is easier and more fun to work in a “coaching way”.

You cannot “create” or “establish” a coaching culture — you can only evoke it. As our friend Dani Meier from solutionsurfers says: “The grass does not grow faster if you pull it.”

If you want to learn more come to one of our free coaching meetups and exchanges.