How to build a coaching culture in you organization

To me coaching is not just a technique or a framework that you use once in a while in a one on one conversation with someone works below you. Coaching to me is a way of life. Coaching is something to live and breathe every moment of your interaction with other human beings. There was a time when coaching was aimed at derailing behaviors only. It was used to correct people and performance. Today coaching is widely used in the organizations to develop high potential employees, build future leaders, develop their strengths, and maximize their ability to have meaningful conversations with employees, peers and even superiors. How would you know whether your organization has a coaching culture or not?

Based on my decade long journey of studying organizations with powerful coaching culture, I have identified three major signs:
1) Your organization considers coaching as a serious leadership development tool.
2) Coaching tools and frameworks are democratized in a way that everyone in the organization utilizes coaching techniques in their day to day interactions.
3) Leaders prefer to embrace coaching style of leadership as their preferred way of leading.
You cannot build a coaching culture by hiring an external coach to run a coaching assignment with one or two of your executives. Coaching culture is built when organization crosses the boundaries of formal coaching and instills informal coaching as part of daily interactions. In our work with over 50 organizations around the world, we have noticed that the organizations that build a coaching culture instill in their employees both the mindset and the skillset to embrace coaching. In such organization people fearlessly engage in conversations with others. These conversations are based on candidness, respect. Reporting relationships dont obstacle these conversations. The focus is on improving the working relationship both at an individual and collective levels. Organizations that embed coaching in their culture make a conscious effort to produce Coach-Like Leaders. The leaders who can think like a coach, feel like a coach, listen like a coach and talk like a coach. These leaders understand the power of feedback. They use feedback exchange as the most influential learning tool.

Coach-Like Leaders produce a high-trust relationship with the people around them. The strength of this relationship allows them to connect with people at a different level. People feel the inner drive to give their very best. Accept more challenging roles. Take greater responsibility of the results and continuously improve performance.

Our research findings outline some of the most frequently witnessed features of a coaching culture:
1) Everyone in the organization speaks the common coaching language.
2) Leaders role model the behaviors they want to instill in their teams.
3) People at all levels show openness to feedback.
4) Coaching flows in all directions, up, down and sideways.
5) Decisions are made and executed faster with complete ownership.

According to the Behavior Coaching Institute, a coaching culture also guarantees reduced employee turnover, increased productivity, and greater employee happiness and satisfaction at work. Another research conducted by Eldridge and Dmobowski reveals that a coaching culture promotes more open communication, builds trust and respect, and improves working relationships. I have personally observed that in a coaching culture employees begin to recognize their role in facilitating the development of others. They take pride in enabling others take charge of their own growth and producing greater results without being pushed, monitored or supervised.

When organizations engage us to build a coaching culture, generally this discussion starts with one key question: where is our next generation of leaders coming from? organizations committed to strengthen their leadership pipeline are eager to find creative and strategic ways of building a sustained leadership pipeline. Coaching is making this possible for them faster. Because, fostering a coaching culture eventually means an organization is committed to accelerating the development of their leaders and other high-potential employees. Before you start the journey of building a coaching culture in your organizations; you need to focus on aligning coaching with your organizations strategic business goals. Without this alignment, coaching will fail to produce the desired impact.

Coaching should not be aimed at correcting performance. Coaching is not for the people who have already been written off. We clarify to the organizations that coaching culture cannot be created by viewing coaching as an intervention tool for poor performers. Sometimes coaching is offered to the employees who are at the risk of being fired from their jobs.

Here are the FIVE critical steps you need to take to build a coaching culture.
Have you fully articulated the desired leadership behaviors you want to reinforce as part of your culture?
ome of the top behaviors our clients wanted us to reinforce through building a coaching culture were the following:

Respectfully hold each other accountable for the behaviors and business results
Role model the behaviors leaders want to see across the organization Demonstrate greater sense of responsibility Engage with people through open exchange of dialog Play an active role in the learning and development for themselves and others Using two fundamental tools of coaching in every interaction i.e. asking powerful questions and deeply listening.

Does your partner (external coaching body, or coaching firm) fully understands your organizations vision and strategy? Did they invest significant amount of time knowing your companys culture?

You need to ensure that the coaching not only will fully be aligned with the strategy and vision but also will support it. Coaching interventions should also reinforce the values of the organization. It is also important for the externally engaged coaching partners to know how your organization will measure and quantify the success of this initiative. You need to clarify your expectations around measuring the Return on Investment.
You should also make a deliberate effort to align coaching culture with your people strategy.

If aligned well, coaching culture will focus on coaching through feedback and continuous learning and accountability.

Have you aligned the coaching program with your leadership framework or other leadership development initiatives your organization is working on?

In order to this, your internal and external coaches should invest time understanding your leadership pipeline. This might include course outlines of other offerings, leadership competencies, and assessment used to spot and develop leaders.

Coaches need to know the skills and behaviors taught in those courses and see the relevance of those courses to build a coaching culture. Coaches can also plan to leverage business meetings, group interactions, forums for high potentials and orientations etc. to leverage the reinforcement of core concepts of creating a coaching culture.

Ultimate benefit of coaching culture would be when leaders start spotting coachable moments. Instead of telling people what they think they should do, they develop an eye for finding the opportunities to coach their teams. Contrary to traditional one way command and control style of communication; coaching conversations produce a meaningful, two-way feedback loop. When leaders act like coaches and build a proper feedback loop it results in continuous learning and growth of their teams. This feedback loop ensures that the ideas are exchanged, truth is heard, and responsibility is accepted, not imposed.

Building a team of internal coaches who share the same mindset and passion for coaching is critical in building a coaching culture. What is their process of selecting, training and facilitating qualified coaches?

How will you identify them, train them, equip them with coaching skills and processes, and evaluate their success? Once this team of coaches is built, its not over. You need to constantly keep these coaches informed and updated on the latest tools and trends available in coaching. Coaching culture is much beyond simply using external coaches to run executive coaching assignments. Coaching culture lays the foundation of accepting coaching as a way of living, a way of interacting with others and a way of being. In all the assignments we have accepted in the last 14 years, we have always convinced the top leaders to role model the coaching behaviors themselves. It means, coaching culture starts at the top. Once leaders at the top are convinced with the idea to walk the talk; they begin to understand that coaching culture requires a strategic, comprehensive and systemic approach to developing future leaders. When leaders at the top level exhibit courage, engage in open dialog, show comfort in giving and receiving feedback, hold each other accountable, and demonstrate full commitment to their ongoing learning and development; coaching culture automatically becomes a reality. In the end, coaching style of leadership needs reinforcement. Leaders at all levels must be recognized and rewarded for using coaching as their preferred style of leading and interacting with their teams. Therefore, coaching behaviors should be aligned and reflected in performance assessment processes of the organization. To make a coaching culture initiative, all the stakeholders must work collaboratively. Organization should engage an external coaching body as a delivery partner to provide each other ongoing feedback. This will ensure an ongoing cycle of continued growth and learning. At the days end, you dont want to build a coaching culture that diminishes in few months time. Sticking the five step outlined above will allow you to increase the likelihood that the newly created coaching culture will last and extend beyond the organization and to the external coaching partner.

Organization that invest in embedding a coaching culture enjoy the greater rewards of having happy and satisfied employees, achievement of bottom line results and retaining deeply satisfied customers for the longer run.