Credentialed coaches can help you create a coaching culture in your organisation.
Imagine standing face to face with another person, your hands pressed against theirs. Now imagine pushing against each other with just enough pressure to be uncomfortable. What is that experience? Resistance, unwelcome force, maybe your brow is creased with effort and your lips pursed in determination. Now, imagine standing again in the same position. Rather than pushing, think of swaying side to side with your partner. How is this experience different? Is it like a dance? Perhaps you are smiling and laughing together. Given the option, which would you prefer?
I have conducted this exercise with groups around the world, and the result is always the same. At the start, most are reluctant to participate, unsure of what to expect. When we conclude, inevitably, the energy in the room has changed from discomfort to optimism. A group once averse to taking part becomes open and energized. This simple exercise illustrates two radically different paths for change initiatives: one filled with fear and uncertainty and one that flows with ease and connection. With all the change in the world today compounded by a global pandemic, how can a company find its ‘sway’ and become a high-performing organization (HPO)?
According to the Building a Coaching Culture for Change Management, a 2018 study from the International Coaching Federation and the Human Capital Institute, HPOs report as much as 31% more success than all other organizations in the most common change efforts like changes in business process, leadership or mergers and acquisitions. Among the 14 dimensions identified, those organizations with a systemic approach to coaching are more likely to observe better talent and business outcomes. What is the secret to their success?
Of almost 450 companies surveyed, those with strong coaching cultures were more than twice as likely to be HPOs and reap the rewards of internal mobility, employee engagement and succession planning. The impact on change initiatives translates into greater business outcomes and improving the bottom line. The key to this is investing in employee development.
Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Employees who are satisfied with their job, their supervisor and their opportunities typically do not feel the need to seek out other employment.
Creating a coaching culture begins by putting the right pieces in place. ICF and HCI identified six building blocks of a strong coaching culture:
- Employees value coaching;
- Senior executives value coaching;
- All three coaching modalities (internal coach practitioners, external coach practitioners and managers/leaders using coaching skills) are present;
- Internal coach practitioners and managers/leaders using coaching skills receive accredited coach training;
- Coaching is a fixture in the organization with a dedicated line item in the budget; and
- All employees have an equal opportunity to work with a professional coach practitioner.
Coaching’s highly adaptable nature has led to it becoming an enterprise-wide activity. It has brought about a shift in the management paradigm, away from command and control to leadership based on inclusion, involvement and participation. Coaching has evolved from being perceived as a corrective measure to a vehicle for the development of human potential.
Expanding the use and influence of coaching has positioned professionally trained coaches as important partners in creating successful change. Despite an increasing number of organizations incorporating coaching to drive personal, professional and organizational growth, there are still obstacles to building strong coaching cultures, as reported in the 2020 ICF Global Coaching Study (GCS). According to the GCS, coach practitioners in South Africa say they perceive the top two potential obstacles to be limited support from senior leaders (53%) and lack of budget for coaching activities (49%). This closely mirrors global responses and is reminiscent of elements found to be hallmarks of strong coaching cultures. So, what is standing in the way of successful partnerships between companies and skilled professional coaches?
An argument can be made for market confusion and market dilution. When a marketplace is misaligned or unclear about defining a skilled practice, such as coaching, different interpretations can erode that profession. Confusion about what coaching is (Is it mentoring? Tutoring? Training?) coupled with a perception that anyone can call themselves a coach leads to inconsistency and distrust. In fact, half of the professional coaches in South Africa responding to the GCS say untrained individuals who call themselves coaches pose the biggest obstacle to the industry.
This illuminates the need for a consistent understanding of what coaching is (and is not), the importance of professional standards and expertise, adherence of coaches to a globally recognized code of ethics, and the trust and confidentiality that comes from hiring a credentialed coach. Consistency matters to a growing profession and that means being clear and explicit about the quality of coaches. The GCS showed a sharp rise among managers/leaders using coaching skills in the strength of agreement that clients expect their coaches to be certified/credentialed. This is good news for the industry and for clients of coaching and will start to address market dilution.
Think about selecting a financial advisor, seeking medical advice or pouring the foundation of a new home. Training and certification matter. Coaching is no different. More than a piece of paper, researching and hiring certified coaches safeguards against unethical behavior. Ethics are standards of professional conduct, the principles and values an individual uses to govern their activities and decisions. Where there are ethics, you will find the highest quality professionals and a community that is assured of diversity and inclusion, sensitivity to cultures, and ensuring no harm. Individuals and organizations deserve this assurance.
Defined by the ICF as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, coaching is a powerful tool that impacts individuals and organizations. As you create a culture that is open to change, when aiming to achieve business outcomes through the investment in people, and when selecting your partners for success in change management, be sure you know without a doubt what stands behind the reputation of any individual, organization or industry. It is then you may find your ‘sway.’
In 2020, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) celebrates 25 years as the global organization for coaches and coaching. ICF is dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches across a variety of coaching disciplines. Its 41,000-plus members located in 147 countries and territories work toward the common goal of enhancing awareness of coaching, upholding the integrity of the profession, and continually educating themselves with the newest research and practices.
Ann Rindone, ACC, is the Vice-President of ICF Professional Coaches. She is based in Omaha, Nebraska, in the USA. As Vice President for the ICF Professional Coaches Organization, Ann leads global development through membership growth strategies, collaborative relationships with stakeholders, and promoting ICF excellence to external audiences to elevate the profile of coaching as part of a thriving society.