Having worked as an internal coach in a small/medium enterprise and now consulting as an external coach practitioner, it is my honor to share my experience in creating a coaching culture in organizations.
Deﬁnition of a Coaching Culture
When we talk of culture within an organization, the best way to deﬁne it is to describe it as an organization’s character and way of living.
A coaching culture in an organization speaks of a strategy that embodies a coach-like mindset and approach to the way of working within the organization that encourages employee engagement, productivity, and performance. These characteristics enable a good communication ethos where ALL employees are enabled to listen attentively respecting each employee as the expert of their own lives and their work, to be curious in asking questions instead of always “telling”, to maintain open and honest communication within a safe and trusting environment without judgement and fear of retribution leading to increased employee motivation and productivity; and it encourages learning and development of employees so that employees are enabled and equipped to fulﬁl their responsibilities.
“Those who have a “why” to live, can bear with almost any “how!” – Viktor E. Frankl
No matter the size of the organization it is always important, to begin with, the “why” you would want to create a coaching culture. If the above deﬁnition is not enough motivation, then here are a few more ideas on why an organization would want to create a coaching culture:
An organization may ask themselves DO WE WANT:
1. Engaged Employees who are happy and motivated, working smartly and eﬃciently?
It should always begin with the Employees, who are an organization’s greatest asset and who together build great teams.
- Mentally and emotionally engaged employees
- Enabled and Empowered employees
- High Staff retention and low turn over
- Increased employee responsibility and ownership
- Developing a high-Performance culture
2. An organization that creates an environment for employees to feel safe to speak up, to learn, to connect, to innovate, to collaborate, to grow and to be open to change?
3. A Healthy Team Dynamic which is important in the daily routine of any organization.
- Effective leadership of teams
- Better communication within teams where employees feel respected and understood.
- Improved Team cohesion with increased collaboration, innovation, and performance
- Sustainability of change
4. Leadership who is equipped to lead their teams with a high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and a coach-like approach?
- With strong leadership capability to grow and support their teams
- A strong leadership team who will effectively drive the vision and strategy of the organization.
5. Organizational success with satisﬁed clients?
It is important that business is agile when dealing with customers. In my opinion a strong connection between business agility and a coaching culture can be observed as follows: o Increased productivity and quality of delivery
- Eﬃcient processes and ways of working
- Change Management success
Once the “why” has been established it is important for the organization to begin with a strategic plan of action, a vision, and the desired outcome. The organization will then be able to discover “how” to create a coaching culture that is sustainable during times of change and uncertainty.
1. Build a strong business case for creating a coaching culture that will convince ALL stakeholders of the beneﬁts (the good reasons “why”).
- A coaching culture is only effective and successful when inﬂuenced from the Executive level.
- Leaders who lead with a coach-like approach has a bigger impact within the workplace.
- A clear strategy, vision, and plan for developing a coaching culture will inspire the employees.
- Measurable outcomes for ROI are important to all stakeholders.
2. The Coaching strategy, plan and process may look different from organization to organization depending on the needs, the strategy, the number of employees, and the budget. There is no “one size ﬁts all” strategy or plan.
3. The organization should appoint a “champion for the change” to make it happen! Identify a person or team, usually within the HR function, who will champion the coaching culture and who will drive the plan of action and the progress to seek signs of progress and continuous improvement.
- Regularly review progress to measure what it is working, what may need to be improved and what is not working.
- Continuous improvement ensures that the coaching culture is sustainable to provide the best value.
- Continuous improvement encourages innovative ideas and new development in the coaching culture during times of change.
Partnering with others to co-create the coaching culture you hope to create within the organization.
1. Contract External Professional Coaches, credentialed ICF coaches, who will bring professional coaching skills.
2. Engage Internal ICF Credentialed Coaches who may be existing employees who have requested to train as coaches through accredited institutions.
3. Equip Executives, Leaders and Managers with coach-like skills through training interventions, which will address.
- How communication happens within teams, how meetings are chaired, how processes are developed, how decisions are made, and how change management interventions are rolled out.
- Executive Coaching with the Executives, Leaders and Managers so that they have ﬁrsthand experiences of the beneﬁts of coaching especially.
- Individual employees 1:1 coaching session especially those who may beneﬁt from coaching.
- Team coaching and Group coaching which has proven to be highly effective and possibly more cost effective.
- Individual coaching and team coaching makes coaching accessible to ALL employees.
- Support other training and development programs with coaching interventions to encourage the application of the newly acquired skills.
“What” are the noticeable signs of an organization with a coaching culture?
Engaged Employees + Healthy Team Dynamics = Successful Organization
1. Greater Business Impact in the industry and the community with better productivity and quality of deliverables.
- Satisﬁed and happy Clients who speak highly of the organization which is great for marketing and hopefully encourages the Clients to pay for good service and products.
- Great Communication ethos throughout the organization.
2. Agility to embrace change because there is a greater acceptance and willingness to change.
- Employees are equipped for change because they have been enabled with a coach-like mindset to be creative and agile when faced with change.
3. Cost saving on Recruitment because the organization has a high staff retention.
4. Employees who know that they matter to the organization, and this shows up in the way that:
- Employees speak highly of their organization and the leadership which is great for marketing and for attracting potential employees.
- Employee wellbeing where you have mentally and emotionally ﬁt and healthy Employees, and happy and balanced Employees who will want to go that extra mile when it is crunch time.
5. Increased responsibility and ownership within employees who receive training and development equipping them to fulﬁll their duties well.
- Applied Learning from Training and development programs and courses which adds more value to the cost of the training.
6. Teams that work well together guided by great leadership towards a uniﬁed purpose:
- Communication in a co-created safe, respectful, and trusting environment.
7. Empowering leaders and the team to have thought-provoking conversations.
8. Listening attentively, asking curious questions
9. Employees feel safe to share their ideas, thoughts, innovations (even their mistakes) because of the trusting and safe environment.
10.Employees have the courage to have those diﬃcult conversations because their EQ has been developed.
- Teams are working well together with better team cohesion, with respect for one another and their various roles AND a shared responsibility to produce quality results.
- Good Performance Management system where performance is managed well with openness, eﬃciency, maturity, and respect.
The greatest beneﬁt of performance management in a coach-like manner is about the growth and development of employees which results in improved and sustainable productivity.
In conclusion, some of the challenges to implementing a coaching culture should be discussed so that a balanced viewpoint may be given.
- The lack of motivation and support from the CEO and senior management will be a barrier to implementing a coaching culture.
- Contracting with External Professional Coaches who are not a suitable ﬁt for the company and the employees can prove to be detrimental to the coaching process and the coaching culture.
- Misunderstanding about Employee (Clients) conﬁdentiality and the Company (Sponsor) expectation.
- If existing employees are trained and employed as Internal Coaches, there could be a conﬂict of interest in their distinct roles.
Clear roles and responsibilities should be established with clear mandates that comply with the ICF code of ethics.
- The value of professional credentialed coaching is not acknowledged or fully understood by senior management / ﬁnancial teams / stakeholders.
- Not having a champion for the change management intervention to implement a coaching culture.
- Training interventions may not take priority with the result that team managers may see the coaching sessions as a waste of time.
- As the company changes and grows being inﬂuenced through other economic factors it may be diﬃcult to maintain the coaching culture.
- Employees may not trust the coaching at the beginning, especially if there has been a culture of distrust.
- A Coaching culture grows and develops employees to the point that they may want to leave the organization and spread their wings.
I cannot express enough the beneﬁts of creating and sustaining a coaching culture within organizations.
Since 2014, ICF’s research collaboration with the Human Capital Institute (HCI) has benchmarked the criteria for strong coaching cultures in organizations. 2019 Building Strong Coaching Cultures for the Future research is designed as an update to prior studies, with an emphasis on the activities associated with building a strong coaching culture; namely, program design and implementation, professional development for internal coaches and managers/leaders using coaching skills, and evaluation of coaching impact.
If you need support on your organisation’s and leader’s coaching journey, do contact us at email@example.com and our team of ICF volunteers in South Africa will be happy to help.
Debra Thurtell is an ICF PCC certified Solutions Focus Coach. Her working experience includes the medical profession, business world of finance, human resources, leadership and internal coach. She started her own coaching practice “SIMPLY going beyond in 2018″. She is passionate about introducing coaching to organizations and people because of the many benefits of coaching. She has obtained several certificates and acknowledgements of which the most recent one is the ICAgile (ICP-AHR) certification. She volunteers and works with a few NPO’s taking care of the caregivers which is one of her heartfelt concerns and passions which has extended to all caregivers within all industries.
About the ICF:
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest organization leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering coaching’s role as an integral part of a thriving society. Founded in 1995, its 40,000-plus members located in more than 140 countries and territories work toward common goals of enhancing awareness of coaching and upholding the integrity of the profession through lifelong learning and upholding the highest ethical standards. Through the work of its six unique family organizations, ICF empowers professional coaches, coaching clients, organizations, communities and the world through coaching.
ICF South Africa is a Chartered Chapter of ICF with 483 members (June 2021 figures).