The term “coaching culture” describes an organization that values the development of its colleagues through good coaching practices. In an ideal coaching culture, both the person being coached and the manager delivering the coaching would value and actively seek development. However, achieving this ideal state can be challenging for several reasons. An organization may say it values coaching but then focus on something else like results. In some organizations, managers may lack resources and training. If you say you value coaching but fail to fund it and develop your managers’ coaching skills, nothing will happen.
If you were to ask a sociologist what defines a culture, he or she might say something like:
The beliefs, values, and practices of a group of people
Let’s break this down. Beliefs are things that a group of people holds as true regardless of whether they are true. People also hold beliefs as always being true regardless of situations and circumstances. For example, the people in a civic organization may believe that helping disadvantaged people is the right thing to do in our society even when they are experiencing challenging times. That’s a belief they hold to always be true.
Values are the things that a group of people holds as important. For example, a sports team may value off-season conditioning to prepare for an upcoming season. That means the team would consciously choose to work out in the off-season even if it isn’t compensated for doing so.
Practices are things the group does routinely. Practices often align with the group’s beliefs and values. For example, a group of salespeople might meet routinely to discuss sales messaging and market analytics.
What are the characteristics of a coaching culture?
Organizations with coaching cultures believe coaching is important to the organization’s success. They would feel that the organization’s success links to the continual development of its employees. If organizations believe that coaching is a waste of time and resources, then coaching won’t become an integral part of their business activities. They may say it’s important, but unless they truly believe it, coaching will never become integrated deeply into their processes.
Organizations that value coaching place its importance as high as any other activity—even achieving results. In The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard says that great managers focus on developing their people and driving results. They don’t focus on only one, but both! A coaching culture recognizes managers not only for achieving results but also for how well they develop their team members. In addition, direct contributors seek coaching and value the feedback.
Routine coaching occurs in a coaching culture. In addition, organizations with coaching cultures implement systems and processes and allocate resources dedicated to supporting coaching practices. For example, organizations with coaching cultures include a system for training managers to coach and integrate the degree of coaching the managers do into their annual performance reviews.
How can I create a coaching culture?
Establishing a coaching culture is a big undertaking. Modifying the beliefs, values, and practices of an organization requires total commitment from all levels within the company, starting at the top. To create a coaching culture on a team, you need:
1. Commitment by executives
The place to start changing an organization’s culture is at the executive level. The rest of the organization carefully listens to, but more important, watches the executive team. If you can get a senior executive to first verbally support your coaching culture and then participate in it, the organization will start to move in that direction. For example, if you adopt a new coaching approach, get a senior executive to be one of the first to complete the training for it and then apply it with his or her direct reports. Word will spread quickly throughout the entire organization.
2. Foundational coaching models and training
The best way to create good coaching practices is to provide an organization-wide coaching model that everyone, including direct contributors, are trained on. If you want an organization to value coaching, there should be no mystery about what is involved and everyone’s role in it.
3. Recognition and rewards for coaching
Build in systems and processes that recognize the development managers are giving their direct reports and the mastering of skills/knowledge/behaviors by direct reports. We recognize direct reports for generating results. Why not recognize them for their development, too?
4. Marketing of your coaching program
The more people hear about your organization’s coaching program and the impact it’s having on colleagues, the more they will value you. Whenever possible, recognize both the coach and the person being coached in your marketing. Both play a key role in ensuring coaching is a success, so highlight this positive developmental relationship.
The beliefs, values, and practices of an organization define its culture. If you want to create a coaching culture in your organization, you need to get the organization to believe coaching is imperative to the organization’s success. Both the managers and the direct contributors need to value coaching. And the entire organization needs to routinely practice coaching. To create this coaching culture, start at the top and get senior leadership members to adopt your coaching model and apply it with their direct reports. Developing and training the entire organization, along with good marketing, will drive the creation of a coaching culture.