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How to implement a coaching culture, and why bother?

There is much talked and written about a coaching culture within organisations, but what does this actually mean in practice, what are the benefits and what are the essential steps? Based on my experience and research here are my top tips for implementing a coaching culture.

What is a coaching culture? Well before answering, let’s look at what is meant by ‘culture’, simply put, Robbie Katanga states that “Culture is how organizations ‘do things’.” There are not many definitions specifically relating to a coaching culture, but one definition that works well is from Jonathan Passmore and Klaudia Jastrzebska, “A coaching culture is one where coaching, the use of reflective and provocative questions, is used consistently by all employees and by key partners, to help develop understanding, insight and personal responsibility for those responsible in delivering the organisational outcomes. While it is not the only way which the organisation leads and manages its employees or works with its partners, it is the primary leadership, development and learning style used in the organisation.” From this definition you can get a real feel for how a coaching organisation ‘does things’.

peer group coaching

But why bother, why work to create a coaching culture, or alternatively how do you convince a results focused CEO or demonstrate the ROI to a numbers focused CFO? A recent study by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) goes a long way to answer these questions. The 2015 study showed that the within organisation’s with a strong coaching culture, employees were more engaged, and the businesses produced stronger financial results:


With a definition in mind and a feel for the benefits, here are my 7 key steps for achieving a coaching culture:

  1. Have a clear rationale and business case for developing a coaching culture. As Stephen Covey would say, “start with the end in mind” and so create the link with the business strategy and how the coaching culture will support this, so it is more than a ‘nice to have’.
  2. Engage the leadership population, create a dialogue and clearly identify how a coaching culture will benefit them on a personal level, as well as for the organisation as a whole.
  3. As with the GROW model, understand and accept the reality (the ‘R’ of GROW), what is the history and stories of coaching within the organisation? Also, what are the current leadership behaviours congruent with a coaching approach, or are counter productive? Use 360-degree feedback or employee engagement surveys as well as conversations to understand the reality.
  4. Ensure the development of a coaching culture fits with other developmental approaches, for example it supports a 70:20:10 developmental model (70% on the job and experiential learning, 20% coaching and mentoring and learning from peers, and 10% formal learning and courses).
  5. Embed coaching in three ways: train internal people to become qualified coaches, deploy external coaches, and train managers to use coaching skills on a day-to-day basis (use the ‘player-manager’ analogy for line managers as highlighted in chapter 9 of Challenging Coaching, see previous blog).
  6. Link coaching and the use of coaching skills with established formal processes such as competency and behavioral frameworks, and personal development reviews.
  7. Monitor and evaluate, use a balanced business scorecard approach with soft and hard measures to demonstrate the ROI.

With these 7 key steps, the concept of a coaching culture can be turned into reality with benefits for individuals and the organisation as a whole.

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