Many organizations ask an all too common question: “How can we help our employees improve their performance while nurturing and developing their long-term strengths?” The answer may be found in building a coaching culture that aligns uniquely to your organization. Unlike traditional mentoring (manager explains to team member his or her own personal experiences in getting the job done) or consulting (manager explains to team member how to do the job step by step), coaching is a different form of leadership that allows employees to maximize their professional and personal development.
By working with employees to uncover their abilities, goals and career aspirations, management can provide consistent feedback and advice while also openly listening to new ideas and concerns. A dynamic coaching culture is one that moves away from sole reliance on the annual performance review in favor of regular, consistent career conversations and performance feedback throughout the year.
At the heart of a well-articulated coaching culture is a desire to drive an organization’s performance as a result of helping its employees make the most of their potential. The long-term result becomes an organization that is stronger and healthier, with an environment in which employees feel more valued and motivated. Through the right support and vision of senior leadership, a coaching culture can empower an organization by better positioning themselves to foster growth and develop top talent.
Whether your organization has a strong coaching culture in place, or is beginning the journey to build one, the following are some top considerations for developing a better coaching culture.
Clear Vision and Strategy
Before embarking upon bettering your coaching culture, begin with the end in mind. In collaboration with top leaders in your organization, cast a vision for and define with specificity how your organization will look, act and feel like as a result of a strong coaching culture. Then develop a clear strategy to help you get there. Your vision and strategy for coaching culture should align well with that of your organization, which will prevent coaching activities from becoming transactional, but rather fully integrated into your overall organizational strategy. Keep in mind that your coaching culture strategy will be different from other organizations, since each have their own values, history and business models.
Your coaching culture strategy and mission needs buy-in from senior leadership and middle management. Engaging senior leaders first will facilitate needed engagement for middle management and consequently other employees to follow their lead. Try by first teaching coaching basics, such as better listening and asking powerful questions. When managing turns to coaching, the most effective impact is that team members discover their own methods for solving problems. Doing more listening than telling allows your senior leaders to then act as influencers throughout the rest of the organization by setting the first walking example of good coaching.
Establish Trust through Quality Feedback
In his book “Speed of Trust,” Stephen M.R. Covey states that when levels of trust decline within an organization, so does the speed of change. The implications of this statement can be directly applied when building a coaching culture for your organization: if you hope that building a coaching culture will help your organization become higher performing, then you must build a foundation of trust through engaging and consistent feedback. Such quality feedback can foster organizational trust by enabling consistent, engaging connections between employees and their work, teams, leaders and the organization itself. Your senior leadership and middle management can improve feedback interactions by implementing some of the following practical methods:
- Connect Consistently – Coaches who connect consistently commit to meetings, listen more than they speak and practice being fully present when engaging in conversation. This is perhaps one of the simplest yet most profound way to improve feedback interactions. “Drive-by” feedback, delivered without the establishment of a relationship, connection or trust, results in dismissal by the recipient or a defensive response. Consistent connection lays the necessary groundwork for open communication.
- Establish Sacred Routines – One of the best ways to connect consistently in a meaningful way is by putting time on your calendar specifically dedicated to coaching your team members. This time isn’t about troubleshooting issues or checking on project timelines. Sacred time allows the opportunity to go beyond a weekly one-on-one catch-up meeting with each person you are coaching. Protecting and incorporating coaching time into your routine will help you establish accountability as well as demonstrate to your team that you value investing time in their performance.
- Ask Employees Powerful Questions – A dynamic coaching culture allows employees to learn by experience and exploration. Rather than instruct an employee by telling them what to do in a challenging situation, ask open-ended questions that encourage that person to develop a solution. You will lay the foundation for a more effective discussion format with your team members that guides and empowers them to use their uniqueness and creativity with confidence and effectiveness.
- Demonstrate Candor – When providing feedback, candor can help you earn trust and establish an unspoken permission to advise. Some quality characteristics of candor include clarity in communication, high emotional intelligence and intentional listening to understand. The ability to share candid feedback and the capability of the recipient to receive it increases when you start with consistent connection, demonstrate commitment to time with an individual and listen more than you tell.
While building a better coaching culture requires committed effort over time, the potential benefits are most certainly worth the investment. According to research from the Association for Talent Development, the key benefit is higher engagement, which is a leading indicator of positive outcomes from the individual to the organizational level. Consider these findings:
- 80 percent of those in the workforce who have experienced coaching say it positively impacts their communication skills, performance, well-being and productivity.
- 65 percent of employees in a strong coaching culture are considered highly engaged.
- Organizations with a strong coaching culture report higher revenues and higher employee engagement among their industry peers1.
Higher employee engagement leads to a wealth of other benefits, including innovative thinking, better morale among teams, improved performance, better employee retention and reduced staff turnover. As such, your commitment to building a coaching culture can help pave the way for your organization’s long-term stability.
- “Why You Need a Coaching Culture.” Association for Talent Development, December 7, 2017.