How to identify a healthy effective coaching culture within an organisation

Globally, a wide range of organisations and businesses are developing a coaching culture (Weekes, 2008), in the hope of realising a wide range of benefits, that include personal and professional growth (Hay, 1995), resilience in the face of change, business development, talent management, and the fostering of leadership and personal effectiveness. Coaching, when framed as an approach to communication where the initiative and empowerment of the person being coached is emphasised (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015), fosters positive work environments. It also helps incubate a range of leadership approaches – something that research findings indicate have significant performance and health benefits (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015).

While the structure of an organisation cannot directly shape its culture “it can undermine efforts to change” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 28). So, at its root, a coaching culture is a model that structures, and helps define, the parameters of what effective interpersonal interactions look and feel like within an organisation. These structures and parameters are firmly underpinned by the values of the organisation, and can support the development of agreed ways that results might be obtained and evaluated (Behavioral Coaching Institute, 2007).  Coaching would not be the only approach used in the organisation, but it would be used wherever appropriate.  It takes time to develop a coaching culture (up to a year or 18 months) because people need to be comfortable within the culture and to develop the necessary coaching skills (The Open Door Coaching Group, 2012).

A coaching culture, however, is not an automatic panacea for all organisational ‘ills’ and a company can interfere with the rate of change because of its existing structural impediments. Hoole and Riddle (2005) identify structural impediments as being, for example, the reward system of a company that compensates executives who use aggressive tactics with little or no recognition of how their actions negatively impact the health of the organisation. In comparison structures that support culture as much as financial performance, are likely to be a positive environment for coaching.

A well-established coaching culture will be one where coaching methodologies are ‘normalised’ within the organisation, For instance, it will be the preferred way of having conversations (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015). When this occurs, all people within the culture “fearlessly engage in candid, respectful coaching conversations, unrestricted by reporting relationships, about how they can improve their working relationships and individual and collective work performance” (Crane, 2005, Para 3). These conversations will make use of set of coaching tools and the language of coaching to become part of the everyday way of working together. As a result everyone values coaching as an integral part of personal and professional development – as a way of continually learning, improving practice, and positively contributing to the organisation’s goals. However, an integral part of nurturing a coaching culture is also ensuring that staff are provided with formal opportunities and training to develop their own coaching skills. Otherwise, the tendency for people is to default to the neurologically energy-efficient of telling, which “requires less intellectual and emotional energy than engaging …[someone] in a thought process to advance their capability” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 29).

A healthy, effective coaching culture, includes (but is not limited to) a/an:

  • strong organisation-wide identity and commitment to coaching (Crane, 2005), with all staff knowing the goals / strategy of the organisation, as well as the contributions they can make in achieving them

  • coaching approach that impacts behaviour as well as processes, which is captured in role descriptions and professional learning plans

  • shared vision

  • overt valuing of leadership (reciprocal) development throughout an organisation (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015).

  • environment of trust and mutual support

  • atmosphere of creativity and engagement (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015)

  • understanding of the benefits of ongoing learning (adaptive – coping and generative – creating) (Crane, 2005)

  • solution focused (positive) rather than problem focused (negative)

  • recognition that working on the ‘symptoms’ of challenges is not as effective as working on the underlying causes / processes

  • integrated way of formally and informally recognising work / contribution

  • focus on giving others an opportunity to address issues on their own before offering advice or direction

  • appreciation of being part of a respectful, collaborative, learning organisation (Charan, & Colvin, 1999) that encourages positive thinking, and taking / learning from informed ‘risks’

  • mind shift (Crane, 2005) that means staff see themselves as interconnected

  • desire to participate in ongoing learning (Crane, 2005)

  • commitment to openness / provision and seeking of formative feedback

  • focus on growth and helpfulness

  • willingness to take responsibility for actions and the impact they have on others

  • desire to explore how they create their own reality, and therefore how they can change it


An organisation with a robust coaching culture is likely to encourage a positive working environment, cross-organisational, innovation, increased productivity – and lead to personal, professional…and organisational…growth. This in turn can help ensure that the organisation remains responsive and nimble in today’s world of fast-paced communication, diversity, global competition and change.

References

Behavioral Coaching Institute. (2007). Establishing a coaching culture. Retrieved from http://www.1to1coachingschool.com/Coaching_Culture_in_the_workplace.htm

Crane, T. (2005). Creating a COACHING CULTURE – today’s most potent organizational change process for creating a “high-performance” culture. Business coaching worldwide ezine, 1(1). Retrieved from https://www.wabccoaches.com/bcw/2005_v1_i1/feature.html

Hay, J. (1995). Transformational Mentoring: Creating Developmental Alliances. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.

Hoole, E., & Riddle, D. (2015). The Intricacies of Creating a ‘Coaching Culture’. Retrieved from http://www.talentmgt.com/articles/7627-the-intricacies-of-creating-a-coaching-culture

The Open Door Coaching Group. (2012). How do I build a coaching culture. Retrieved from http://www.opendoorcoaching.com.au/how-do-i-build-a-coaching-culture

Weekes, S. (2008, July). Catch on to coaching. The Edge. 28 – 32. Retrieved from http://qedcoaching.fastnet.co.uk/pdf/catch-on-to-coaching-ilm-edge-article.pdf

Image

Monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis‘  http://www.flickr.com/photos/40246574@N04/7188016806 Found on flickrcc.net

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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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