Five ways to create a coaching culture

Coaching can benefit the entire workforce, not just those in the top jobs – but it takes dedication to implement. Kate Cooper explains how to make it part of working life

Coaching is an increasingly popular way for organisations to develop their people, it’s no longer just for overstretched senior executives. Coaching offers a systematic approach to help people set and work towards goals; take greater responsibility for their actions; communicate more effectively; work better with others; and derive higher satisfaction from their work. At an organisational level, coaching also contributes to a culture that is defined by active listening, constructive questioning, individual empowerment, the building of rapport, and an emphasis on holding real two-way conversations.

The Institute of Leadership and Management surveyed more than 1,000 line managers and staff asking them whether they or their managers used coaching. There was a clear difference in opinion between managers and managed staff as to whether managers use coaching approaches. The research underlined that managers have a high sense of awareness of the importance of coaching their staff; they want to believe that they are taking a coaching approach to developing their people. 

In our 2011 research into Generation Y, undertaken in conjunction with Ashridge Executive Education, we established that managed staff no longer expect a manager to have all the answers, to tell them what to do, and to give them feedback on how well or otherwise they have met the targets that have been set for them. They want to assist in creating their targets, defining their own stretch goals and know that their contribution to the work of the organisation has meaning. 

Our research reinforced what those of us who manage staff are no doubt already aware; people have greater expectations of their managers in terms of their own development and they expect their managers to support them in their career ambitions. They also want to bring more of themselves to work, to use their initiative and to take ownership of their own learning and growth. Managers who coach have a big role to play in helping people to realise these expectations. In future, good leadership and management will increasingly be defined by the adoption of coaching approaches. 

Here’s how you can create a coaching culture within your own organisation:

Call it out

Make it ok to challenge. When an individual is spoken to by a colleague or manager in a manner that seems autocratic, directive or patronising, it must be ok for that person, or another colleague, to point it out and ask for the request to be repeated in more of a coaching style. This doesn’t have to be confrontational, if there is a widely communicated expectation that coaching approaches are used, being able to talk freely about what that means in everyday interactions is vital.

Identify a simple coaching model

Coaches use many different models to support their work but for those new to coaching, a simple framework, such as OSKAR, GROW, TGROW, CLEAR helps to make sure that everyone in the workplace is familiar with the approach and there is a shared understanding of the language used.

Acknowledge, celebrate and reward questions rather than answers

Great coaches ask brilliant questions. Arriving at an answer or solution too soon shuts down alternatives. Constructive questioning helps us all consider the assumptions we make and reminds us to be open to ‘different’

Encourage conversation rather than electronic communication

It is hard to coach by email – conversation is a powerful way to communicate.

Appreciate the differences

Understand there are differences in how receptive people are to coaching approaches. Not everyone will embrace the responsibility that coaching approaches entail, some people need more persuading, convincing and time to embrace this different style of management.

Kate Cooper is head of research, policy and standards at The Institute of Leadership and Management