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    Create a Coaching Culture, Not just a Culture that Coaches…

    by Ann Dinan, Ph.D.

    This white paper examines a strategy for creating a coaching culture that has coaching as a cornerstone of the strategy but includes other imperative elements that lend themselves to the sustainability of the strategy. The paper will discuss a strategy that includes both current best practices and suggested additions as well as the steps necessary for implementation of a coaching culture.

    Even as coaching has become accepted as an acknowledged and powerful performance management tool, organizations are not realizing the benefit of creating an entire culture based on coaching behaviors. This is to be commended and encouraged as organizations have experienced the direct benefits of coaching.
    This paper offers a slightly different way to view the strategic process and also offers some points of deviation from current best practices.

    For example, we maintain that whenever an organization is looking to create a coaching culture that they must view the initiative as a new way to view change management. The goal is still to move individuals, teams, and organizations from a current way of being to a new desired state, but the methodology of producing that change may be different in a coaching culture.

    Strategy, based on best practices and suggested additions (indicated by *), would include:

    • Determine Current Leadership Culture*
    • Determine Desired Leadership Culture*
    • Create a Clear Vision
    • Articulate a Clear Vision
    • Create a Defined Action Plan based on the Clear Vision
    • Associate the Action Plan with the Goals of the Organization, Team, and Individual
    • Delineate the Desired Outcomes of the Coaching Culture
    • Link the Desired Outcomes of the Coaching Culture to the Success of the Business
    • Define Coaching*
    • Choose Coaching Model*
    • Choose Instruments That Work in Concert With the Coaching Model
    • Be Mindful of Culture*
    • Examine the Necessary Conditions for Coaching and Look for the Presence or Absence of Those Conditions
    • Objectively Identify Obstacles*
    • Take a Holistic and Integrated Approach*
    • Detail the Change Effort
    • Identify your Stakeholders and Key Personnel for Buy-In and Enthusiasm*
    • Develop a Training Program for Those Key Personnel
    • Provide One-on-One Coaching Utilizing the Chosen Model to Senior, Mid-Level, Front Line Supervisors, and High Potential Individuals
    • Develop a Coaching Skills Workshop
    • Customize Workshops And Provide Common Language and Methodology*

    Steps Necessary for Implementation:

    Determine Current Leadership Culture*:
    The first element of the strategy is to determine current leadership culture because it is essential to know how Leadership is perceived before involving leaders in this change effort. The choice of assessment instrument should be chosen in concert with desired outcomes and the coaching modality.

    Desired Leadership Culture*:
    Examining the gap between current and desired leadership culture may be helpful, depending on the results, in order to show the need for the change in culture. This gap also provides the one-on-one coach a great place to start the coaching process. If possible, a 360 for each leader who is being assessed in the leadership culture survey should also be conducted. Again, the assessment should be chosen in concert with the leadership culture assessment and the coaching modality. The results of the 360 will also help to inform the one-on-one coaching process.

    Create and Articulate a Clear Vision:
    Much has been written about the need for the organization to create and articulate a clear vision and mission. This should go beyond vision and mission statements that hang on the wall to tangible and actionable attitudes, values, and behaviors that can be enacted by all throughout the entire organization.

    Importantly, they should be clearly articulated by all! Although it is a motto and not a vision statement, anyone who has ever worked for the Ritz Carlton hotel chain, will always remember they are “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”.

    Create A Defined Action Plan based on the Vision:
    Alignment, Alignment, Alignment! Always go back to the vision and mission for the action plan and keep asking, “Are these actions in alignment with our vision and mission?” This step cannot be over-emphasized! Linking back to the vision and mission is critical to creating a cohesive culture.

    Associate the Action Plan with the Goals of the Organization, Teams, and Individuals:
    Again, we are speaking about alignment here. It sounds so basic but how many organizations align their goals with the action plan that is aligned with their vision/mission? They should, but when employees are under the gun and working in the trenches they have a difficult time looking up to incorporate the strategic focus of the Action Plan.

    Delineate the Desired Outcomes, specifically of a Coaching Culture, and Link to Business Objectives:
    Speaking to alignment and a holistic approach, we advocate determining the desired outcomes vis-à-vis the Coaching Culture at this stage. Some generic outcomes we have encountered include: developing higher trust and openness with more emphasis on learning and knowledge-sharing, and alignment. Being more purposeful…

    Leadership Culture Survey

    If you have conducted a leadership culture survey, the data regarding the desired culture may inform the outcomes.

    Define Coaching*:
    Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But this is the basis for the entire culture change initiative. Is this about developing a person’s skills and knowledge to enhance their job performance? Is it something more? Does it involve internal and external customer service? Getting clear about the definition of coaching is HUGE! It is also important to define the scope of coaching. Is it delivered in a one-to-one format? Group format? Is it peer-to-peer? Are the coaches only ICF-trained or ICF-certified coaches? Are they internal or external or both? Are we including coach-like behavior? How is that different? Is mentoring part of coaching?

    Choose the Coaching Model*:
    Thanks to a proliferation of coaching schools and the process of differentiation, there are now a plethora of coaching models. Which one will serve your mission and vision?
    Choose Instruments that Work in Concert with Your Chosen Coaching Model:
    This speaks to an integrated approach to creating a coaching culture. There may be some instruments that the organization has used successfully which may or may not fit with the chosen coaching model. Truly understanding each and every instrument and/or assessment is laborious for sure, but it is essential to making certain you are measuring what you think you are measuring! 

    Be Mindful of Culture*:
    By now many leaders are aware of the importance of culture and cultural awareness vis-à-vis ethnicity or geography but few think about culture in terms of huge chasms between their researchers and their sales force, for instance. Often you will find that an organization’s researchers (or engineers, IT employees, mathematicians…) have MBTI profiles that are close to that of an IN/STJ (Introverted, Intuitive or Sensing, Thinking, Judging) but the sales force is likely to be all E’s! Extroversion rules! In terms of the product choices and the methodology, is it is helpful to remember the cultures of your target audience!

    Conditions for Coaching:
    If your organization is currently suffering from lack of trust, this should be addressed first. Many a coaching initiative has lacked the success it could have had if the employees had enough confidence that what they were saying to their coach was truly confidential AND in the spirit of assisting them.

    Identify Obstacles*:
    Has Coaching been used in a different way before within the organization? Was it used to coach individuals out of the organization? Are there obstacles around resources such as time and money?

    Maintain a Holistic and Integrated Approach*:
    Just as we suggested that assessment tools and other instruments should be aligned with the vision/mission and coaching modality, so too should the initial hiring process, onboarding training, performance management, leadership development and other development training. The entire organization should be using the same language and have similar and equal expectations around hiring, promoting, and firing. If the employee shifts from one area to the next, the transition should be seamless in terms of cultural expectations. The coaching culture will be infused throughout all areas within the organization.

    Detail the Change Effort:
    For example: Use leaders as role models for coaching (cascading effect), provide coaching skills training to leaders and managers, link coaching culture outcomes to business goals, coach senior leadership teams in developing and implementing culture-change strategies, recognize and reward those who demonstrate a coaching mind-set and behavior, integrate coaching approaches into learning and development, incorporate coaching behaviors as a job performance competency, make individual coaching available to leaders and managers, integrate coaching approaches into talent management processes, and provide coaching skills training to all employees.

    Identify Your Stakeholders for Buy-In and Enthusiasm*:
    Note: The Stakeholders may not be the most logical suspects. It is important to look for your informal leaders and your high-potential leaders as well as your senior leadership team when you are trying to identify the stakeholders.

    Develop a Training Program for the Stakeholders:
    If you are going to count on the enthusiasm and the knowledge of these individuals, they need to model the coaching behavior and thus need to be trained initially in the coaching modality.
    Provide One-On-One Coaching to the Stakeholders:
    Utilizing the chosen coaching model, the identified stakeholders should receive one-on-one coaching as well as a 360- assessment so they can understand and role- model the coaching in order to establish the coaching culture.

    Develop a Customized Coaching Skills Workshop*:
    Based on the chosen coaching model, a coaching skills workshop should be developed taking into account the diversity of the employees when delivering the material. The basic material remains the same - to provide the core for the coaching culture - but the delivery may vary depending on the diversity of the training groups.


    So, what makes this strategy different and or more sustainable than other models? We are advocating that you create a true coaching culture and not just a culture that happens to coach. Specifically, by introducing the initial assessment of Leadership Culture, you are already taking a holistic approach to culture change. Once the gaps between existing and desired leadership culture are determined, the strategy is tight and targeted and is moving the organization in the direction of desired culture. Defining Coaching and the accompanying Coaching Model further provide a firm base, that coupled with the mission/vision of the organization, can be used as a jumping off point and a place to be re-visited for alignment purposes. Similarly, identifying obstacles, especially as they relate to coaching and/or to creating a coaching culture, are paramount to ultimate success.

    Although some other strategies may advocate taking a holistic or integrated approach, we have not found any that go as far as we do in terms of recommending alignment at every step of the way based on a firm foundation.

    In terms of identifying key personnel, many strategies suggest starting with the top leadership. Although we agree that buy-in must occur at this level, we also advocate for the co-creation process. Specifically, we suggest involving a cross section of employees as soon as buy-in has been ascertained from the senior leadership. Finally, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of rolling out this process by employing a strategy that pays attention to diversity. By demonstrating respect, dignity, compassion, and interconnectedness, a true coaching culture will emerge in which attitudes, values, and behaviors will fall into alignment with the desired culture. This is very different than having a culture that is called a coaching culture because coaching is introduced at various touchpoints.