group of people huddling up with all hands in

How many times have you heard the term “Coaching Culture”? Can you describe it?

I see it as a culture that supports the growth and development of team members and the organization by delivering results. Leaders and subordinates work together to set goals, refine tasks, and mark progress. Less direction and more collaboration.

What should it feel like to be immersed in such a culture?

I would expect to work closely with my leaders and colleagues to develop personal and professional goals aligned with the work. To be assigned projects/tasks to support those goals. Coupled with regular interactions to jointly assess my personal progress and my contribution to the team.

In the analogy of a sports coach, the coaching helps me improve my game, play better, and contribute to the team.

I have seen leaders work to implement a coaching culture with mixed results. The successes consistently have the following three elements:

  • Leadership involvement – initial direction and full participation
  • A consistent framework – a framework for the organization to use
  • Constant follow up – continual reinforcement and assessment of progress

Leadership Involvement

This area cannot be delegated. Leaders demonstrating coaching behaviors as well as being coached send a powerful message. In turn they are rewarded with the culture they desire. Setting the example, participating in the training, and being engaged in coaching shows vulnerability. It also demonstrates the leader’s priority to develop a coaching culture.

Leadership involvement works with teams of any size. If you are a team leader of 10 or if you run an organization of several hundred. Leadership involvement makes a positive difference.

A Consistent Framework

Everyone in the organization needs to be able to articulate how coaching is implemented. The goal is to develop coaching skills in the entire workforce, not to make the entire workforce into professional coaches. Keep it simple, implement a framework that has boundaries and flexibility. This will allow everyone to participate and make progress.

For an introduction to a simple approach take a look at The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. An excellent resource to start building coaching skills.

The more experience individuals and the organization develop, the more nuanced the coaching will become. But start simple. A consistent framework builds:

  • a shared foundation
  • a shared language
  • shared experiences

Constant Follow Up

Ever been on a sports team where a coach set a standard once and did not follow up? That would never happen. Individual coaching requires constant evaluation and feedback, measured against a standard. In coaching, since many of the standards are set by those tasked to attain them, accountability transitions from oversight to self-accountability. Coaching becomes a collaborative discussion on progress and strategies rather than accountability towards a specific metric and performance. All the players are working for the good of each other and how to contribute to the overall success.

In addition to individual follow up, the overall program requires constant follow up and maintenance. Remember you are building a culture and cultures develop from attitudes and behaviors. Discussion on what is working, not working, and shared challenges can unite teammates.

Coaching culture may seem like a buzz word. When you are immersed in it, you understand and feel the power it can bring to an organization.