Gary Vaynerchuck once said,“You don’t build culture by offering free snacks or a gym membership or open seating. You build culture by talking to people and understanding what they care about”
And that I think is the essence of what I want to speak about today. The value of setting up not just a culture, but a coaching culture in an organisation.
What’s a Coaching Culture?
I would say having a good coaching culture would translate into an organisation in which giving & receiving feedback is a very continuous process, where performances are very team-oriented with specific goals & roles, where there is a clear focus on employee engagement, and where everyone is essentially aligned to the goals of the organisation.
Why Enable a Coaching Culture Now?
Well, I think enabling a coaching culture in an organisation has always been of importance – particularly so in the ongoing-pandemic world, where we are going to see much more of this hybrid online-offline work environment.
In such a scenario it is rather important that there are interactions that happen outside of the daily work context – which is where coaching conversations ensure that employees are able to voice and discuss other aspects such as empathy and emotions. A good coaching culture opens up avenues to getting these inputs from other leaders in the organisation.
As coaching becomes more mainstream, leaders will begin to recognise that leadership coaching has many positive returns such as better employee retention, team-work, and productivity.
Factors That Enable a Coaching Culture in an Organisation
There are three factors which I believe opens the doors for a coaching culture in organisations:
1. Democratisation of coaching
Coaching, up until recently, was something that was accessible only to the very top-level C-suite executives – some would say it was a bit elitist, perhaps.
But now things are changing, for the better – wherein coaching is being seen as a value-add for anyone who can undergo it and is being made accessible to all levels in the organisation. This article on Forbes highlights the democratisation of coaching really well:
“There are a couple of reasons why coaching was reserved for top leaders. The main one was cost… The other was more of a philosophical mindset: that coaching was for the “most important” members of an organization.
Today’s more flattened, less-hierarchical organizations along with the recognition that engaged, developed employees add significant value to a company’s performance have raised awareness that coaching should be utilized to improve performance at all levels.
Coupling that understanding with advancements in technology, the cost of coaching has come down, and accessibility has gone up.”
This democratisation of coaching stands true not just for individual coaching but for team coaching as well.
2. Budgets are being assigned for coaching
To add to that, many organisations these days are clearly calling out a coaching budget, which forms a reasonably significant percentage of the total learning & developmental spend in an organisation. This goes to show that many top organisations, such as Unilever and Google are seeing the enough value in leadership coaching to plan to make it part of the company culture.
3. Managers doubling up as coaches
When only one or few individuals are to be coached within an organisation, this can be fulfilled by hiring a few external coaches. But when a coaching culture is being built within an organisation, it requires an internal coaching system within the organisation – these could be people from the HR team or line function who are specifically trained to be able to coach employees.
The ultimate state for an organisation to reach is when every manager can also act as the coach for their team. Doing this allows for coaching to become a day-to-day functioning in the organisation. Let me bring up something I read on HBR which will help illustrate this point better, especially in view of the changes in the work culture post pandemic:
“The pandemic brought unforeseen disruption at breath-taking speed, taking a toll on the physical and emotional well-being of employees.
The stakes are even higher for leaders re-examining strategic direction and vision while managing ambiguity. With employees concerned about an evolving workplace, it is imperative that leaders be better equipped to address real anxieties. Professional coaching provides a long-term solution to lessening increasing pressures and growing uncertainty.
Business leaders need the agility to create vision and to support a company’s greatest asset: its people…. Employees need support, communication, and consistency.
How companies respond to this change is an intentional choice…. Professional coaching is an investment in leaders that can produce a win-win scenario through its positive ripple effect that leads to overall individual and organizational effectiveness.”
Impact of Coaching on the Organisational Structure
Having a coaching culture has the ability to fold up the hierarchical structure that is predominant in most organisations. This happens by virtue of coaching opening up various points of contact across different hierarchical levels, thus reducing the barriers to communication and connection.
How to Enable a Coaching Culture
- To enable a successful and impactful coaching culture in an organisation, the senior management should be seen to be valuing coaching, i.e., they should be actively involved in being both a coachee as well as a coach.
- Coaching can’t be left open-ended. There needs to be a certain structure and methodology that is moulded as per the organisation. For this, existing leadership coaching models or methodologies can be used, such as ICF or Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centred Coaching. It can be tweaked and tailored as per the requirements of the organisation without keeping it too flexible or rigid.
- Coaching shouldn’t be seen as performance management; thus, it should never be made mandatory, but should be a voluntary opt-in option for anyone who is interested.
- For a coaching culture to be effective and ongoing, it should be available to all employees in the organisation, regardless of their position. This article on Forbes illustrates this point really well: “The perception of what coaching is has evolved in the past 20 years, as has the way it is delivered …Today’s more flattened, less-hierarchical organizations along with the recognition that engaged, developed employees add significant value to a company’s performance have raised awareness that coaching should be utilized to improve performance at all levels.”