Coaching Culture Improves the Workplace

Coaches are also known for mentorship, counselling, organizing and team-building, all with the goal of motivating team members. So I find it strange that coaching in the workplace has taken so long to gain credibility. 

Only in the past five to 10 years has coaching been recognized as having value in supporting managers and helping them increase their personal performance. As well, business coaching or "executive coaching" started out as a performance management tool to "fix" a manager and was seen as the last stop before termination. No wonder executive coaching was not seen as an opportunity.

 

Thankfully, coaching is now considered an investment tool in the development of organizational leaders. In some cases, a newly appointed leader will be assigned a coach to assist them to learn the nuances of their new job and to avoid the old sink or swim phenomenon that many are thrown into.

Still, other coaches can assist a more technically oriented individual with the public relations and interpersonal communication skills they will need in their new executive role.

A recent survey showed a large number of coaching participants were within the 37-to-44 age range and received coaching services for career, life, vision and enhancement. Participants reported increased self-confidence, improved communication and relationships, improved time management and work performance, as well as improved team effectiveness and work life balance.

Coaching today is taking the next step forward moving from a confidential one-to-one activity to focusing on building a coaching culture within an organization. This means coaching is being embedded into all leadership behaviour.

In a coaching culture, every employee — not just senior managers — will have an opportunity to further develop their skills, enhance their value to the employer and to reach their professional goals.

A coaching culture, then, is essentially an employee engagement strategy, where no matter what level of employment, learning and development is the name of the game. It is an organizational mindset where coaching is integrated into everything including governance, structure, management philosophy and leadership behaviour.

The challenge however, is how to implement a "coaching culture." The following guidelines will assist you.

Start with senior leaders

Members of a senior leadership team are seen as role models. They set the tone for how people behave and they are closely watched by everyone. Engage the senior leaders in an intensive coaching program, one that not only focuses on self-evaluation and skill development, but also focuses on coaching as an organization change model.

Follow this up with discussions on aligning all the human resource systems required to fully integrate coaching into the organization culture.

Assess the need

Online or face to face, interview representatives from all areas of the organization to determine the level of understanding of what a coaching culture is all about. Assess the nature of behaviour change required to develop a coaching culture, the availability of trained coaches within your organization, and the policies needed to support this type of organization. Use this information to set goals and objectives.

Assess change resistance

Creating a coaching culture represents significant change for most organizations. Therefore, be sure that the organization can cope with another change, along with what is already moving forward. Examine how the organization has managed change in the past. Determine what supports are required, if employees have time to get involved and how you will bring people along with your change initiative. Add change management strategies to your goals and objectives.

Select and train coaches

Developing a coaching culture means creating a common language and coaching practice. Thus, it is necessary for the organization to choose a coaching program that all employees will eventually attend.

Assign a senior executive to champion the coaching culture, select and train a group of internal coaches and/or use the services of an external executive coach. Select internal coaching candidates that are well respected, good communicators and listeners and can give honest, objective feedback.

Extend coaching capability

Managers and supervisors play a key role in building organizational culture. Therefore, they must not only be trained at the earliest opportunity, they should be fully engaged in the coaching process themselves. Where possible, also implement a "train the trainer" process so that more coaches can be developed within the organization. Assign these individuals as mentors to help instill coaching within the culture.

Realign HR policies and processes

One of the key human resources tools that needs to be realigned to support a coaching culture is the performance review process. This needs to provide ongoing supportive feedback and joint development of goals and objectives. It also needs to allow for more frequent discussions, rather than leaving the appraisal to be a once-a-year activity.

Review and assess

Undertake a feedback assessment on both the value of coaching to participants and an assessment of where the organization is at, with respect to developing a coaching culture. Develop metrics and measurements for such elements as improved work performance, higher levels of self-confidence, improved communication at all levels of the organization as well as standard HR items such as lower turnover rates and lower absenteeism.

While most coaching to date has been limited to senior management levels, coaching is now being seen and valued as an employee-engagement and culture-building tool. Coaching strengthens employee skills, boosts productivity and creates a deeper pool of internal talent that can help solve succession problems. Most importantly, creating a coaching culture changes the role of manager from being an expert to that of a coach, inspiring and developing his/her team.

At the same time, however, leaders must recognize that implementing a coaching culture is essentially a change-management strategy and it must be planned and managed as such. As well, coaching must be a "bottom-up, top-down" strategy where everyone from front-line employees right up to senior executives are part of the coaching strategy.

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