Establishing a culture of coaching is one of the most challenging change initiatives any company can take on. I’m talking about a true culture of coaching, where every manager and employee engages in it and not the kind we are seeing advocated in some organisations where a few people are trained as internal coaches. I’m talking cultural, where it becomes ‘the way we do things around here’, where everyone knows what it looks like and how to engage in it.
On the face of it, all the perceived benefits make it a must do for any organisation: a coaching approach improves engagement, enhancing employer brand. It sets up greater empowerment of staff because managers build capability through dialogue as opposed to giving instructions. It frees up managers to be more strategic and less buried in the mire and it improves external relationships due to a different mindset and tools when engaging with stakeholders. Anything that good should be easy, but it’s not!
The difficulty, as we’ve written here before, is in the integration of coaching into every leader’s modus operandi. This week I heard a leader talk about her journey through coaching culture with us and how she has managed to do just that:
It’s not about the tools – it’s the ethos and behaviours
This leader is still working through the challenge of seeing a potential feedback opportunity and coachable moment, but her section has growing engagement in line with a coaching culture. She is still working on coaching on the run and not looking at our crib sheets while she has her one-on-ones, but her modeling of coaching has still encouraged others to try it too. She is still learning when to coach and when she needs to instruct, but her people are managing a greater output through their empowerment. She knows she is not the finished article but her reputation with her peers has vastly changed in a matter of months.
What’s the secret? She has fully adopted the ethos and associated behaviours that come with coaching. She firmly believes that her people have the answers. She focuses strongly on the capability of the individual. She has vastly increased her ratio of questions asked versus solutions offered and she has put habits in place to increase her attentiveness. She is not modeling the models, she’s modeling the behaviours.
It takes a leader to coach
What was clear in listening to her talk through her journey was that the shift was founded in her understanding of leadership. What had struck her about coaching was how aligned it was to the leadership training that she has had in her career. Her understanding of what a leader was there for had found a natural fit in coaching. She identified that being a leader is all about those that you lead and that the real goal of a leader is to maximize the output of others through maximizing their capability. She knew she got a better result if people used their talents than if she told them what to do, and she knew that being told what to do all the time was not motivating or empowering. She identified good feedback as the best way to both motivate and encourage change. She saw that a coaching approach was naturally empowering and motivating and that the associated behaviours created an environment where people wanted to belong. Their motivation to coach was based on their motivation to be a good leader of people and an understanding of what leadership really means.
It was inspiring to hear that coaching underpinned great leadership and that the ethos and behaviours of coaching and feedback were delivering great engagement, change in culture and great results.
And the tools and models of coaching? Well I’m sure she will get there.