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Make It Real

There is notable global research by BlessingWhite (2009) which reports that creating a coaching culture is a really useful vehicle to develop top performance and sustained change.  Specifically, coaching ‘works’ because it naturally encourages employees to become really clear on what is expected, motivates them to be engaged and committed, ‘calls’ them on what they are accountable for, and helps with transferring knowledge in the organisation.  All good so far.

However, there is a caveat that quickly follows within the same research; there is a big gap between what leaders say they want and what they get.  Coaching can get a bad rap as not delivering any tangible benefits because managers still look upon it as a good-will, optional kind of conversation, rather than a key strategy that is used to inspire employees to higher levels of performance, engagement and career progression.

Best practices they say which will make a coaching culture a reality, are:

  • make coaching work for you – use coaching as the vehicle to tackle your next business problem / challenge;
  • think relationship and partnership rather than coaching skills per se;
  • coach the manager-as-coaches so they get to experience the benefits;
  • build belief and backbone into your culture, again through translating coaching into action.  An example is that managers who are actively coaching are held up as role models and referred to often;
  • set ‘new’ managers on the coaching track.

These best practices could all be put under the banner of “make it real.”

Amidst increasing complexity, many of our clients are crying out for things that are memorable and basic.  As a suggestion, a back-of-the-envelope exercise for any initiative is how can we “make it real.”  Part of “making it real” is spending time with the key influencers on their level of desire to adopt the new initiative.  We recommend upfront, quality conversations on how well they understand the initiative, what will be required from them and how it will benefit them as well as any potential downsides.

The second best practice above, “think relationship and partnership …” is a pivotal reminder that any initiative will live and breathe and therefore “be real” through the relationship that managers have with their direct reports.  One big benefit of a coaching culture is that it calls managers to examine their relationships in all directions: up, down and sideways.

So amidst increasing complexity, we can keep it simple by asking “how do we make real this initiative?” and thereby close the gap between what leaders say they want and what they get.


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