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  • Writer's pictureMarianne Bateup

Five common missteps organisations make when building a robust coaching culture

Building a strong coaching culture in an organisation is an excellent way to drive performance against strategic goals, create a point of difference and improve engagement, productivity and retention. However, when endeavouring to create a coaching culture, there are five main missteps that organisations make that can sabotage the process, despite the best of intentions.

Misstep 1: Developing a coaching culture is untethered from the organisation’s strategic goals.

If the goal of developing a coaching culture is seen as independent from the organisation’s other strategic goals, values and vision, it’s destined to fail. A coaching culture must be aligned and utilised as a means to drive progress against strategic goals. Is the desired coaching culture a vehicle to improve performance? Engage or empower employees? Support a change management process? Upskill teams? Deliver more innovation?

Organisations should start by considering their short–, mid– and long–term strategic goals and how developing and embedding a coaching culture will help achieve those goals. As coaches, we can query this from the outset to make sure the organisation is on the right path.

Misstep 2: People in the organisation aren’t upskilled in coaching.

A true coaching culture is more than just bringing in external coaches — it’s about building the capacity to coach others at all levels of the organisation. Developing this skill is essential for truly embedding coaching into the organisational culture.

The process of upskilling an organisation in coaching will usually involve engaging external trainers to upskill managers on how to utilise coaching as a leadership tool. While this may seem like a quick way to put us coaches and trainers out of a job, it’s actually quite the opposite. When delivered effectively, our role becomes that of a strategic partner who guides the organisation to maintain the coaching culture over time.

Misstep 3: Coaching isn’t structured and woven into the learning and development process.

Without using coaching to help apply training and identify and overcome blind spots, learning and development (L&D) can suffer. Too often organisations invest in structured training programs only to see the trainees fail to apply the learnings and fall back into old habits. Leaving it up to the employee to change their behaviour in line with the training and be accountable to making those changes stick won’t always work. Why do we expect employees to be able to quickly unlearn old behaviours and adopt new ones with very little support?

This is where having a coaching culture in place can help. In coaching cultures, coaching will be a necessary and structured step in the L&D process. The Center for Creative Leadership recommends a 70-20-10 split between on-the-job training, developmental relationship learning (such as coaching) and formal training. Through coaching, employees are supported and held accountable throughout the learning process to apply the learnings gained in formal training in on-the-job settings.

Misstep 4: Senior leaders aren’t driving the coaching culture.

Efforts to develop a coaching culture often don’t start at the top. Rather, employees try to push the approach up the ranks. Without senior leaders backing the move to adopt a coaching culture 100% and also modeling it to the organisation, the employees driving the process can become unmotivated and the desired coaching culture may never come to fruition.

To develop and embed a coaching culture, it needs to be clear to everyone in the organisation that coaching is a top priority. The only way to do this is to have the process driven from the top down. As coaches, we can help by finding ways to gain buy-in from the leadership team early in the process. Often this starts with executives experiencing coaching and seeing the benefits firsthand.

Misstep 5: There isn’t the right balance between individual coaching, group coaching and team coaching.

Many organisations that say they want to develop a coaching culture overlook the importance of providing a cross–section of coaching options including individual, group and team coaching. All three are important and if the incorrect balance is struck, it can impact the value of coaching in the organisation.

For example, individual coaching may help each employee perform better and remain accountable to their goals. It may also help them relate better to other people in the organisation. But what it won’t do is create cohesion and direction for a team or give coaching recipients the opportunity to learn from others in their group while still pursuing their own purpose. This is where team or group coaching can add important additional dimensions.

Aspiring to develop a coaching culture is a worthy pursuit; however, if the incorrect steps are taken, it can fall apart before it takes hold and employees can become disillusioned. A true coaching culture relies on fully prioritising and committing to the process. Avoiding these common missteps is a good place to start.

First published in Coaching World in April 2021, published by the International Coaching Federation. © 2021 Marianne Bateup, Abilitise Pty Ltd, Some Rights Reserved.


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