At a time where businesses are facing mass resignations and low employee morale, building a coaching culture in the workplace has never been so important.
After all, not only does coaching enable companies to retain, grow and nurture talent, it also helps to create a more motivated, skilled and productive workforce.
Here’s the thing.
For HR professionals to successfully establish a culture of coaching, managers and team leads must buy into it.
The problem, however, is that changing workplace culture is no easy task.
So, how exactly do you create a coaching culture in your organization? How do you train leaders as coaches? And what are your options when managers are reluctant to adopt these new behaviours?
Throughout this article, we’ll cover all of this and more.
- What is a coaching culture?
- Reasons to create a coaching culture
- How to create a coaching culture
- Examples of coaching skills
- Overcoming the challenges of creating a coaching culture
What is a coaching culture?
Let’s start by clearing up what a coaching culture is.
A coaching culture within an organization refers to a culture in which the mindsets and behaviours of individuals are quite simply coach-like.
It encourages a shift from managers telling their teams what to do, to supporting them in finding solutions for themselves.
It also sees the likes of blame and criticism replaced with evaluation and learning.
And annual appraisals replaced with continuous feedback.
Ultimately, it builds trust, motivation and engagement, leading to both happier and better-performing teams.
Reasons to create a coaching culture
Individuals that are coached are more motivated to perform better
Consistent coaching helps individuals to leverage their strengths, improve on their weaknesses and develop their skills, each of which empowers and motivates them to do their best work.
Which in turn, helps drive business success.
Coaching shouldn’t be restricted by reporting relationships though.
In fact, effective coaching cultures encourage individuals at all levels of an organization to act as mentors to their peers, whether they’re direct reports, colleagues or even management.
Teams are better equipped to deal with conflict
Teams that embrace coaching will be able to deal with conflict better than those that don’t embrace it, largely because they have the skills to handle difficult conversations.
That said, it has been found that teams that embrace coaching limit the amount of conflict they experience, as they are encouraged to have open and honest debates without fear of punishment or negative repercussions.
This subsequently helps to improve psychological safety within teams.
Change initiatives are more likely to succeed
Organizations with a coaching culture find that change initiatives tend to succeed more.
Largely because individuals are better communicated with about the change, and given the support and resources to develop their skills and adapt their behaviours.
In fact, according to McKinsey, over 70% of change fails and the major reason is the lack of engagement with people involved in the change.
Employee's become more engaged and are less likely to burnout
A coaching culture can help to strengthen employee morale, as leaders become more available for face-to-face time.
More specifically, regular one-to-one conversations give individuals more confidence in their abilities, allow for meaningful discussions around their personal and professional development, and help to strengthen relationships with their line managers and peers, each of which can help to drive higher performance outcomes.
Develop the next generation of leaders and retain talent
As if a more engaged and driven workforce isn’t enough, another key reason organizations are beginning to shift towards a culture of coaching is to develop the next generation of leaders.
In fact, this is a very real problem for businesses, with C-Suite executives ranking it as their third-biggest internal concern.
So, what’s their biggest internal challenge?
Attracting and retaining top talent.
Now when it comes to building a business case, a coaching culture really does have the potential to tackle both problems head on.
Firstly, it enables the development of emerging leaders throughout an organization, by giving them the skills and qualities needed to be a successful coach (more on that later).
Secondly, there’s the fact that the majority of employees want to be coached and mentored.
They want opportunities to develop and grow.
Failing to provide them with these opportunities puts you at real risk of losing them to a company that will.
The bottom line is that coaching can’t be viewed as a nice-to-have perk. It’s fundamental for business success.
How to create a coaching culture
We’ve covered what a coaching culture is and the reasons why it’s so important, but the next big question is how you can successfully introduce one within your own organization?
Below, we’ve outlined five tips and strategies for successfully creating a coaching culture.
Make coaching and feedback an everyday part of continuous performance discussions
Many organizations now recognize that the priority for performance management should be about developing better performance day-by-day and not just undertaking occasional appraisals.
Often, this means encouraging continuous performance conversations instead of, or as well as, annual performance reviews.
By having regular, more meaningful two-way discussions with their direct reports, managers will not only be able to identify and resolve issues as they arise, but they will also strengthen relationships, establish trust and empower employees to be more motivated and productive.
Equip managers with the right skills, tools and knowledge to have coaching conversations
It’s all well and good telling your workforce that they need to engage in regular performance conversations, but the reality is that they will need to be coached on how to do so.
In other words, they’ll need to be given the right support and equipped with the right tools to actually develop their coaching skills.
While you can read more about how to have coaching conversations here, some of the skills they should be developing include:
- Listening skills
- Emotional intelligence
- Communication skills
We’ll cover some of the core coaching skills later in this article.
Ensure managers are practicing and developing their coaching skills
Coaching is a process, not an event, which is why managers must continually practice and develop their coaching skills, to the point that their behaviors become habits.
After all, one of the fastest ways to change workplace culture is to change human habits.
But in a world where only 37% of change initiatives succeed, how do you ensure your coaching efforts work in your organization? How do you make sure learning sticks?
In short, through the use of a digital coaching solution that enables managers to practice the skills and techniques they learn on the job and in the flow of work.
Make coaching a core part of your leadership development programme
While there are a number of important leadership skills and competencies, effective coaching skills are critical to team performance and therefore business success.
This is why coaching must be a core part of your leadership development programme.
Enable managers to coach teams, not just individuals
While individual coaching is a common practice in many organizations, more and more are beginning to see the benefits of also investing in team coaching.
But what is team coaching and how does it differ from one-to-one coaching?
Team coaching looks beyond individual performance and focuses on improving the performance of the team as a whole.
After all, the greatest achievements in life are often the product of teamwork, which is why it’s so important that managers are equipped to coach their teams as a whole.
In fact, by equipping managers with the right support, tools and resources, they will be able to:
- Improve psychological safety by agreeing on behavioural norms as a team and encouraging team members to voice concerns
- Gain greater clarity around priorities
- Understand how the team works best, leveraging individual strengths, values and drivers to improve team performance
- Have a stronger sense of shared purpose
Examples of coaching skills
When it comes to the reasons why a coaching culture is so important and strategies for developing one, we’ve covered a lot of ground.
What we’ve not yet covered are the specific skills that are needed to be a successful coach.
These seven skills listed below are crucial for both individual and team coaching:
The ability to ask open questions
Open-ended questions lead to more detailed and thoughtful answers, which ultimately lead to more productive coaching conversations.
With this in mind, you should be training managers on how to ask follow-up questions. Examples include:
- Can you tell me more?
- What’s standing in your way of achieving [statement]?
- What have you done to try and solve this problem?
- What are some possible solutions?
- What concerns do you have?
Similarly, they should be trained on how to ask clarifying questions.
Clarifying questions are useful for preventing misunderstanding, confusion or ambiguity. They can also help managers obtain additional information.
Examples of clarifying questions may include:
- [Summary of the conversation]: Did I paraphrase what you said correctly?
- Did I hear you say?
- When you said [statement], can you tell me more about that?
- Can you give me an example of [statement]?
The ability to recognize what's going well
Coaching isn’t just about critiquing performance, it’s also about praising employees and providing recognition when it’s due.
What’s more, it’s about encouraging employees to improve further on the things they’re already doing well.
Managers should also strive to understand how each of their team members likes to be recognized - whether that be publicly or privately - so that they can stay motivated, without being embarrassed.
The ability to listen and acknowledge
It’s important that coaching conversations are two-way conversations.
This means that managers should not only be encouraging input, questions and feedback, they should be acknowledging and discussing it.
This can be achieved through active listening.
Active listening is a technique that specifically requires the listener - in this the coach - to absorb, understand, respond and retain everything that’s being said. It also encourages the listener to pay attention to the behaviour and body language of the person speaking.
When it comes to being a great active listener, there are six techniques that must be mastered:
- Pay attention
- Withhold judgment
- Reflect on what’s been said
- Summarize key themes
- Share your own ideas, feelings and suggestions
Get this right and managers will establish trust and empower their teams to achieve even better results.
For more tips on how managers can improve their listening skills, have a read of this.
The ability to show a genuine interest in their development
To ensure employees are really opening up, managers should be making it known that they genuinely care about their career development and professional success.
The ability to plan ahead
The purpose of any coaching conversation is to yield results, which is why there should always be an action plan on what needs to happen next.
It’s also important that both parties are aligned on expectations, so encourage managers to clearly convey the steps needed to make changes and improve.
Both parties should also agree on these steps and managers should take into consideration what is reasonable given their team’s workload.
The ability to continually develop their own skills
Managers should be leading by example and committing to improving their own skills and competencies.
One way to encourage this is by providing access to a library of resources. Better yet, make use of technology that can deliver contextually relevant tips, content and tools in the flow of work, enabling them to be coached on the job.
The ability to develop emotional intelligence
For coaching to be effective, the coach must have both empathy and emotional intelligence. More specifically, they must be trained in social awareness and relationship management in order to develop every single team member.
In reality, no two employees are the same when it comes to handling emotions, which is why managers must be able to read and understand people so that they can more effectively respond to the many different coaching situations that are likely to arise.
Overcoming the challenges of creating a coaching culture
Now that we’ve dived into the many benefits of creating a coaching culture within your organization, it’s important to understand the obstacles that make doing so a challenge.
Coaching isn’t scalable
To start with, traditional coaching alone just isn’t scalable.
If you have a significant number of managers and teams, or they’re located in different territories, or even work remotely, the ability to provide coaching becomes increasingly complex at best and near-on impossible at worst.
For many businesses, this ends up meaning that only a select few benefit from any real leadership coaching, which then in turn doesn’t drive the change needed across the organization.
Similarly, providing coaching to everyone (even if it is possible), often becomes costly.
So, what’s the solution?
A cost-effective digital coaching solution that can be used by managers and teams across your organization, regardless of where they’re based.
Learning doesn’t stick
Face-to-face coaching sessions are great, but when the skills aren’t reinforced, any learnings are very quickly forgotten.
Fortunately, a digital coaching solution such as Saberr not only equips individuals with the right skills and knowledge, but it also enables them to put it into practice.
By using a combination of machine learning and a deep understanding of behavioral science to deliver contextually relevant content, tips, routines and exercises to every user, exactly when they need it.
Managers have no time or are reluctant to be coached
Unfortunately, some managers will be reluctant to be coached, often due to a lack of time.
The good news is that by providing coaching in the flow of work, they can develop as a leader and learn the skills needed to improve their team, without distracting from their busy schedules.
More specifically, managers are provided with the tools to develop their knowledge, as part of their day-to-day interactions with their team.
By helping employees to not only develop, but also identify and take advantage of their strengths through the mentorship of both their colleagues and leadership, organizations can develop a culture that employees not only thrive in, but that they don’t want to leave.
After all, it’s no secret that coaching drives high-performance.
Just take the fact that 61% of organizations with a strong coaching culture are also classified as high-performing organizations.
As we mentioned earlier though, coaching isn’t a single event, it’s a process.
Which means that coaching must be continually provided by managers, in the flow of work.
At Saberr, we help managers develop the skills needed to develop as coaches. We also support organization-wide change, helping to shift mindsets and adopt new behaviors.
How? Through a combination of both experiential and digital coaching.
You can learn more about how we can support this here, or if you have any questions about our approach to leadership development and change management, or would like to be shown around our platform, schedule a call with us here.