In this Coaching Culture series, we have now covered the main building blocks for establishing the foundations of a coaching culture in your organisation and how you can fully utilise coaching as a strategic resource. We now turn our attention to how you can not only sustain, but also enhance the impact that coaching can have over time. Here are some of the ways that you can underpin long-term success and impact.
Often, the broader organisation may not be aware of what is defined and understood by coaching or its associated benefits. In order for your efforts to be a success, a wide-scale communication plan will be helpful to educate the organisation on what coaching is, its benefits and how it can be accessed/used. In this way, you can start to create a common language around coaching that will help people to identify with it in a more routine, business-as-usual way.
Once you have established a strong coaching offering, albeit from internal and/or external coaches, it is important to tell people that these services are available — sell the vision! One organisation I worked with spent a lot of time and money building internal coaching capability but did very little to let people know about it. What good is this valuable resource if no one knows about it? Employees, therefore, didn’t use it and resulted in no clear evidence that it has made a difference. Educating and marketing coaching as a resource is vital to the success of your efforts!
Research undertaken by the International Coach Federation indicates that one of the greatest risks to the profession of coaching is untrained coaches, and this risk is also now extended to the use of coaching skills by managers and leaders. One of the criteria for an organisation with a strong coaching culture is where “managers/leaders (and/or internal coaches) receive accredited coach-specific training”. If you really want this to work, then ensuring that your internal coaches, and the managers and leaders using coaching skills, have been properly trained by specialists in this area and that the training has some form of recognised accreditation is an important investment in the long-term benefit and impact from their application of those skills.
External coaches usually invest a considerable amount of time in their ongoing professional development. Why not adopt the same principle for your internal coaching resource? As highlighted previously, coaching is not just a behavioural skill. Coaching is also a mindset and staying current and “fit for practice” is an important part of offering the best coaching possible. Ongoing development could take on a number of formats including:
- Advanced learning packages – to extend the individual’s coaching knowledge and skills
- Mentor Coaching – to focus specifically on the core competencies of coaching and deepen the individual’s understanding of how to bring them into their coaching conversations in a natural and effective way
- Supervision of Coaching – to step back on the individual’s coaching practice and reflect upon what’s working, what needs to be developed, what patterns and themes are emerging and an inquiry on how the individual can be at their best in a coaching conversation
- Coaching “Clinics” – a place where coaches can “meet” to share ideas, resources, success and challenges and to feel supported and engaged as part of a coaching “team” within the organisation
- Peer coaching – internal coaches and managers and leaders using coaching skills could engage in a reciprocal peer coaching programme to keep their skills active whilst also benefit from being coached (a win-win)
- Membership of a professional body – can offer many opportunities for on-going development as well as community and networking
One problem that some organisations face is that they invest in training people to become internal coaches, but then don’t support them in offering this new and valuable skill. This can be partly addressed by the education, marketing and continuous development ideas noted above. However, it is also important to recognise and value the contribution that internal coaches and managers and leaders using coaching skills are making to the organisation.
Additionally, when the organisation goes through a significant change initiative (especially when it implies structural change), this valuable internal resource is often lost through redundancy or personal choice to leave, and not only the investment, but also the value they would add, is unrealised. At times of change, coaching comes into its own and is a vital asset to any change initiative if properly utilised and nurtured.
Good coaching incorporates clear accountability and ownership of taking action and fulfilling commitments. Therefore, as well as nurturing and developing your internal coaching resources, it is also important to ensure that they are held accountable for delivering a good coaching service. This might be accomplished by including coaching as part of someone’s job description or in how their own performance is measured and recognised.
In order for coaching to be a valuable strategic resource in the longer term, a professional approach is needed. To that end, the creation of a coaching “business plan” is recommended. The plan can outline the vision of success, the objectives and measures, the approach, the tactics, the communications plan and the sustainability plan in a 1, 3, 5 or even 10-year timeframe.
One of the analogies I use for explaining the place of coaching is sport. In sport, it is the best athletes who get a coach because they show promise and because someone wants to invest in them so that they can be the best they can be.
This same attitude is important for coaching in organisations. When coaching is perceived as a remedial tool, it is unlikely to inform culture or have an impact in the way we have been exploring in this series. An aspirational and inclusive attitude is what is going to make the difference — believing that all of our employees have promise, that they are all a valuable resource that merits being supported to be the best they can be. This is the attitude that will make the difference and will enable coaching to be fully utilised in your organisation.
In order to bring all this together and make the very best use of these elements, I recommend creating a coaching “hub” within the organisation. Organisations that have been the most successful in developing coaching culture tend to have a centralised focal point to coordinate the coaching “business plan”. This focal point could be a person, a team or part of someone’s role, whatever is most appropriate for your organisation and your plans for coaching. The purpose of this “hub” could be to undertake some or all of the following:
- Project managing the original initiative to introduce coaching as a strategic resource
- Educating and marketing coaching services within the organisation
- Owning and implementing the coaching business plan
- Ensuring the quality of coach training and development
- Managing the process of using external coaches
- Managing the “magic mix” of blending external coaches, internal coaches and manger/leaders using coaching skills
- Developing and owning the coaching measurement system
- Managing the ongoing development of the organisation’s coaching resources
- Ensuring appropriate accountability measures are in place
- Coordinating and tracking the use of coaching within the organisation
- Developing and managing a sub stem for coaching services to be made available and accessed as widely as possible throughout the organisation (e.g., an intranet platform)
The importance of focusing on sustainability cannot be underestimated. Taking a longer-term view is vital to success! Utilising coaching within your organisation will certainly have some very useful short-term benefits; however, it is the “long game” that offers the greatest positive impact. Culture is not achieved overnight; it is a product of sustained behaviours, patterns, habits, attitudes and themes. With clear intention, planning and commitment, your organisation can reap the longer-term and most impactful benefits that a coaching approach can bring!
So, what does this look like in real life? Next we’ll look at some models of excellence and examples of what coaching culture looks in practice. We hope these stories and examples from real organisations with strong coaching cultures will inspire you as you start your own coaching culture journey. Sign up to receive this full series directly to your inbox. I want to help you bring coaching into your organisation in a way that truly makes a positive difference and is done by developing a strategy that is just right for you, your people and your business.