No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Creating a coaching culture


PeopleCoaching has become an increasingly popular training method for organisations wanting to improve their learning and development practices but, says Verity Gough, to gain its full potential, coaching needs to be taken out of the corporate classroom and seeded in company culture.


The rise and rise of coaching

There is no denying the popularity of coaching, and a quick glance at the findings from the 2005 Annual Training and Development Survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) provides some telling statistics. According to the study, 88% of organisations now use managers as coaches in some form while further research suggests that 99% of managers would like to develop a coaching culture in their organisation. But how easy is it to shift the emphasis of coaching from the executive to the shop floor and imbue it into the company culture?

Photo of Professor Peter Hawkins"Coaching should not be an end in itself but a means to an end otherwise it will become flavour of the month, just as building a 'learning organisation', or 'a total quality organisation' or 'a customer centric organisation' were before."

Professor Peter Hawkins, Bath Consultancy Group

"The first step is to ask 'why a coaching culture?' says Professor Peter Hawkins, CEO of the Bath Consultancy Group and president of the Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS). "It should not be an end in itself but a means to an end otherwise it will become flavour of the month, just as building a 'learning organisation', or 'a total quality organisation' or 'a customer centric organisation' were before."

Hawkins believes that companies need to examine how it will serve the core strategy of the business and only once that is decided can a coaching culture flourish.

Building the business case

However ideal it sounds in theory, persuading the board that coaching isn't just simply an elite training method reserved for executives can be a stumbling block. For those who are reluctant to buy in to the concept, articulating the links between the coaching culture strategy and the core strategy can help bring clarity about how the wider organisation can reap the benefits.

Hawkins advises looking at it in three stages: "Firstly evaluate the internal investment, make sure there is some form of contracting and set some very explicit goals," he says. "Then make sure it is reviewed in the middle and end of the coaching contract so you are all clear on how you evaluate the success. And finally remember it's not just about what the boss thinks - the process has to be underpinned by some degree of 360 degree feedback, so ask yourself: what is the shift needed in the culture and to achieve this, what is the shift we need in our leadership? If you haven't got that line of logic, then you won't get the same return on investment."

But, says John McGurk, learning, training and development adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), companies who are considering coaching should be realistic in their expectations. "Coaching isn't magic, it's just giving people the opportunity to think and explore what they are doing and reflect on it – and it can improve their performance," he says. "It's an incredibly powerful tool for adapting both people's and organisations' capacity to change – something that is particularly pertinent in the current economic environment," he adds.

Rather than thinking about the return on investment (ROI), McGurk advises organisations to think about the return on expectation (ROE) so instead of considering how coaching can add value to the bottom line, look at the mid to longer term intangible benefits. "If Johnny is terrible at project management and Helen doesn't deal well with conflict, why not get members of different departments to work with them via mentoring and coaching sessions? Under this process, we would expect to see improvements so Johnny gets better at managing projects and Helen learns how to minimise conflict. These are ways you can measure the benefits," he says.

Taking it to the line

Traditionally the vast majority of coaching has been provided by an external coach brought in to train top level staff and high potentials, and for those organisations new to coaching this is a perhaps a good way of dipping their toes in the water. However there is a growing importance of the line manager's role in organisations' learning and development training.

One company that has been quick to adopt this form of coaching is Skipton Building Society who has been running its scheme since 1998. It now has a well evolved coaching culture that also sees employees recruited to become part of an in-house pool of coaches and mentors.

"On a day to day basis coaching is the role of the manager or leader but if someone wants to participate in offline support, which is where we position our mentoring and coaching programmes, then they volunteer or can ask to be included," says Linda Grant, head of leadership and development. "It's transparent but we don't insist that everybody does it or that it is the right thing for everybody to do. It's an option if they want it."

While much of the coaching is focused on developing the rising stars and executives, Grant observes that lower level and middle management staff are keen to participate too. "Basically it's a supportive way of helping them develop in a safe environment. And the feedback has been great – particularly from the senior team - they have become keen advocates and have gone on to offer themselves as internal mentors and coaches to put something back," she enthuses.

Quality is key

Photo of PERSON’SNAME"Coaching is an incredibly powerful tool for adapting both people's and organisations' capacity to change – something that is particularly pertinent in the current economic environment."

John McGurk, CIPD

According to the Coaching in Organisations report conducted by the CIPD and Ashridge Business School, one of the emergent topics was the importance of quality – something that coaching experts and practitioners agree is the single most important determinant of success in coaching. Similarly, APECS research has also found this to be an emerging trend in the coaching arena. "Quality, supervision and professionalism are going to be very important in the way companies assess a coach's capability," says Hawkins.

"Prospective coaches should expect to undergo a very long application, with evidence of supervision, training, references, and even coaching live in front of the management panel, all of this helps them see the expectations of quality." However it is also argued that while coaching needs some managing/framework/best practice, by its very nature it is too personal to be controlled and those organisations looking to create a coaching culture need a flexible framework that's open enough to allow organic growth.

"There are different phases of coaching which are dependent on organisational context," concludes McGurk. "It would be pointless having an over-elaborate structured scheme with hours of coaching programmed in the diary if it doesn't require it," he says.

In fact the organisations that are successful in their approach to company-wider learning and development practices are the ones that have created an environment where coaching behaviours as a means of managing, influencing and communicating with each other have become part of the everyday fabric of working life.

Ten steps to creating a coaching culture:
1. Answer the question: 'Why a coaching culture?'
2. Articulate the linkages between the coaching culture strategy and the core strategy
3. Build an appreciative and developmental view of the organisation's current and aspirational culture
4. Ask leaders: 'How can you be the culture you want to see?'
5. Develop a selected community of appropriate external coaches
6. Build an internal coaching capability
7. Ensure all managers receive some basic training in coaching skills
8. Build coaching into all HR processes and metric, including performance measurement
9.Explore how coaching can be used by staff at all levels with key stakeholders
10. Have regular reviews of where your organisation is on the coaching culture journey

Source: Professor Peter Hawkins, Bath Consultancy Group


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!