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Jo Wright

Coaching Culture Ltd


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Had enough of managers who are too busy to care? It’s time to build a coaching culture

A good workplace culture is arguably more important than ever before. Workplaces where managers are just too busy to focus on their people is a huge problem for organisations. Could a coaching culture be the answer?
photo of person reach out above the water representing stress

Meet Sarah. She’s in her mid-40s, she’s a wife, a mum of two and a busy senior leader in the people team of a medium-sized charity. She’s always worked in people teams. It’s where she feels most comfortable; working with people and feeling like she’s making a positive difference. 

She wants to enjoy her work, feel like it’s truly rewarding and feel valued for what she does. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. One of the main things she wants to do is to enable managers in the organisation to have better quality conversations. 

She wants them to get to know their teams, to truly care about them, to ask more questions, to listen more, to build trust with them and to deliver results. 

Most importantly, she wants it to be done in the right way. She’d love to have the right support, tools and resources to make work a better place for everyone. A culture that everyone can thrive within. Essentially, she wants a coaching culture.

Obstacles all around

She used to be proud to tell people what she did for a living and who she worked for. Not anymore. She’s fallen out of love with the role. 

There are obstacles everywhere she looks. The long hours, the mounds of paperwork, the never-ending emails, managers who just don’t seem to get it and, to top it all off, she has a boss that just doesn’t listen. 

She’s dealing with all of this whilst trying to implement improvements, leaving her with a constant feeling that she’s wading through treacle while climbing uphill. It’s all starting to take its toll. No wonder Sarah is feeling jaded and starting to lose the sparkle she once had.

Groundhog day…again

In fact, a typical day for Sarah goes like this…

The alarm goes off at 6:30am, after having had a bad night’s sleep. Sarah grabs a coffee and then takes a deep breath; it’s time to tackle the first challenge of the day – getting the kids out of bed, dressed, fed, watered and then on to school. All before 8am. 

Having dropped the kids off earlier than she would ideally have liked, Sarah heads into work to try to avoid the traffic. 

Before she knows it, Sarah is pulling into the car park ready to take on the day ahead.

It’s a busy one. Her calendar reminds her that she’s got back-to-back meetings all day. Again.

The morning soon whizzes by, darting between different meeting rooms and video calls. Sarah somehow manages to bounce from a cultural change programme meeting to a one-to-one conversation with her line manager. 

The cultural change meeting was like Groundhog Day, having the same conversations about people just not changing their behaviours time and time again. 

She then heads straight into a one-sided conversation with her line manager, somehow ending up with even more tasks to add to her ever-growing to-do list. She needs this extra work like a hole in the head, but she can’t bring herself to say anything about it.

The afternoon continues in much of the same way. More meetings. More conversations. 

All of this is leaving her feeling both trapped and burned out

Missing the mark

Before Sarah knows it, the clock shows 6:15pm, and she is only just shutting down her laptop. She has promised to be home in good time tonight, as the kids have got friends around after school and she said she would cook their favourite homemade pizza too. She’s a good 45 minutes later than anticipated.

Her husband, Chris, and the two kids are used to her saying she’ll be home at one time but then appearing at another. Always later than promised, never earlier. It shouldn’t have to be that way; it makes for an irritable wife and mum. Sarah doesn’t like who she’s becoming. 

Not only is her mood impacting the family, but her friends are noticing it too. Sarah has lost her sense of fun. A glass of wine with her mates used to be a laugh, often resulting in tears of laughter rolling down their faces as they regaled crazy tales about their kids, their partners and the unbelievable stories from their work. 

Now it’s become a pity-party, the chilled Pinot hardly touching the sides as, one after the other, the glasses are downed all too quickly, in between the relentless moaning about the daily grind of life and work.

All of this is stopping Sarah from fulfilling her true potential as a wife, mum and senior leader. Becoming the irritable wife that she never wanted to be, the nagging mum constantly having a go at the kids and the frazzled leader in a people team means that both her positive attitude and confidence has been chipped away. The result is that all of this is leaving her feeling both trapped and burned out.

Over 79% of organisations in the UK ... experienced stress-related absence in the previous 12 months

The cost of a toxic culture

Sarah isn’t alone working in a culture where managers are just too busy to focus on their people. It’s a huge problem for organisations, this constant pressure for managers to be productive all the time. 

To add more and more onto their to-do lists. To take on more responsibility. To rush from meeting to meeting, from video call to video call. No wonder they are getting anxious, stressed and burned out.

In fact, the 2022 CIPD Health and Wellbeing report stated that over 79% of organisations in the UK had experienced stress-related absence in the previous 12 months, stating Covid, heavy workloads and management style as the top three reasons. 

Shocking statistics in anyone’s book. In fact, toxic cultures are costing the UK economy over £15bn per year, according to Breathe HR’s The Culture Economy report 2021

What really matters?

The importance of culture has never been more real. Since the pandemic, people are simply no longer prepared to accept this type of workplace culture. More and more people are re-evaluating what truly matters; not only at work, but in life. 

No wonder. We spend nearly a third of our time at work, so it goes without saying that it impacts most areas of our lives. 

Therefore, having the opportunity to work within an enjoyable culture, where people feel listened to, valued and where they can unleash their full potential surely has to be the answer.

These insights came from the book ‘No More Sh*t Managers: Seven Steps to a Coaching Culture’.

If you enjoyed this, read: Why leaders should always own up to their mistakes

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Jo Wright


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