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Matt Somers

Matt Somers - Coaching Skills Training

Founder & Managing Partner

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How routines and rituals influence a coaching culture

Real ownership and sincerity should be at the centre of company routines and rituals – find out why.

To recap, in this series we have been using Culture Partners’ model, the Results Pyramid, to examine workplace culture generally and coaching cultures in particular.

We saw that culture can be defined as ‘experiences shaping beliefs which drive actions and results’ and how it follows that people’s daily experiences are ultimately what will determine whether we can create a coaching culture or not.

Those experiences are created in one of three ways:

  • Our direct, personal encounters with other people and events
  • The stories we hear (experience by proxy)
  • The systems and processes in which we participate

The Cultural Web

In their book Exploring Corporate Strategy, Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes present a model called the Cultural Web as a means of characterising and analysing organisation culture. 

This web provides an excellent lens through which to view the way in which we experience systems and processes as it breaks them down into:

  • Routines and rituals
  • Organisational structure
  • Control systems
  • Power structures
  • Symbols

Now, let’s move onto considering:

Routines and rituals

All organisations have their own unique schedule of routines and rituals which quickly become part of the fabric of organisational life. 

Some of these are very formal, like audits or inspections, and are probably driven by a need for compliance with laws or internal procedures. Some of the strongest cultural indicators, though, emerge from the less formal, social routines. 

More than just cake

From my banking days I can remember the importance attached to birthday cakes and leaving dos. If it was your birthday you were expected to bring cakes in for the team. To not do so was to risk being a social outcast for the rest of your working life. 

Similarly when someone left, for whatever reason, work stopped in the afternoon for about 20 minutes while the most senior manager available would say a few words and crack the odd joke at the leaver’s expense.

Organisations have their own unique schedule of routines and rituals which quickly become part of the fabric of organisational life

The value of rituals

It was then all off to the nearest pub for most of the night and everyone was expected to attend. 

We all valued these rituals because it said, we value each other and want to acknowledge a life outside of work. 

If senior management had tried to change either of these rituals there would have been an open revolt.

Routine ownership

Some routines and rituals fall away if there is no real ownership. Team briefings and quality circles were all the rage a few years ago, and now only really found in organisations where the staff themselves took responsibility for embedding them.

In a coaching culture, the most obvious routine to expect would be regular, scheduled coaching sessions. However, this is not necessary to achieve a coaching culture and some signs may be more subtle. 

Some routines and rituals fall away if there is no real ownership

Coaching at the centre

It would be fair to say that an organisation that has committed to regular performance reviews for all staff and that holds pre- and post-learning event discussions, for example, has placed coaching central to its routines and rituals. 

Similarly, an atmosphere in which employees are encouraged to recognise numerous opportunities for learning in their day-to-day work can be thought of as indicative of a coaching culture.

Turn giving recognition into a routine

“The only time people do not like praise is when too much of it is going toward someone else,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here’s a powerful way of reinforcing a coaching culture: become systematic in calling out the behaviours you want to see.

I know many organisations who have success in creating cards or brief online forms that people can use to recognise each other. This can be made even more powerful if we focus the recognition on something specific.

Become systematic in calling out the behaviours you want to see

Judicious recognition

Something like this perhaps:

“I want to recognise Nadia for her commitment to offering coaching to her team. Every month she schedules half hour sessions for the office-based team and Zoom calls for those working from home. I have spoken to her team and they all tell me how much they value these conversations because they help them keep focused amidst the change we’re all experiencing. Thank you, Nadia: by doing this you are cementing our commitment to the coaching approach and upholding the company value of ‘One team, working together’.”

I recommend encouraging such recognition to come from all and any directions, 360 degree style and to bake it into other established routines like team meetings and town halls.

Of course, any praise or recognition must absolutely be sincere or it will have the reverse effect, so be honest and judicious in using this technique.

If you enjoyed this, read: Coaching: the 'common sense' approach to framing your thinking



Author Profile Picture
Matt Somers

Founder & Managing Partner

Read more from Matt Somers

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