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The Way I See It … Fostering A Coaching Culture


David Clutterbuck an acclaimed author on mentoring and organisational learning, a member of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council and head of Clutterbuck Associates and David Megginson, Professor of HRD at Sheffield Hallam University share, exclusively with TrainingZONE the secrets of coaching success.

It’s a sad fact that a large proportion of the money spent by employers on coaching initiatives is wasted. Accounts abound of expensive “sheep-dip” programmes, where line managers receive instruction in the basics of coaching, simply sinking into the ground as the realities of working in high pressure, short-handed, e-mail hounded environments drag people back to their normal habits and routines.

Similarly, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence about the value of executive coaching – using expensive professionals from outside the organisation – there is increasing concern about those coaching and mentoring relationships that make the client feel good, but result in little or no benefit to the organisation; or which do the client actual harm.

The table below shows a sample of the typical barriers to sustained coaching behaviours and some ideas on how to overcome them.

Coaching is done to people
Change the expectation so that employees have a right to demand coaching when they need it. Have systems that monitor whether this is happening and provide them with the support to do so.
Managers lack the confidence to coach
Make training and development in coaching and mentoring a continuous activity. Develop some managers as role models for good coaching behaviours and as coaches to the coaches. Provide group supervision to help managers think through how they tackle coaching opportunities.
Coaching is seen as an “add-on” activity
Educate people in how coaching approaches can be used to tackle and improve a wide range of management issues, from project management to strategic planning.
No time to think
Build reflective space into daily routines. Make it legitimate to be seen to be thinking. (We heard recently of a company where the lights switch off automatically if people don’t move at their desks!) The issue of positive or negative stretch is also relevant here – people who are overloaded with routine work, don’t have time or opportunity to think about learning. Negotiating both the content and the volume of work can create a positive platform for coaching to happen.
Managers aren’t convinced of the value of coaching
Often, this is because they have never been exposed to really effective coaching for themselves. However, a lot can be achieved by making and marketing a sound business case for coaching, at both the organisational and the team levels.
Overemphasis on individual rather than team performance
Focusing on the team fosters coaching between team members. It also makes it easier to consider the interaction between the individual and the team, as a critical element in performance.
Poor quality of feedback
Employees often don’t know what aspects of their performance they should be asking for help on. More robust and continuous feedback systems help achieve greater clarity of learning goals.

Our studies of companies attempting to build coaching cultures indicate that it takes a sustained effort, over a long period, with commitment from top management being shown both in the attention they provide to the issue, but in how open they are about how they coach and are coached.

We have called the four stages we observed nascent (disorganised and unsupported), tactical (good intentions but no organised approach), strategic (strong involvement and role modelling from top management) and embedded (coaching and mentoring are seamlessly integrated into the way the organisation does business). Not surprisingly, very few companies can legitimately claim to have reached the embedded stage.

Those that have made significant advances all tended to put effort into six areas:

  • Linking coaching clearly to the business drivers.

  • Encouraging and supporting people in being coachees. (Some put more effort in developing people’s capabilities as a coachee than they do into training people to be coaches.)

  • Ensuring coaches have the confidence and competence to fulfil their role, whatever level they are at in the hierarchy.

  • Rewarding and recognising effective coaching.

  • Taking a system perspective. (For example looking at the big picture and how systems, such as appraisal or succession planning, influence commitment to coaching.)

  • Managing the move to coaching (for example by monitoring progress towards being a coaching culture.)

So where is your company on the way to a coaching culture?
For a free copy of the diagnostic and/or further information contact [email protected] and [email protected]


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