Sustainable Coaching Cultures

All companies aspire to achieve ‘the best company culture’.

However, few are able to articulate what a good culture means, define the desired outcomes and measure the progress, let alone be able to attribute benefits of any cultural change.

Add coaching into the mix and this becomes even harder.

Before we break down the obstacles for a coaching culture — let’s talk about why having a coaching culture is desirable in the first place.

Why coaching cultures?

I’d love to say it’s all about employee wellbeing that’s swinging the boards into action, however coaching cultures deliver substantial results.

Risk. Cost. Revenue. Shareholder Value.

If you have no experience or knowledge of the impact of culture cultures, you might be mistaken in thinking that the desire for coaching cultures is not about performance but some ‘fluffy’ employee attraction/retention tactic.

In Peter Hawkins book — Creating Coaching Cultures — the author uses a number of case studies of organisations that have successfully made the coaching culture shift and documented the results.

Ernst & Young are quoted: ‘If we improve how we attract, develop and motivate our people, we will drive efficiency, quality and client service’.

That sounds like an interesting idea.

If we flip the quote on its head for a second — the heart of the benefit is about maximising the potential of all resources.

Essentially, it’s about scale.

In the EY case study, they talk about the employees closest to the coal face being in a position to better service their customers, which has driven higher profit and revenues. EY specifically attributes the growth to the coaching culture.

How? Rather than senior managers, trying to ‘manage’ every situation, coaching, in its purest sense, was deployed with every employee having the skills within them to drive the most profitable business whilst putting customer service first.

Reducing the cascade from above or diagnosis from afar, the front line teams work together to solve the challenges, empowered to make the right decisions for the business.

And then from a risk and cost perspective, it’s all about employee hiring and retention…

Attraction, Development and Retention

Employees are challenged to create solutions and drive change. They feel more appreciated within the organisation, ultimately leading to higher retention rates and increased productivity per employee.

Retention also ensures vital tribal knowledge is not lost through the constant churn of key employees. Again, back to productivity and return on cost.

This is particularly topical in today’s UK tech sector which is currently a ‘candidate market’ — where there are so many roles, companies are on the back foot with retention.

With so much choice of tech roles in the UK, employees are constantly tempted by other offers. How can you find reasons for employees to not look elsewhere?

The war on talent is very real and without the ongoing connection to employees and their personal growth, you risk losing your best and brightest.

Coaching cultures can help with attraction too.

The FCO are quoted in Hawkins’ book for saying that coaching was so entrenched in the culture, employees saw coaching as a key employment benefit.

By having happier, fulfilled employees, they will self-promote the company’s products and services, which also promotes the brand and employment prospects.

Side benefits include reducing the recruitment rates through referrals and viral marketing through the brand promotion.

So why isn’t everyone trying it?

One of the biggest hurdles I have seen in the industry is the buy in and experience of coaching at an executive level, outside HR.

Yes, there are lots of coaches, courses and books — however coaching practices in tech are still relatively new — many executives like the idea but have no first-hand experience — let alone been a coachee themselves — so have struggled to commit to the long term benefits or convey the business case for positive culture change.

Why should leaders embrace coaching themselves?

Selling to customers & employees.

Selling strategic change.

Selling goals, targets and aspirations for the company.

Leaders are mentors, role models and coaches all in one. Without walking the walk, it’s difficult to sell anything to employees.

And this is every level of leadership — from first line to the Board. A culture must be the entire organisation — not just pockets or divisions. To sweep through the whole organisation and develop benefit for every employee and product line — you must bring everyone along with you.

As Gandhi said — ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.

And then it’s about communication

But communication isn’t about a ‘new initiative called coaching’ —coaching must be embedded into life in the company. All company comms, strategies, customer care, talent management, training & development becomes intrinsically linked to the culture.

Coaching approaches in the corridors, in team meetings, town halls — every opportunity, allows the WHOLE ORGANISATION to think through the latest and most pressing company challenges to solve them as a collective.

Using every employee to maximise it’s scale and productivity.

This brings me back to EY, where it became how they did business.

No flash in the pan initiative. Coaching was baked into everyday life at EY. Visions, missions and values rewritten to speak to the culture of the business. Everyone was hired with coaching in mind and new managers ‘onboarded’ to specifically develop the culture.

Imagine — ‘New managers onboarded to specifically develop the culture’!

Quite often in an interview process we can get quite protective of cultures, desperately trying to assess the candidate’s ability to ‘fit in’ and not destroy the culture. However, Hawkins’ book goes much further to talk about how managers are onboarded with the tools to keep and further develop the culture. Culture is not left to chance.

‘Great leaders, create leaders’ — Jack Welch

With the support of the C-Suite, a good program structure and the desire to embed coaching into ‘how you do business’, coaching cultures will thrive and deliver considerable results across the whole organisation.

As Jack Welch once said ‘Great leaders, create leaders’.

Let’s not over manage but allow our employees to find their full potential for our companies, and more importantly, themselves.


Additional Reading:

Peter Hawkins — Creating Coaching Cultures

The Many Roles of a Leader — Inspir'em

Leader as a Coach — HBR


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