A coaching culture is not created by scheduling one-on-one meetings to discuss performance. A coaching culture is not created every Wednesday from 10:00 am to 10:45 am in the conference room. A culture of coaching in the workplace is pervasive and ongoing; it is a constant in every interaction, because it’s not about the topic being discussed but how it’s being discussed. A culture is defined and reinforced by the relationship between the conversation’s participants, and once that relationship is established the coaching becomes continual. While some organizations hire external coaches, and some count on HR professionals, we believe that creating a coaching culture at work relies on the manager/employee relationship. It is imperative that managers learn the skills and develop the abilities to be effective coaches, but once they do, coaching can be done in ten minutes or less.
Helping others succeed
The term “coaching” has acquired a plethora of definitions and interpretations over the last decade. Within organizations, we’ve heard of career coaching, performance coaching, developmental coaching, peer coaching, coaching teams, and more. Outside of organizations, we’ve heard of a wellness coach, a spiritual coach, an athletic coach, and even a dating coach. The field of coaching has become quite silo’d, yet our research has shown that the common thread is actually the cornerstone of coaching: Helping others succeed. Whether on the baseball field or in the boardroom, a coach helps others succeed in whatever endeavor they choose. The vision of success may be different for every employee, but given the right tools, a manager can be pivotal in helping his/her employees get there. The key to creating a coaching culture at work is to provide development and structure so that managers can learn the skills they need to coach effectively. Once these skills are learned, managers become coaches by practice, not by schedule.
Coaching happens at the water cooler, in the hallway, and on the way back from lunch. Coaching occurs in casual conversations, through status updates, and even in team meetings. By asking questions instead of giving specific instructions, a manager is creating the coaching culture. When a manager asks for input to explore his/her employees’ approach to a project, the manager is creating the coaching culture. When a manager walks with an employee down the hall and listens to his/her hopes for his/her career, they are creating the coaching culture. Successful managers devote energy, and sometimes extra time, to developing relationships with their employees. They seek to understand each employee’s unique needs and have regular, honest conversations with them more frequently. Trust is at the core of the coaching relationship, but it doesn’t have to happen in formal meetings only. With every interaction comes an opportunity to create a coaching culture in the workplace. The tools necessary for a successful coaching relationship revolve around increasing an employee’s satisfaction and contribution. Employees’ satisfaction levels are based on their own personal values, goals, career aspirations, work-life needs, etc. In order to maximize their satisfaction, managers need to coach for satisfaction. These conversations include career ambitions, personal goals, family, personal development needs, and more. Managers are also responsible for consistently improving the performance of their employees, and maximizing the impact each employee has on the company. In order to maximize their contribution, managers need to coach for contribution. These conversations can include developmental opportunities, performance feedback, career progression, etc.
Equipping managers with the know-how to have these conversations will result in the creation of the coaching relationship, which is the basis of a coaching culture.
Step 1: Train managers to think like coaches. They need coaching to build awareness about themselves, and the tools to have the conversations to build trust and accountability with their teams. Developing a coaching culture requires positive relationship with their employees, and leaders need to learn the skills to do that effectively.
Step 2: Identify opportunities for coaching. With every exchange comes an opportunity for coaching, and it takes attention and practice to lead and respond as a coach in those conversations.
Step 3: Engage in the coaching conversation. Asking questions, listening actively, seeking to understand, and encouraging exploration… these are just a few of the attributes that underscore an effective coaching relationship.
Creating a coaching culture
Rating and ranking employees in the performance management system isn’t producing results… for anyone. Organizations need to be focused on creating a coaching culture at work – coaching to drive performance, coaching to drive career growth, and coaching to drive personal success. Today’s view of coaching is agile and dynamic, conversational, developmental, and often very personal. And it can yield major results. Developing a coaching culture can result in improved retention, productivity, engagement, and even stock price. High levels of employee contribution result in a better bottom-line; high levels of employee satisfaction result in increased retention. When both are maximized the individual is engaged and the company reaps the benefits. Creating a coaching culture can take a mere ten minutes. When managers are skilled and aware of the opportunities before them, they can capitalize on every interaction with their employees, leading to dynamic and robust coaching conversations. For such a small effort, the company – and the individual – will gain significant returns on the investment.