Adopting a coaching culture: Career coach

Q My organisation’s senior management team feels it would be valuable if we adopted a coaching culture to help build employee engagement. However, many of our middle and first-level managers are poorly motivated and ill-equipped to make this a reality. How can I help them recognise the value of coaching and the part they have to play in it?

Adviser: Adrian Starkey, head of executive coaching, DDI

A The absence of an established coaching culture is surprisingly common, and can be traced back to the cutting of management training courses in the early 1990s. As a result, organisations are increasingly finding their middle and senior ranks consist of results-driven managers who often lack key people management skills, including how to effectively coach and develop employees.

It comes as no surprise to us when employee surveys reveal low levels of engagement, and talented employees leave their ideas, commitment and personalities at the front door. Our research consistently shows that the number one reason why people leave an organisation is because of a poor relationship with their manager.

Establishing a coaching culture is a serious business change process. Equipping managers with effective coaching and interpersonal skills can help reduce staff turnover, raise employee engagement, increase productivity, and enable managers and staff to have the ‘difficult conversations’ in a constructive manner.

So, how can a coaching culture be achieved? If an organisation is serious about establishing a coaching culture, it is crucial that the most senior management embody the approach and consistently demonstrate their commitment to coaching. For instance, if key members of senior management are prone to bullying or being insensitive, but this is left unchecked under the new coaching regime, the initiative will be seen as hollow.

Line managers also need to actively champion a coaching culture. Get senior managers to run a series of programmes that embed coaching behaviours throughout the organisation. Sessions do not have to be elaborate – perhaps only half to one day – but they do need to be taken seriously, and involve all levels of management. Within such programmes, it is useful for managers to observe examples of effective and ineffective management behaviours and their likely impact. Personal 360-degree feedback or engagement surveys are useful to reinforce what managers have learned from the programme.

Finally, building examples of effective coaching behaviours into management bonus schemes will certainly help drive the adoption of a coaching culture. This will also help managers realise the value attached to developing soft skills.

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