Culture Club

This week’s post is in response to a challenge from Sean Kent. He wanted to know how best to embed coaching in to the culture of an organisation. As you can imagine, that’s such a multi faceted question that one could write a book about it (and plenty have). Faced with such a huge task I immediately went in to research mode but quickly discarded it – otherwise Sean would have had to wait a year for his challenge to be answered. I had the idea of making a little movie with talking heads of coaches I know each delivering a little nugget of wisdom but there hasn’t been the time to organise that so we’re back to me and my somewhat curious take on the world.

  1. I think first off it pays not to have this “coaching culture” as the destination but rather to understand how coaching will help you deliver whatever your business produces / does. That way sceptical employees will see how they will get from A to B using coaching as part of the journey and hey, we all like going on a trip don’t we?
  2. Next up I feel that it’s important to have a body of internal coaches. As an independent you’d expect me to suggest the opposite (and don’t get me wrong, one or two externals can provide a frame of reference) but that will never fully embed coaching. They should come from a cross section across the organisation, not just traditional leaders or people in authority. It’s a great way to develop new talent or increase responsibility. If your coaches can get together for regular professional development sessions then great, if not they need to continue to invest in their skills one way or another (and may need your support to do so). Which leads me on to my next idea.
  3. All managers should get at least a basic coaching skills package with additional support from your internal specialists. If managers understand how to use a coaching approach with their staff they will be able to deploy it in situations as diverse as development discussions and return to work interviews. What better way to show your staff that coaching is here to stay. Now I appreciate that this one won’t be easy but we all have to start somewhere.

Operating on the principle that the human mind likes groups of three I should stop there but I know we also like “one for luck” so here goes…..


Yep, I think I said that loud enough. You see, junior staff get “a personal development plan” but senior staff with a skills gap get “coaching”. How aspirational would it be for people farther down the food chain to get the same as the bosses? If your executives are so invested in coaching as to offer it to their subordinates then this is going to be really powerful. That way your workforce see a similar investment of time and energy being placed in them. Obviously, you really need your top team to have bought in to a coaching approach but rather than enforce it from above, let it grow from demand, from the investment in the internal coach team, staff and managers. My experience is that you’re never short of volunteers for coaches or people willing to be coached.

So that’s it, a very simplistic ‘fast and dirty” view of coaching culture. I know that Sean already has a strong cadre of coaches in his organisation and is committed to growing that capability. Maybe you do too. If not, come and find me and we can talk some more about how you might do that. I’m here, I’m on twitter @projectlibero and also over at


About Jon Bartlett

I'm a coach, blogging on things that occur to me, that I want to share and any other fun stuff I find lying around in the real world.
This entry was posted in Work and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Culture Club

  1. Jon, Thanks for a good post and I really like your point on not having a coaching culture as the destination! I’d just add a couple of things from my experiences: I think it helps to have coaching in job descriptions and/or objectives as it can (in some organisations/for some people) legitimise the time spent and help to keep it on the agenda at performance review time. Also, communicating the success stories can be really helpful in getting the benefits across to the wider community. Thanks, Ian

    • Hi Ian, glad you liked the post. I agree with your point around using job descriptions and objectives. I feel that “coaching” should be made more explicit in those documents rather than just used as a filler word eg. “Develop and coach staff as appropriate”. Otherwise it just gets lost in the general chatter of what a manager does, it becomes a minor skill set rather than a key role or measure. We need coaching to get it’s own section or more descriptors to really make that work.


  2. Mark Benfold says:

    Thanks for the post. Your first two points are spot on.
    I’m not sure I agree completely with the third. Having managers aware of the benefit of coaching is certainly a necessary piece to support your second point. However, there’s an issue of trust for the subordinate: Is the manager in a reflective mentoring mode in the current conversation or in a directing one? Can the manager clearly segment conversations or will there always be uncertainty? Am I being supported or directed?
    I think it will depend on the skills and confidence of the manager.
    I do think that having individual permission to think and reflect is an essential part in developing the corporate culture and that coaching can be a positive part of that.


    • Hi Mark, thanks for stopping by and the feedback. I agree with your concerns around the 3rd point and it’s something I’ve partially addressed in my reply to Ian. The skills of the manager definitely need to be enhanced and it’s often worth defining what constitutes a “coaching approach”. Many coaches I know have moments where they are directive and it’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself. I guess what you’re driving at is the manager perhaps bringing too much task focus to a conversation. That’s definitely a concern but one which can be addressed, as you say, confidence of the manager is key.

      More broadly though, if elements of coaching are brought in to standard workplace conversations surely that helps. I’m thinking initially of excellent listening, open questions, reflective language and perceptual positions as skills from coaching which easily transfer to almost any conversation.

      As I said in the post, this was just a quick skim across the top of a very complex subject. I’m just glad it’s got people talking. Particularly the first point which seems new to many.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s