Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The characteristics of a healthy effective coaching culture

Globally, a wide range of organisations and businesses are developing a coaching culture (Weekes, 2008), in the hope of realising a wide range of benefits, that include personal and professional growth (Hay, 1995), resilience in the face of change, business development, talent management, and the fostering of leadership and personal effectiveness. Coaching, when framed as an approach to communication where the initiative and empowerment of the person being coached is emphasised (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015), fosters positive work environments. It also helps incubate a range of leadership approaches - something that research findings indicate have significant performance and health benefits (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015).

While the structure of an organisation cannot directly shape its culture “it can undermine efforts to change” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 28). So, at its root, a coaching culture is a model that structures, and helps define, the parameters of what effective interpersonal interactions look and feel like within an organisation. These structures and parameters are firmly underpinned by the values of the organisation, and can support the development of agreed ways that results might be obtained and evaluated (Behavioral Coaching Institute, 2007).  Coaching would not be the only approach used in the organisation, but it would be used wherever appropriate.  It takes time to develop a coaching culture (up to a year or 18 months) because people need to be comfortable within the culture and to develop the necessary coaching skills (The Open Door Coaching Group, 2012).

A coaching culture, however, is not an automatic panacea for all organisational ‘ills’ and a company can interfere with the rate of change because of its existing structural impediments. Hoole and Riddle (2005) identify structural impediments as being, for example, the reward system of a company that compensates executives who use aggressive tactics with little or no recognition of how their actions negatively impact the health of the organisation. In comparison structures that support culture as much as financial performance, are likely to be a positive environment for coaching.

A well-established coaching culture will be one where coaching methodologies are ‘normalised’ within the organisation, For instance, it will be the preferred way of having conversations (Hoole, &; Riddle, 2015). When this occurs, all people within the culture “fearlessly engage in candid, respectful coaching conversations, unrestricted by reporting relationships, about how they can improve their working relationships and individual and collective work performance” (Crane, 2005, Para 3). These conversations will make use of set of coaching tools and the language of coaching to become part of the everyday way of working together. As a result everyone values coaching as an integral part of personal and professional development - as a way of continually learning, improving practice, and positively contributing to the organisation’s goals. However, an integral part of nurturing a coaching culture is also ensuring that staff are provided with formal opportunities and training to develop their own coaching skills. Otherwise, the tendency for people is to default to the neurologically energy-efficient of telling, which “requires less intellectual and emotional energy than engaging …[someone] in a thought process to advance their capability” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 29).  

A healthy, effective coaching culture, includes (but is not limited to) a/an:
  • strong organisation-wide identity and commitment to coaching (Crane, 2005), with all staff knowing the goals / strategy of the organisation, as well as the contributions they can make in achieving them
  • coaching approach that impacts behaviour as well as processes, which is captured in role descriptions and professional learning plans
  • shared vision
  • overt valuing of leadership (reciprocal) development throughout an organisation (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015).
  • environment of trust and mutual support
  • atmosphere of creativity and engagement (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015)
  • understanding of the benefits of ongoing learning (adaptive - coping and generative - creating) (Crane, 2005)
  • solution focused (positive) rather than problem focused (negative)
  • recognition that working on the ‘symptoms’ of challenges is not as effective as working on the underlying causes / processes
  • integrated way of formally and informally recognising work / contribution
  • focus on giving others an opportunity to address issues on their own before offering advice or direction
  • appreciation of being part of a respectful, collaborative, learning organisation (Charan, & Colvin, 1999) that encourages positive thinking, and taking / learning from informed ‘risks’
  • mind shift (Crane, 2005) that means staff see themselves as interconnected
  • desire to participate in ongoing learning (Crane, 2005)
  • commitment to openness / provision and seeking of formative feedback
  • focus on growth and helpfulness
  • willingness to take responsibility for actions and the impact they have on others
  • desire to explore how they create their own reality, and therefore how they can change it
An organisation with a robust coaching culture is likely to encourage a positive working environment, cross-organisational, innovation, increased productivity - and lead to personal, professional...and organisational...growth. This in turn can help ensure that the organisation remains responsive and nimble in today’s world of fast-paced communication, diversity, global competition and change.


Behavioral Coaching Institute. (2007). Establishing a coaching culture. Retrieved from http://www.1to1coachingschool.com/Coaching_Culture_in_the_workplace.htm
Crane, T. (2005). Creating a COACHING CULTURE - today's most potent organizational change process for creating a "high-performance" culture. Business coaching worldwide ezine, 1(1). Retrieved from https://www.wabccoaches.com/bcw/2005_v1_i1/feature.html  
Hay, J. (1995). Transformational Mentoring: Creating Developmental Alliances. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.
Hoole, E., & Riddle, D. (2015). The Intricacies of Creating a 'Coaching Culture'. Retrieved from http://www.talentmgt.com/articles/7627-the-intricacies-of-creating-a-coaching-culture
The Open Door Coaching Group. (2012). How do I build a coaching culture. Retrieved from http://www.opendoorcoaching.com.au/how-do-i-build-a-coaching-culture
Weekes, S. (2008, July). Catch on to coaching. The Edge. 28 - 32. Retrieved from http://qedcoaching.fastnet.co.uk/pdf/catch-on-to-coaching-ilm-edge-article.pdf


'Monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/40246574@N04/7188016806 Found on flickrcc.net

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Coaching under the microscope

Coaching has a wide range of characteristics, some of which are related to the definition of coaching that you choose to work with.
In general, the main characteristics of coaching in all approaches include the notion of change. Learning, by its very nature is change, such that when we learn we will have changed our skills, behaviour, our beliefs, our identity, or a combination of all four. As such, coaching is a way of a coach and coachee (or team) to work together in a collaborative, egalitarian, supportive relationship where the desired outcome is positive change that relates to specific outcomes.

During the process of being coached (and coaching) people will develop areas such as motivation, while also experiencing shifts in attitude, both of which help enhance practice by, for instance, becoming more effective. However, a central element here is that the coachee becomes more aware of, as well as their strengths, the areas on which they need to work, so that they can ‘own’ both, and take responsibility to develop professionally.

Another fundamental characteristic is the bespoke nature of coaching. In a coaching relationship there will be no prescribed formal ‘content’ or formal assessment. Instead the coach and coachee work together to identify goals, enablers, challenges, and action points. To ensure that this process is smooth, the coach and coachee must have good communication skills. The coach also needs to be able to support and appropriately challenge the coachee. In turn, the coachee needs to be open to sharing their own experiences in a way that leaves them free to identify the direction they want to take, and draw on their own determination to achieve positive results. This high level of motivation will be necessary if, initially, there are more drawbacks than successes. This will help ensure the coachee does not become defensive, but rather values the drawbacks as opportunities for them to be proactive, and to reflect and learn.

This highlights another characteristic of coaching: close professional relationships. To enable coaching to function a coach must be able to help build a positive relationship and rapport with their coachee, and the coachee must value the process and be open to trying new things. The coach and coachee should start by learning about each other so that their relationships can be honest, and based on mutual respect. Both parties will need to feel that their cultural backgrounds, beliefs, values and practices are considered and respected by the other party. Only from this place of trust, commitment and engagement will they want to continue to work together to shape the focus and form of the coaching.

The final characteristic I am going to discuss is the work context. Practical considerations such as access to people, data and resources are an important influence on the effectiveness of coaching. Another essential part of the success equation for coaching, psychologically and physiologically, is whether the coachee’s organisation is supportive of coaching as a valid form of professional development (Center for Creative Leadership, 2012). The amount of emotional support from the organisation, especially the level of caring, approval and respect provided by the coachee’s colleagues and managers in relation to a coachee’s professional growth, will directly impact that coachee’s resilience in the face of hardship and their determination to overcome challenges (Center for Creative Leadership, 2012).

What have I missed? Anything you don't agree with?


Center for Creative Leadership. (2012). The Coach’s View: Coach and Coachee Characteristics Add Up to Successful Coaching Engagements. [White Paper]. Retrieved from http://insights.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/CoachsViewCharacteristics.pdf.
Image: 'blue iris on grey background' http://www.flickr.com/photos/31672944@N07/3387338212. Found on flickrcc.net