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How can organisations develop a coaching culture in the workplace?

Posted on from Association for Coaching

Many organisations across the world today are putting coaching programmes in the workplace, either hiring external coaches or training their own managers. A ‘coaching culture’ is the goal to pursue, so how can this be achieved?

The principles of a coaching culture

There are three principles underlying a coaching culture in the workplace:

There may be twenty ways of achieving any goal; the most effective is usually the one that the person who has to accomplish it chooses. If people are allowed to create their own pathways in tune with their personal styles of learning and performance, they will achieve better results and enjoy the process along the way, raising energy and loyalty to the organisation.

Self belief
There are two ways of building self belief. One of them is by receiving recognition from others, and the other is by increasing our confidence through learning by practice, trial and error. A coaching style of management encourages both.

Blame free
Research shows that human beings learn through making mistakes. Therefore it is essential that risk and error in the workplace are treated as part of the learning process.

If any one of these elements is missing, the culture will struggle. However, the beauty of coaching is that it can thrive at many levels and in pockets throughout an organisation.  So, if budgets do not stretch to an entire coaching programme, seeds can be successfully planted in small ways which will spread of their own accord.

Launching a coaching programme in the workplace

The difficult question for an organisation is where to start; the coaching profession is unregulated, incorporates methodologies taken variously from psychology, philosophy, business and sport, and the word ‘coaching’ delivers no less than forty two million entries on Google.

Fundamentally there are two paths to take: hiring external coaches for managers or training the managers themselves in coaching skills. If budgets permit, it's desirable to introduce both. If not, I recommend taking the training route on the principle that, to paraphrase the proverb, teaching people to fish is more productive in the long term than giving them fish. Internet searching is a viable option if the words ‘performance’ or ‘executive’ are added before ‘coaching’, and ‘training’ added as well where a training programme is required.

Choosing the right coach

The criteria for choosing coaches usually include a mix of recommendation, prior working relationship, accreditation, experience, and testimonials. The process can be informal, involving no more than a CV and interview, while some organisations have designed stringent application processes involving live panels of assessors.

The Association for Coaching, provides a useful web directory of member coaches and providers, whose references and qualifications have been checked.

Coaching skills training

Some organisations work direct with an individual trainer, while others need a company which can provide a team of trainers, possibly throughout the world.

All the varied methodologies of coaching have something to offer, and I think it is more critical that the training provider has a high level of rapport with the organisation and, preferably, that the trainers have all held corporate positions themselves, so as to understand the challenges and needs of today’s corporate managers.

Formal coaching in the workplace

There may be an inherent conflict of interest if managers coach their direct reports, although it can be successful if the level of trust between them is high. It's essential that coachees are able to choose their own coaches and that the coach, whether internal or external, guards the coachee’s confidentiality.

One of the ways an organisation can keep track is to have occasional three way meetings between the coach, coachee and coachee’s manager, where the broad goals can be determined. The coach and the coachee will then create the confidential personal goals required for the coachee to achieve the corporate ones.

Informal coaching in the workplace

Using coaching skills as part of day to day management of a workplace is a healthy practice whether between managers, reports or colleagues. I have witnessed whole teams transformed, after a relatively short of amount of coach training, into energetic units where people feel safe to take risks, challenge and support each other, generate healthy conflict, and function as a united and creative entity.

Uses for coaching skills in the workplace

The coaching principle of ‘asking instead of telling’ is not appropriate in every situation; there are times when people need straightforward instruction or advice.

However, all the different types of management can be performed in a coaching style, which is fundamentally about showing respect, developing people and using emotional intelligence, rather than a specific set of words and phrases.

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