Getting managers and executives to act like coaches is a battle worth fighting.
A Manager, by definition, is a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization. If you felt a little uncomfortable reading that description, you aren't alone. Just the thought of "controlling" or "administering all" of something, especially when it comes to people, feels all too "1950's workplace" for me as well.
Grace Hopper said: "you manage things; you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership." Not only is Hopper right, but you can't control the growth and development of someone else.
Most managers want to help grow the skills of others, but their lack of follow-through and coaching keeps this from happening. Instead, leaders embrace their responsibility in the growth process and inspire and coach others to meet their full potential.
Managers try to control the growth of their employees; leaders inspire and coach for it.
Coaching is a skill that anyone, regardless of role, can adopt and develop. I define coaching this way in the Coaching for Excellence Program, "coaching is improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence."
Coaching is improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence.
By getting in the mindset to coach, bringing specific attributes in each interaction, and coaching team members differently based on where they are in their development, anyone can play a role in helping someone else achieve higher levels of excellence.
Having a Coaching Culture Improves Performance
When one or two people are doing something positive, small changes happen. When the vast majority of people are doing something positive, transformation occurs. This is precisely what happens when organizations adopt a coaching culture. I defined culture in Building the Best as "The shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior." When everyone in an organization believes that part of their job is helping others improve, organizations thrive.
Don't just take my word for it. In one study, 51% of organizations with a strong coaching culture reported revenue above their industry peer group, and 62% of employees in those organizations rate themselves as highly engaged.
What Holds Companies Back From Adoption
Like many things, most people and organizations start with great intentions, and coaching is no different. But when immediate results aren't realized, people default to their old way of leading.
When immediate results aren't realized, people default to their old way of leading.
An ICF Global study in 2020 found the three top obstacles to building a strong coaching culture inside an organization are: Limited support from senior leaders (50%), inability to measure the impact of coaching (42%), and a lack of budget for coaching activities (38%).
While each organization is a little different, the commitment to coaching separates those who adopt and sustain it versus those who do not.
How to Create and Maintain a Coaching Culture
If you or your organization is committed to creating a coaching culture, here are a few strategies to adopt.
1. Start with Coachable People
It is a lot easier to adopt a coaching culture when the talent in the organization is coachable. This requires starting at the beginning of the talent development lifecycle and hiring people excited to listen, learn and grow within their role and the organization.
It's easy for someone to say they are coachable, but I look for proof. A good barometer is when someone demonstrates their desire to get better and is willing to put in the work and effort.
"Being coachable is how you show the world you desire to get better and are willing to put in the work and effort."
Hiring coachable people is precisely where Human Resources and Hiring Managers get the opportunity to rise to the occasion. There are many methods to ensure you hire someone who is coachable, and looking at a resume isn't one of them. The ticket is asking candidates tough situational questions;
- Can you tell me about a time when someone challenged you in the past and how you responded?
- Can you tell me about a time when you helped someone else improve?
2. Promote Managers and Executives Willing and Able to Coach
Nothing will hurt the development of a coaching culture more than executives at the top who aren't coachable. When you have professionals at every level of an organization, from the CEO to interns, who are coachable, performance skyrockets.
For decades professionals have been promoted because of success in previous roles, without thinking much about their leadership skills. Sir Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Airlines, evaluates both when promoting, "I like to take chances on people, and whenever possible, promote from within - it sends a great message to everyone in the company when someone demonstrates a passion for the job and leadership skills at every step along the way is rewarded with a leadership job."
"Individual contributor results are important, but they aren't an indication of how someone is going to do in a position of leadership."
Creating a coaching culture requires promoting people who remain coachable and are willing and able to teach and mentor others.
3. Equip Them Wih Tools and Training
Bob Nardelli said, "without a coach, people will never reach their maximum capability," and I couldn't agree more. While some people are wired with a better predisposition to coach, anyone who wants to be a more effective coach needs tools, methods, training, and experience to improve. This is precisely how you mold any skill.
I believe that in just a few years, most thriving organization's employee development strategy will have a coaching program or certification for managers and executives to refine their coaching skills.
Each organization and its leaders are going to go about developing a coaching culture in slightly different ways. Whether they leverage external coaches, internal coaches, or elevating the coaching from managers, their people need help and support to achieve higher levels of excellence.
Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.
About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.