A strong coaching culture matters. Here’s why.

By Kate Lee

A coaching culture supports innovation, sparks insights, and energizes employees.

A coaching culture creates a true learning environment, one in which coaching is ongoing and executed by those within the organization. A strong coaching culture leverages individual strengths and emphasizes team-building and personal growth, shifting the way people work together. When coaching is embedded within and across an organization, employees work and lead together, they are inspired and energized to maximize their potential, and they are aligned to a common goal of high-performance.

To be successful, a coaching culture must be aligned with an organization’s business strategy and organizational culture. Further, a successful coaching culture must be supported and modeled by leadership.

A coaching style of leadership is characterized by partnership, collaboration, self-awareness, and empathy. In his classic study of leadership styles, Daniel Goldman provides the following description of coaching leaders:

“Coaching leaders help employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations. They encourage employees to establish long-term development goals and help them conceptualize a plan for attaining them. They make agreements with their employees about their roles and responsibilities in enacting development plans, and they give plentiful instruction and feedback. Coaching leaders excel at delegating; they give employees challenging assignments, even if that means the tasks won’t be accomplished quickly. In other words, these leaders are willing to put up with short-term failure if it furthers long-term learning.”

In short, a leader-as-coach “asks questions instead of providing answers, supports employees instead of judging them, and facilitates their development instead of dictating what has to be done.”

We are often asked what the difference is between coaching and feedback.  Feedback is evaluative in nature, focused on previous behavior, and it is about helping people understand what is preventing them from reaching their goals. Coaching is future-focused – it is about self-discovery, skill-development, behavior change, and advocating optimal performance.

Research finds that leaders who adopt a coaching style of leadership report improved self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-leadership.

Organizations with strong coaching cultures report revenue growth well above their industry peer group (51% compared with 38%) and significantly higher employee engagement (62% compared with 50%). Organizations with strong coaching cultures also perform better on critical business performance indicators including customer satisfaction, regulatory compliance, profitability, shareholder value, and labor productivity, and are more successful at large-scale change than industry peers.

What’s more, organizations with strong coaching cultures have a higher percentage of internal hires/ internal promotions, employees assessed ready for senior leadership positions, high-performer retention, and diverse hires.

A coaching culture is one that supports innovation, sparks insights, and energizes employees. As we work within our current environment and focus on the Future of Work, building a strong coaching culture can have a positive impact. For leaders, adopting a coaching style of leadership and modeling coaching behaviors is crucial.


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