When you think about your organization, functional area, and/or team, do your instincts tell you that your coaching culture is healthy? Do members of your organization regularly and consistently engage in coaching conversations designed to maximize team-member performance, encourage improvements, and initiate positive change? Just like with their physical health, leaders need to take an active interest in the health of the coaching culture within their organizations and set aside time for a regular checkup. This checkup need not be exhaustive. Even the simplest evaluations provide valuable information about a body’s overall health, physical or otherwise. And while it might appear on the outside that there isn’t anything wrong, a regular examination of the coaching culture may clue leaders in to areas that they weren’t aware needed any help.
Few, if any, organizations have a perfect bill of health. An examination of the coaching culture often yields at least some signs and symptoms that indicate a health concern within the culture that needs to be carefully diagnosed and treated. Unfortunately, a few leaders may even be faced with a coaching culture that is gravely ill, one that will require a team of specialists and an intensive treatment plan. For some leaders, examining the realities of the culture may be uncomfortable. But being honest is important, and waiting too long to face the problem is always a bad idea. Knowledge is power, and knowing what to do with the information you gather will help you help the culture. Diagnosing minor health imperfections and improving them through regular exercise and better habits is much easier than trying to overcome overwhelming concerns that have been allowed to fester into larger, longer-term problems.
A regular assessment and efforts to improve coaching consistency and quality will result in a sustainable, high-performance culture that is characterized by high levels of trust throughout the organization and team members who are passionate and motivated. Coaching conversations have many benefits, including helping members of the organization to work towards the right objectives and positioning leaders to attract and retain the right kinds of talent for their organization. Many leaders believe that fostering a culture of coaching will benefit their team and organization in numerous ways, but they also recognize that they may not be using their coaching skillset to its full potential.
One simple way to examine the current health of the coaching culture is to check its vital signs using the nine questions below:
- To what extent do I (or do leaders in my organization) initiate coaching conversations?
- Are team members coaching peers and coach up, rather than leaving the responsibility solely to the formal leader(s)?
- Do people view coaching as helpful and constructive as opposed to threatening and confrontational?
- When coaching occurs, is the goal to find collaborative, win-win solutions rather than to impose solutions on others using positional authority or power?
- To what extent do leaders and team members respect individual differences, needs, and abilities?
- Are coaching conversations used for development needs and positive reinforcement as well as for performance-improvement conversations?
- To what extent are leaders and team members receptive to suggestions, feedback, and personal development?
- Have leaders and or team members been given training or other resources to help them develop their ability to provide feedback and coaching to others?
- Do leaders and team members clearly understand that having candid coaching discussions is something they are expected to do, as well as being an important part of the culture?
As you reflect on and respond to these questions, pinpoint the areas that stand out to you. These may either be areas that clearly need your immediate attention, or they may only need to be improved upon in some small way. As you begin to work through these issues, be careful to avoid addressing too many areas at one time. Focusing your conversation on fewer areas will allow you to concentrate your efforts, placing emphasis on a few high-dividend actions rather than spreading yourself too thin across too many targets. You may also find that inviting others to share their perspective on the current coaching culture can be helpful as you refine your ideas on how to improve the organizational environment. Encouraging others to offer their points of view may help you to validate your analysis of the situation and identify problems that you may have overlooked. This network of trusted associates or team members will serve as helpful resources as you look for ways to strengthen the coaching culture.
As you make strides towards improving your team’s coaching capacity and overall cultural health, it is important to communicate your expectations for the culture and the actions you will take to improve it with your team and other members of the organization. Open communication will help all members of the organization to be fully aware of what you are working towards, your desires for the culture, and how each person can play a role in reaching new levels of success through coaching. Just as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” creating a culture where all team members are expected and encouraged to have candid coaching conversations will have an overall positive impact on the health and longevity of your organization.