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Those of us in business and organisational life know that coaching has been a ‘buzz’ word for a while and some do it brilliantly (with great impact) and others less so (with low, zero or negative impact).   We also know that Coaches are extremely valued in sport – no sportsman or woman will reach their full potential without one – and are increasingly recognised for their benefits to business.

The Institute of Leadership and Management(ILM) describes coaching as ‘one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways of developing individual and organisational performance’. According to ILM research, 80% of organisations already use coaching in some form, or had done in the past, and a further 9% were planning to introduce it. The ILM found that the more employees in an organisation, the more likely it was to be using coaching.

A comprehensive study into the benefits of coaching by the ILM found that almost all organisations questioned believed that coaching as a development tool benefited the organisation as well as each individual taking part.

Coaching can have a significant impact on a wide number of key metrics, from financial performance to employee engagement and retention; in short, it increases the chances that each employee, and therefore the organisation as a whole, will reach their full potential. Its exact financial benefits are impossible to quantify – a study for the Harvard Business Review in 2004 made an attempt, but conceded that the financial benefits of creating a coaching culture were too difficult to separate out. The authors (Sherman and Freas), though, added that ‘we have yet to find a company that can’t benefit from more candour, less denial, richer communication, conscious development of talent, and disciplined leaders, who show compassion for people’.

Coaching is a recognised and extremely complex practical skillset and ‘way of being’, which is why external coaches, like Space2BE, are so in demand. We believe however, it is equally important to develop an internal coaching culture.  As enlightened organisations move from command and control type management styles to coaching, empowering and collaborative approaches, the necessity for managers and leaders to really ‘get coaching’ and be able to role model it effectively will become critical.  It is not just about correcting poor performance – good coaching is aspirational and about striving towards and achieving a high performance culture.

Achieving a coaching culture

We asked one of our senior coaches and author of ‘Creating a Coaching Culture for Managers in Your Organisation’ Mary Joyce to share her view on why the creation of a coaching culture is so critical in 2015 and beyond:

“The pressure on leaders in organisations to deal with mergers, restructuring, constant change, uncertainty and paradox mean that the old ‘command and control’ and pace-setting ways of leading and relating in the workplace will not achieve the level of transformational change and adaptability required to survive and thrive in unpredictable and uncertain times.

Coaching can alter the quality of relationships at all levels in an organisation and, in turn, change its culture by tapping into the seam of creativity that lies in its people. A coaching culture can ‘scale up’ the benefits of individual coaching, to achieve a more agile, engaged and connected ‘team of teams’ with the capacity to catalyse the capability of the organisation by co-creating a shared space for leadership and change.”

So, with that in mind, here are our 9 key steps in creating and embedding a coaching culture:

  1. Explore and understand the link between coaching strategy and the core business strategy. It is a tool to create the culture that the business needs to deliver its strategy effectively and for sustainable outcomes? Daniel Goleman, in his HBR article ‘Leadership that gets results’ highlights that coaching as a management style achieves long-term results rather than others which deliver only short term outcomes such as pace setting and coercion.
  2. Assess the current organisational culture and aspirations for cultural change. How will the coaching strategy feed into and support that?
  3. Find an external coach that will fit with the organisation and help bring about the change that’s needed.
  4. Get senior leadership buy-in for the change and importantly start the journey ‘at the top’ by involving the board and senior leadership teams in creating a fit for purpose coaching model that fits your strategic direction and then training the senior players in how to role model good coaching with their direct reports.
  5. Clearly explain the rationale to stakeholders as to how coaching will help the organisation and what it is intended to achieve.
  6. Identify the managers that will receive coaching, and those that are the best targets to receive training in coaching skills and make sure this is delivered well with the right level of follow up and embedding support in place.
  7. Build the necessity to be a good managerial coach into HR processes for attracting, developing and measuring your people. Reward appropriately.
  8. Regularly assess the impact of coaching on culture and individual and organisational performance. Celebrate successes. Learn from failures. Be brave and talk about what circumstances a coaching culture doesn’t work and reflect on using alternative methods.
  9. Bring in external experienced, qualified and accredited executive coaches to help with strategic reflection and continually building your managers’ coaching skills through supervision processes, capability building sessions and helping you to reflect on the broader impact on business culture.

 A word of caution:

Internal coaching undertaken by managers and leaders will not address all individual development requirements that external executive coaching provide, and neither is it intended to do so. It is really important to distinguish and understand ‘what it is you are coaching for’ and be clear where internal boundaries lie.  This is why good quality coach the coach training is required.

The broader subject of the variety of coaching that is available, the skills & capabilities of the coach required to do it and the likely impact of each will be the subject of a later blog. Discussing this very subject with a number of other senior, highly qualified coaches recently, it is a summary that will be beneficial to all who provide, source and experience executive coaching in its many forms.

We’d love to hear your experience of growing internal coaching cultures. Specifically;

  • Where did you do it?
  • What did you do that really helped?
  • What (if anything) didn’t work?
  • What recommendations would you have for others who are about to embark on the journey?
  • In your view, what are external executive coaches required for when an organisation has an effective internal coaching culture?
  • Is this something you are passionate about and would you like to be part of a broader debate?

If you’d like to answer any of the above please follow the link and complete the short survey monkey. Findings will be shared with those that contribute.


Creating a Coaching Culture for Managers in Your Organisation Forman, D., Joyce, M., and McMahon, G (2013) East Sussex: Routledge

Leadership that Gets Results, Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, March – April 2000.

Further reading: