Management Tip of the Month:
If you’re feeling the pressure of rising performance expectations, and the need to develop and retain your best employees, consider building coaching skills into your leadership culture.
A few years ago, I wrote on the topic of culture, and how powerful it was in orienting new employees to how things were done in your company. (Your Culture is Your Best Teacher.) More recently, as a professional coach, I’ve become very aware of how important creating a coaching culture is to companies’ ability to improve overall performance, improve retention rates, and generally improve the overall level of employee engagement at their firm. (Jack Zenger 2016)
Why bother instilling coaching as an element of corporate culture?
Frankly, we need all the help we can get! Quoting Alison Hendren, founder of Coaching Out of the Box, a leader in coaching education, “Today’s fast paced and competitive work environment requires that we maximize the strengths and talent of all people in an organization. No longer does command and control work, and in order to retain talented and valued people, we must up our game to better support their ongoing development and satisfaction. Honestly, it is a burning platform and organizations need all hands on deck!” (McLeod 2013) (Full disclosure: Ascendent Leadership is a certified trainer in this training program.)
What are the benefits?
There is a significant body of research that correlates broad deployment of coaching skills throughout the leadership of an organization with improvements in productivity, and employee engagement, as well as reduction in voluntary attrition. In a particularly useful summary of the benefits of a coaching culture, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman reported that in their research, employee commitment ranged from a low percentile score of 15 all the way to a percentile score of 90 across a range of coaching effectiveness from low to high. In the same study, risk of quitting ranged from a high of 52% down to a low of just over 20% over a similar range of coaching effectiveness. (Jack Zenger 2016). Net-net, the existence of a coaching culture makes a huge difference in both the performance and retention of key employees.
What does an effective coaching culture look like?
Leaders who have successfully incorporated coaching into their leadership style have learned a few key lessons:
How to perform several important coaching skills: listening, encouraging, asking great questions, making requests to stretch and challenge the people their coaching, and helping those people develop concrete and measurable plans for action.
How to execute a a repeatable coaching process that guides the coach, and when repeated with regularity actually trains the employees how to coach themselves. A key facilitator of this learning has been the International Coach Federation. Over 20 years of experience, the ICF has codified most of what we know are the foundations of successful coaching. The ICF has over 20,000 members globally and is the largest professional organization in the profession.
Finally, a number of personal characteristics that establish a coaching mindset that lays the relational foundation with the coachee for successful coaching and the performance improvement which follows.
What’s my path to get there?
- Consider your situation, the benefits that accompany a coaching culture, establish the business case, and decide to do it.
- As Kotter teaches us, form a guiding coalition to provide the “juice” that a change initiative like this will require. While the steps are well known, they represent real change, and it will take persistent leadership to stay on track. (Kotter 1996)
- Be very attentive to capturing and publicizing your early wins. I’m working with a firm right now who just trained their sales leaders in coaching, and it’s fun to watch the emails flying around, as they conduct their first real coaching sessions, and apply the skills.
- Using the sponsoring coalition to capture the early learning and keep pushing for more buy-in and accomplishment across the broader organization.
- Just as I discussed in my blog article referenced above, let the culture you are building orient new employees and leaders. Help the coaching behaviors become “just the way we do things, here”.
This is an important element of my consulting and coaching practice and I’m a certified trainer for the Coaching Out of the Box program. I’d welcome the chance to discuss this program with you and see if there’s a way to help you get started!
Jack Zenger, J. F. (2016) “How developing a coaching culture pays off: dramatically improve your organization.”
Kotter, J. (1996). Leading Change. Boston, Harvard Business Review Press
McLeod, B. (2013) “The Coaching Imperative – An Interview with Alison Hendren, Master Certified Coach.” hrandtalent Blog.