How to build a coaching culture

How to build a coaching culture

People learn to be great leaders. Mentoring and coaching are increasingly recognised as important parts of the learning process, but many young professionals receive neither, research suggests.

Sixty per cent of first-level leaders never received any formal mentoring, and only one in three organisations provides a formal mentoring programme, according to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018, a study by EY, business research organisation The Conference Board, and management consultants DDI.

Significantly, though, 54% of organisations in the top third for financial performance do provide formalised mentoring.

It is important for existing leaders to mentor the next generation. But it’s perhaps more important to develop a coaching culture. Today’s leaders can themselves benefit from being coached by their peers, external mentors, and employees. Leaders who are willing to be coached by their employees demonstrate their commitment to learning about all elements of the business and their openness to ideas and challenge, and they also show that they are capable of spreading a culture of transparency and collaboration.

Coaching across an organisation, drawing from different silos, spreads understanding of how the organisation operates. It deepens knowledge and perspective of the organisation, while building connections and networks across the business. The global leadership study suggested that the culture of collective leadership engendered by the coaching culture creates a greater probability of a strong leadership bench, lowers the risk of leaders leaving, and increases the rate of engaged leaders.

“Coaching, when done right, can be one of the most effective methods for improving performance and accelerating personal development,” said Andrew McBarnett, FCMA, CGMA, a UK business coach. “I have used it throughout my career, either providing coaching to colleagues and team members, or by being coached myself.”

In many small and midsize organisations, time and other resources are at a premium. If you have to choose between coaching and mentoring, coaching, which includes the accountability to hold employees to performance and developmental expectations, is where you should invest your resources, said Dom Cingoranelli, CPA, CGMA, co-founder of the Succession Institute based in Austin, Texas, in the US.

“In today’s business environment, finding and keeping quality people requires an intentional approach and an organisation-wide commitment,” he said. “Coaching is not difficult. It just takes some organisation, time, and thought, with the right attitude to pull it off.”

To make them work, the leadership development study and Cingoranelli offered the following suggestions:

  • Enhance senior leader communication around the value of coaching, and create incentives and rewards to reinforce coaching behaviours. Coaching elements can be embedded in performance management processes and talent development plans.
  • Identify suitable coaches on all levels of the organisation and train them. Training can be targeted towards easing business transitions, progressing careers, onboarding new hires, or promoting diversity.
  • Establish goals to ensure coaches are working in alignment with the same competency framework rather than defaulting to what each enjoys the most.
  • Use analytics to measure and communicate the impact of coaching.
  • Follow up to see whether standards are adhered to and identify what’s working and what’s not. 

Paul Gosling is a freelance writer based in the UK. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Sabine Vollmer, an FM senior editor, at