Wednesday, 25 November 2009

More on developing a culture of…


Abbey slide   Now we know how to develop culture, there’s still one important question remaining – why should we want to?

Earlier this year, I participated in a debate with from Michael Bungay Stanier of Box of Crayons in Training Zone.  Michael suggests that organisations shouldn’t create a coaching culture:

'We're going to create a coaching culture' is a commonly proclaimed goal, with some leader filled with visions of coaching reinventing life and work in that organisation.

But coaching alone is not always able to miraculously drive change, improve performance, increase happiness, make money and lift the level of engagement in an organisation. Coaching is a powerful tactic that is best used to support and achieve a specific business objective.

The focus on a 'coaching culture' runs the danger of confusing the means for the end, and it is a lack of context – why exactly do I need to use coaching? – that can undermine any attempts to get managers coaching. Commitment and engagement with coaching works best when there are two levels of context.

The first is the business context, and we've found that enhancing coaching skills works best when it's serving a specific business purpose – for instance, building team resilience before a corporate re-branding and re-organisation, increasing key customer retention or reducing the churn of front-line sales staff.

The second is a personal context, or more bluntly: how will this help me and my work? Getting managers to see how coaching can be not just another thing to add to the to-do list, but rather a way of actually reducing their own workload while increasing the focus on their own 'great work' builds the likelihood of it being a tool that’s used. Context allows managers to see coaching as a support and a solution – and not just the latest HR trend.”



To me, its just the reverse – in today’s fast changing world, it is only by creating a culture of [or more accurately, social capital in] coaching, innovation, leadership, or whatever it is, that an organisation has a chance to become and remain successful:

“Coaching for it's own sake - just because you think it's trendy, or because company X is doing it - is clearly not going to take you anywhere.

So in this sense, I support your desire to see a clear business focus and benefit for coaching activities.

However, I also think that coaching can have transformational outcomes which are often unknowable in advance.

This is the benefit that a coaching culture provides - it will help unleash everyone's, or at least talent's (depending on how extensively it's applied) potential.

Some of this may help meet current business goals. But it may also help go beyond these goals and help uncover new business opportunities (it's what I mean when I talk about creating value - ( ).

Organisations may loose considerable potential advantages for creating value through their people if they dismiss the opportunity out of hand.”



The point is described in the slide from Abbey that’s shown above: people drive the business.  More (of the right) talent equals more results.

I also like this quote taken from Sherman and Freas in Jane Turner’s presentation on coaching cultures:

“When you create a culture of coaching, the result may not be directly measurable in dollars. But 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.”


Of course, as I explained in my last post, no organisation can do everything, so they need to pick and choose.  Some nice-to-have’s like coaching may be left off the list in order to include other must-have’s like innovation (the choice being dependent on the organisation, its strategy, context etc).  But once you’ve decided what’s going to make the difference, just do it.  Don’t wait to pin down some specific needs, or until you’ve calculated a potential ROI.  Just do it.

Make it happen.





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  1. Jon,

    Your post in Training Zone is no longer there. I recall your thoughts because I too contributed my comments in supporting the coaching culturing.

    I see Coaching as a very powerful leadership communication tool for alligning goals, enthusing people and solving problems.

  2. Yuvarajah - Michael wrote the post: I wrote a comment - the second one in the list (which says anonymous author for some reason).

  3. I believe in coaching culture. It is the best model for organizational development. It shows how the people can best interact with their working environment as a group or a team. Coaching culture can effectively increase the productivity,enable better work satisfaction among workers and reduce the turnover rate of workers.
    Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

  4. A coaching culture ~ We say ‘YES’
    Let’s clarify what we’re saying YES to.
    Our definition of a coaching culture, taken from the online resource Towards a Coaching Culture is:
    Using coaching techniques in an organisation that supports their use.

    3 points to consider:
    Distinguishing coaches from coaching
    A coaching culture isn’t about everyone having a coach. Many managers are already using coaching. Many organisations already support coaching as an approach without ‘buying in’ coaches. A coaching culture evolves from coaching conversations taking place across a team, a department and then across the organisation because people realise the value and sustainability of this approach in developing people.

    Distinguishing coaching techniques from the coach
    We assert that successful leadership and management involves using coaching techniques anyway but, if managers and leaders aren’t taking a coaching approach with their people, there is a strong case to be made for their use. Asking questions rather than telling the answers.... Empowering others to find solutions.... We make the business case for the use of these techniques as part of the culture, for the majority.

    Defining coaching culture
    For us, a coaching culture is no more (or less) than an organisational recognition, and encouragement, of the use of coaching techniques – even if they never employ a coach. So if using coaching skills and techniques or taking a coaching approach is the way you do things in your organisation, or, the way you aspire to do things ‘around here’, then in our books that’s what a coaching culture is all about.

    Is there a tension in this discussion between a systematic approach to coaching across an organisation and a systemic (more organic) approach. We’re for the latter ~ facilitating the growth of coaching and fitting systems to complement and suit that growth.
    Aren't we ‘on the same page’ with this. In our view, and experience, Michael’s programmes promote coaching, support people development and change the practice of leadership and management in organisations towards coaching. Isn’t that a significant contribution to creating a coaching culture?
    Thanks for the discussion.


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