Fairly early in my restoration career, I was fortunate enough to have an Executive Coach and the positive impact of working with her was off the charts. Her perspective, insights, and consistent challenging reshaped many aspects of both my personal and professional life.
Eventually, most of our key leaders were meeting with her on a consistent basis and in return it was helping us move the needle as an organization. The more I experienced the positive effects of her influence on myself and my leadership team, the more I started processing what it would look like to ensure more and more of my team could have access to this kind of developmental support.
Over the next couple months, I worked with my Executive Coach to lay out the framework to establish this coaching-focused culture across our organization. Though the process wasn’t easy, the positive impact on our team engagement and our ability to exponentially grow was nothing short of remarkable.
What is a Coaching Culture?
In order to remove some of the mystery or ambiguity from the concept, let’s start by defining what a coaching culture specifically is.
The Forbes Coaches Council says: A coaching culture simply means supporting your employees so that they learn new skills and become greater assets to the company.
Essentially, a coaching culture is an environment where our day to day activities support proactively engaging our team members with the end goal of advancing their individual capacity across all aspects of their professional (and often personal) lives.
Coaching cultures equip leaders and influencers to create “feedback rich” environments, consistently challenge team members, always communicate the WHY and provide clarity on what it looks like to win in each person’s respective role. Coaching cultures are a balance of consistent accountability and rich connection (Thanks Clint Pulver!).
Sometimes, the easiest way to explain what something is is to point out what something isn’t.
The opposite of a coaching culture is an environment where we just want our employees to “do their job” to “take care of business” to leave us alone and to not fail. But there’s very little proactive teaching training or equipment that’s provided on a day to day basis to support their development and continued engagement.
The coaching framework
On the surface, these organizations simply look like well organized and process-driven teams, but the real magic is much more nuanced and is focused on how our team members interact with one another.
Coaching cultures are specifically focused on creating interactions between team members that follow a coaching framework. Those key elements are as follows:
Identify and present the problem or goal:
Clearly describe the goal, attitude, behavior etc. that needs to be developed and/or worked towards. Be specific and concrete. Ensure you point back to how this is in alignment or out of alignment with company standards, mission or vision. Walk them through how this affects them individually and the team as a whole.
Get agreement & understanding on the problem or goal:
It’s absolutely critical that there is no gap between your understanding of the objective vs the understanding of your team members. Take the time to ask questions regarding understanding, provide examples and supportive visuals as needed. This cannot be accomplished by simply talking at someone; a two-way conversation is required for real engagement.
Collaborate on a plan of action:
Establish measurable outcomes, be specific on due dates, what’s being measured, what a win looks like and what resources are available to support the effort. Outline actions to be taken by the individual and by you as their manager or key leader.
Follow up and through:
Schedule formal follow up meetings and check-ins to ensure things don’t slip through the cracks. There is nothing worse than a failure to follow through and sending the signal that these kinds of conversations don’t hold the value they are intended to. Celebrate wins, progress and don’t shy away from addressing missed opportunities and required course corrections.
Simple, but not easy
The coaching framework is not complicated but it’s not easy either. The key is the proactive nature of this kind of conversational framework. Instead of being passive and hoping that our teams pick up on what we expect them to, we are intentionally framing and driving our interactions with a specific purpose. We are ensuring that our engagement of team members is equipping, providing positive reinforcement and supporting their professional development. We are being clear regarding expectations, objectives and team goals.
Five levels of Coaching Culture
As this framework gets adopted deeper and deeper into the ranks you begin seeing a whole new level of accountability being adopted throughout your organization. Delegating tasks becomes easier, less and less business functions depend specifically on only those in management positions. Everything from service delivery to sales becomes more and more driven by the team instead of you.
Peter Hawkins, in ‘Creating A Coaching Culture’ describes five different levels of coaching culture that we can develop within our organization:
The organization champions the value of coaching in its strategy and mission. It is seen as a key leadership and management competency.
A coaching style is used one on one and in teams to encourage engagement, problem solving and development.
There is a prevalent belief that people perform best when they are engaged with issues and challenges and helped to see options – rather than being told how to act.
There is energy within the organization and a high level of personal engagement. Challenges are seen as an opportunity to learn and grow. There is high support and high challenge with a focus on helping people realize their potential.
The culture supports people who are committed to lifelong learning and development. There is a belief in people’s ability and their potential to learn continuously, and that collective performance will grow as a result
One step at a time
If this is new to your organization then you are likely feeling like I did early in my own journey with this concept, OVERWHELMED! You know what they say about Rome and this process is no different. Let’s break this down into some tangible steps that you and your team can begin taking.
Start at the top:
As the GM or Owner simply identify your top leaders within the organization and begin building a coaching relationship with them directly. Explain your vision for the team and why this concept is so vital to the future success of the company. Be honest that this is new for you as well and that you will be learning together. Establish goals surrounding the adoption and use of this coaching framework by your key leaders and use the appropriate follow up process to ensure they engage, learn and begin using effectively.
Share vision with your entire team:
Present and share your vision with your organization and explain the values of this kind of culture for all of them. Point them towards how it will positively impact their careers and future opportunities with the company. Explain how they will first begin to experience it through their interactions with department managers and team leaders. Be transparent about some of the awkwardness they may be experienced during the initial few months as the team goes through the transition.
Deepen alignment and levels of engagement:
Ensure that day to day battle rhythms align with and point towards this coaching culture framework. Call out examples during all company meetings and other team events. Encourage peers to use similar methodology when training one another and when problem solving issues at the project level. REMINDER: Anything important is worth repeating!
Coaching cultures are environments where team members consistently know where they stand in terms of performance and value. Individuals feel appreciated, challenged, supported and know they play a vital role within the organization. Peers support peers, leaders develop more leaders and the weight of carrying the organization becomes lighter as more and more shoulders unite to support the load. Coaching cultures give business owners and key leaders the opportunity to WORK ON the business and focus on strategic goals that ensure future successes for years to come.
During our latest episode of the Head Heart & Boots podcast, Chris and I discuss the topic at length so fire it up on your next commute or workout session and let’s see what your team is capable of.