Imagine your organization with a culture of coaching, where every interaction is an opportunity to learn, gain insight and increase performance. Nothing compares to coaching when it comes to helping people perform at their best. Individuals become energized — or re-energized — about their work, take full ownership of their performance, find and rejuvenate long-lost talents, and make major shifts in their contribution levels.
If a company is to be agile, responsive and able to keep pace with its fast-changing environment, people at every level need the tools, the confidence and the will to be coaches for their teams and throughout the organization. Equipping managers with coaching skills is an important first step. But there’s no reason to stop at the management level.
Even the most well-meaning, committed managers barely have time to coach their team members. Extending the coaching role beyond the managerial level can lighten the burden on those who are already overwhelmed, and equip others to step up.
As you start to make coaching everyone’s business, it won’t just be an activity that occurs in scheduled sessions but a culture that pervades organizational life. The magic of a coaching culture is that it is infectious. Any time someone is well coached, they become more coach-like themselves. Employees at all levels begin to accept ownership and accountability for their work and relationships. They require less daily and direct supervision from managers as they develop their skills and strive to reach their full potential.
Building a coaching culture is straightforward, but it demands an investment and personal involvement from leadership. Here are the seven things leaders need to do:
- Strongly encourage every employee to invite another organization member to coach them. Anyone can coach anyone else. Some will not get invited, and their feelings may be hurt. These people should thank you. Since we need to earn the right to coach others, this is very valuable, if a bit painful, feedback.
- Dive into the process yourself. Invite someone in the organization to coach you, and insist that all senior leaders do the same. You will notice that “insist” is a bit stronger than “encourage.”
- Remind your team that anyone can coach anyone. A good coach is a good coach. Don’t waste time in the futile pursuit of “good matches” or “chemistry,” and yes, you can coach your boss.
- Ask people to take on only one coaching assignment at a time. This will ensure that each person will receive their coach’s full attention and will spread the coaching opportunities and load throughout the organization. Note, this does not absolve leaders from being consistently coach-like with all their team members.
- Provide the following loose but important guidelines: Coaching pairs should meet in person or via telephone for 30-60 minutes every two to three weeks to keep the momentum going for four to six months. This is enough time to develop new performance standards and create new habits.
- At the end of every coaching engagement, encourage people to invite a different organization member to coach them. There is always another, higher level of performance possible and a good coach will not rest until it is found.
- Equip everyone in your organization with the skills, perspectives and approaches necessary to immediately coach at a high level. If you find the right program, this will only take one day, two at the most. Unfortunately, most coach training programs focus an inordinate amount of attention on interpersonal skills such as active listening and providing feedback rather than what it takes to really be a coach.
Have your people participate in a highly experiential training program that introduces them to the potency of coaching, provides them opportunities to practice real coaching and receive direct feedback. You will also want to make sure they are fully equipped with the tools necessary to:
- Ask questions that pierce through closely held assumptions and mental models.
- Constructively confront unhelpful behaviors, practices and attitudes.
- Affirm strengths even if rarely employed.
- Share fresh perspectives no matter how radical.
Stand back and watch. When coaching becomes everyone’s business, it can change the entire game.
Gregg Thompson is the author of “The Master Coach: Leading with Character, Building Connections, and Engaging in Extraordinary Conversations,” and president of Bluepoint Leadership Development. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia.com.