Why Your Organization Needs A Coaching Culture In 2021

      What is a coaching culture?  

      Since 2001, we’ve coached leaders in organizations at the forefront of the digital revolution, such as Microsoft and HP.

      Over this time, and especially during the past year, we’ve seen how the threat of disruption and the need to innovate has driven new ways of doing business. 

      Many organizations are quickly adapting to new distribution channels and business models made possible by modern technology and made necessary by the changing landscape thrust upon them 

      Keeping up with emerging trends in culture and management styles has proven to be much more difficult. 

      Something we've been seeing more and more is the concept around leaders needing to change their approach.

      Leaders are being encouraged to adopt a more ‘coaching’ style of leadership, in order to be more impactful in motivating and inspiring employees, especially the younger generation. 

      And it is a fact that motivated and inspired employees deliver stronger results. 

      So why aren’t more leaders doing this? 

      Well, it is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Coaching isn’t just a set of skills. Coaching is also a mindset and a role that leaders must choose to adopt.

      Whether or not leaders in your organization can become effective coaches depends partly on them and partly on the type of culture present in your organization. 

      Different cultures yield different results 

      Command & Control Cultures 

      The type of culture many leaders are used to working in is known as a “Command & Control” culture.

      In organizations where this style dominates, employees are expected to follow orders and stick to protocols – no questions asked. 

      In a “Command & Control” culture, people get ahead by demonstrating competence and hiding failure.

      Open conversations with a supervisor are rare, especially when they are about challenges and weaknesses. 

      The power lies with a chosen few to make decisions.

      Bottlenecks occur that slow down innovation and reduce agility. 

      Coaching Cultures 

      A coaching culture fosters openness and trust between employees and leaders.

      People are still expected to meet performance expectations, while concerns and issues can be tabled without fear of judgment. 

      With a coaching culture, people are encouraged to take responsibility for contributing to their own growth and development.

      This leads to important questions getting asked earlier, increasing organizational speed and fostering better conversations. 

      The power lies with every individual in the organization. People know what decisions they can make.

      They are confident to contribute new ideas and make things happen. Innovation and agility get ramped up. 

      I'm ready to dive deeper!

      Building a coaching culture starts with a coaching mindset 

      I was speaking with a CEO the other day and she spoke about her desire to foster a stronger coaching culture in her organization. She was sharing the challenges with one department. 

      “It is so frustrating. They hide mistakes,” she began. “By the time the mistakes come to the surface, it has caused a huge ripple effect that impacts other areas of the business.” 

      “I’m curious, what kind of conversations have you had with the department manager?” I asked. 

      “I keep telling the manager he needs to fix it,” she shared.  

      “Do you view this as just his issue?” I asked. 

      “Well, he’s the department manager, isn’t he?” she shot back. 

      We went on to explore the differences between a coaching culture and a more command and control type of culture. 

      I asked her to look at the chart below and quickly assess both herself and her senior leadership team as to what behavior they exhibited most often. 


      Command & Control Culture 

      Coaching Culture 

      Asking for help is frowned upon and seen as suspicious 

      Asking for guidance is expected and encouraged 

      People don’t look forward to their annual performance reviews 

      Feedback is given openly and in good faith on a continuous basis 

      Problems and mistakes are hidden from superiors whenever possible 

      Employees display courageous accountability and “own up” to mistakes 

      People aren’t trusted to do the right thing without guidance 

      People are trusted and empowered to rise to the occasion 

      If someone needs feedback, that means something is being done wrong 

      Feedback is seen as a gift that elevates performance 

      When she was done it was clear to her the culture that presently existed and where her focus needed to be. 

      I shared this perspective with her, “A coaching mindset is about creating safety and promoting openness. How you behave when people make mistakes or share opposing ideas determines the type of culture in your organization. In this case, if you believe the issues in your manager’s department are his alone, you are not coming from a coaching mindset.” 

      We went on to explore one thing she could start doing differently to kick-start a coaching culture in her organization.

      Coaching cultures foster stronger relationships and enable powerful conversations, which in turn increases creativity and contribution. 

      • What are you doing right now that is preventing you from creating a coaching culture? 

      • How do you need to shift your mindset? 

      • What’s one behavior you need to change to start living into a coaching culture?  

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