The 2005 Annual Training and Development Survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development [CIPD] revealed that 88% of organisations are now using managers as coaches in some form or other.
There is academic support and research available that supports the view that developing a coaching culture yields significant benefits. Sherman and Freas (HBR 2004) argued the case for a coaching culture in this way: “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.”
A coaching culture promotes more open communication. It builds trust and respect and it improves working relationships by showing allowing everyone to engage in a solutions approach. By embedding coaching in the culture of an organisation you create a developmental approach where everyone can recognise that their role involves facilitating the development of others.
A review of the stated objectives of developing a coaching culture yields the following typical reasons for implementing a coaching culture.
1. Increase employee engagement levels, resulting in
- Reduced employee attrition (1)
- Increased discretionary effort (2)
2. Faster to market in terms of successful product implementation and project delivery
3. Creating a ‘solutions mindset’ in overcoming problems and issues.
4. Cross sharing of ideas, transfer and retention of know-how in the organisation
The annual Hewitt Employee Engagement Survey used by over 1500 of the world’s top companies over the last 10 years tracks employee engagement levels compared to Total Shareholder Returns (TSR).
The companies with the highest engagement levels have the highest TSR, the correlation being driven by reduced attrition and increased discretionary effort.
An in-depth analysis (3) of the drivers of employee engagement that have biggest impact on overall engagement scores identify the following four key factors:
- “I feel I can learn and grow on the job.”
- “I receive regular performance feedback that helps me do a better job.”
- “My leader regularly asks my opinion.”
- “I receive regular recognition.”
Each of these four factors can be linked to the behaviours of leaders who understand and apply coaching principles in their day to day interactions with their team members.
Companies with positive employee engagement scores above 60% have an average TSR of 24.2% over 7 years. Companies in the mid-zone of 40-60% employee engagement have an average TSR of 9.2% over 7 years.Companies from 0-40% engagement levels have an average TSR of -3.2% over 7 years. (4)
Driving higher engagement levels correlates strongly with higher returns and higher engagement correlates most strongly with the above four factors linked to a coaching environment.
In addition to the benefit to business results the International Coaching Federation conducts regular employee surveys on the soft benefits of a coaching environment.
The International Coaching Federation, reports the following positive benefits for companies where a coaching model has been adopted:
- Lower stress levels 57%
- Self-confidence 52%
- Setting better goals 62%
- Increased self-awareness 67%
- Self-discovery 53%
- More balanced life 60%
The other perceived benefits relate to an environment where a coaching approach nurtures and inspires people to think for themselves. Most people can be inspired to think creatively toward their own solutions to problems. The coaching leader is one who enters into short and powerful coaching conversations, asking questions and getting the other person actively involved in the dialog in order to achieve their own conclusions. This result is a success because of the following reasons:
- If you were encouraged to think through a problem and you achieved your own solution you will own it to the point that you will have a much higher motivation to perform and deliver the result. To the contrary receiving a suggestion or an order about what to do is somehow easier but you will perform or execute a task as your boss suggested it.
- The coaching conversation is usually geared around the process rather than the content: that allows the manager to stay out of details and avoid the possible temptations of micromanaging their staff.
- The process of encouraging you to think through the various possibilities will also foster a more independent thinking mind that will naturally seek solutions rather than simply asking: "what shall I do next?".
APPROACHES TO IMPLEMENTATION
In evaluating approaches to implementation a useful thought starter comes from Fiona Eldridge of the standards committee of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council who identified six key success factors:
- Link it to the business strategy. The first step must always be to understand the organisation’s future direction and then clarify exactly how coaching can play a part in that. You need to demonstrate that working on individual effectiveness will have a cumulative effect on the performance of the whole organisation. Coaching cannot exist in isolation.
- Find a champion. Few innovative initiatives succeed without the support of a senior executive committed to the idea. Ideally this will be someone on the board, or an executive director, who has themself been coached and has more than a theoretical understanding of the potential benefits.
- Start at the top and sell the benefits. The first people to receive coaching training and implement these approaches should be at the most senior leadership level that it is possible for you to engage, once senior leaders have discovered its uses they will be keen to see it cascade throughout the rest of the organisation. Focus business benefits of these approaches in selling this.
- Develop a clear coaching methodology. If it is to become an accepted part of the organisational fabric, coaching must demonstrate clear outcomes. It should be related to actual projects and issues, not only theoretical ones. The leader as coach and coachee must agree clear success criteria, and there must be a driven process where feedback is provided as a matter of regular routine.
- Communicate clearly. Introducing a coaching culture is a major change for any organisation and resistance to any change requires active management. Resistance can be managed by communicating to all employees exactly what is happening, why, and what the intended outcomes are and through engaging key stakeholders in the process.
- Embed the process. Coaching modules should be included in the management induction programme. Create processes, policies and procedures that establish coaching approaches as the normalised leadership behaviours in the organisation. Once the senior management particularly have honed their coaching skills and coach their own teams, then in this way coaching will cascade through the organisation.
Based on our own research and experiences in Asia we see common frameworks for in the development application of a coaching culture.
I have summarised below the four areas of application that we have observed:
- Coaching for development.
- Coaching to on the delivery of specific tasks or projects.
- Coaching for individual performance.
- Coaching for high performance teams.
Each area relies on a common standardised coaching model and the development of essential key coaching skills and techniques, which are applicable in all four areas.
Coaching for development.
People leaders are trained in coaching models and the skills to practice coaching. Team members receive instruction on coaching and the application of coaching skills in order to understand the process and to actively engage and seek what they need to develop. Leaders learn the power of having a clearly defined coaching session on a regular (best practice=monthly) developmental discussion with their teams and drive increased employee engagement as measured by positive answers to the key engagement question that “I feel I can learn and grow on the job”. Skills development is based on relevant case studies and intensive practice.
Coaching for the delivery of specific tasks or projects.
Leaders learn the importance of developing a flexible coaching style and coaching skills in supporting their team members to deliver on tasks, assignments and projects. The underlying models most commonly observed involve the implementation of ‘Servant Leadership’ behaviours, “Situational Leadership” type approaches and a practical application of coaching skills in learning to identify and agree the leadership style and support that an employee needs to attain high performance in the delivery of their role. Training is again provided to both leader and team member to ensure effective agreement on the employee needs.
Coaching for performance.
Leaders learn the application of coaching skills to create effective performance discussions on a regular basis – high engagement best practice performance discussions happen with high frequency, typically weekly and never less than monthly to actively manage performance issues and focus the employee on transforming their own performance.
Coaching to create high performance teams.
Often referred to as Peer Coaching or Action Learning Teams, this is a process where individuals in a team apply coaching models and skills together and coach each other.
These are regular facilitated group coaching sessions for teams, which become established as normal operating behaviour. Participants meet by regularly for facilitated group peer coaching. The facilitator actively transfers coaching skills to the participants, as they coach each other through challenges and issues and on the implementation of their news skills.
Proven benefits are that participants solve problems faster, best practice is shared in a highly practical manner and knowledge is retained in the organisation as the team rises to the level of the best. This is real transfer of skills as the facilitator is able to back out of the sessions and these peer coaching sessions become an established business practice for the participants.
NoLimits provides consulting services on the implementation of a coaching culture. We also develop tailored solutions on coaching models and coaching skills across the four areas identified above and for the transfer of coaching skills into organisations.
1. In a 10 year survey of 60,000 exit interviews by The Saratoga Institute, 80% of employees leave ‘because of the boss’. Managers who are coaches are significantly more likely to retain talent in the organisation. Retention levels, measured as ‘intent to stay’ for a longer than 5 years increase significantly when employees answer positively to the question “I feel I can learn and grow on the job”.
2. Discretionary effort is defined as an employee’s willingness to give an extra 10% effort when needs demand and correlates with improved organisational performance.
3. American Express Annual Employee Engagement Survey Data over 10 years
4. Hewitt and Associates