Coaching Culture? Are You Sure?

So, you say you want a coaching culture.
Are you sure?
Wait, what I meant to say was: That’s great!  Let’s get started.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m thrilled. I believe that businesses with truly integrated coaching cultures have a distinct competitive advantage in talent development. Studies suggest they tend to perform better on all sorts of measures – as leaders in their fields, as incubators of innovation, as corporate citizens. There is a distinct link to better business outcomes, like increasing revenue and growing market share.
On the other hand, I’ve seen how hard it is for companies to unpack their cultural DNA, throw out the paternalistic, hierarchical, dog-eat-dog bits, and reconstitute themselves as team-oriented, transparent, egalitarian, and individually empowering. The trouble with a coaching culture is that you can’t pick it up and lay it down. It’s what you and all your employees are 24/7. It’s how your business does its business.
Discouraged? I hope not.
The hard work is worth it. A coaching culture is the probiotic that enables businesses to assimilate and flourish from the monumental changes occurring in the marketplace and workplace today.  A top-down management style – steeped in the past – is not going to be of much use as the average age of your employees drops by a decade.  A culture that punishes risk-taking and discourages candor will never catch the wind in its sails to outrace competitors to the market with a better idea.
Today, the only sure path to achieving your business strategy is to deeply involve every employee in your vision and its pursuit. That’s always been true to some extent, but previous generations were more accepting of silos, hierarchical management, and – I’m sorry to say – a simmering sense of frustration. We’d shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s why they call it work.” Today’s 20 and 30 years olds are having none of that. They grew up on continuous learning and feedback (computerized toys from infancy), many conduct their private lives with a high degree of transparency (Facebook, Twitter), and most expect autonomy and fluidity in the workplace.
In my view, both young talent and seasoned pros can benefit from a coaching culture that demonstrably supports all of those values. Practiced fully, it can help you achieve the most effective competitive advantage possible – an engaged  workforce. A coaching culture is anything but soft. Accountability and rigor are its core principles. Some of the highest performers on the stock market embody coaching culture values of continuous listening, learning, and innovating.
So how do you get from where you are today to a systemic coaching culture? The good news is that it’s an evolutionary path. And that’s what we’ll talk about in Part 2 – How to Evolve Your Coaching Culture. Each of the five stages (One-Off Coaching, Coaching Framework, Integrated Coaching, Coaching Culture, Strategic Driver) has its own rewards and gets you that much closer towards integrating coaching into your organizational DNA.


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